SOLICITATION OF PROSTITUTION STINGS
In the past month, there have been a couple of solicitation of prostitution sting operations in Lincoln, Nebraska. The sting operations in Lincoln are similar to others in Omaha, throughout Nebraska, and the rest of the United States. During these sting operations, a law enforcement officer will pose as a prostitute on an internet site such as Backpage.com or Craigslist.com and provide a listing under escorts or some other category. The listing will provide contact information about a person posing as a prostitute. The goal of the sting operation is to get people to meet with the fake escort so that police can arrest them for soliciting a prostitute.
Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-801.01, a person who solicits another to perform any act of sexual contact or sexual penetration in exchange for money or other thing of value commits solicitation of prostitution.
Solicitation of prostitution is a Class I misdemeanor which carries up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine. However, if the person solicited is under the age of 18, it is a felony. Additionally if the suspect has a prior solicitation conviction, the prior conviction may be used to enhance the new solicitation charge to a felony.
In a solicitation of prostitution case, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the criminal defendant intended to perform a sex act (sexual contact or sexual penetration) with the prostitute in exchange for money or a thing of value.
While there are defenses to these cases, the fact that the law enforcement officer who posed as a prostitute denied she was not a cop is not a defense and in most cases is not entrapment. Additionally in complex string operations, real prostitutes who have cooperation plea agreements or non-prosecution agreements may also participate and pose as prostitutes for purposes of the string operation.
In some cases there may be valid defenses. While prostitution is illegal and escort services are generally fronts for prostitution services, some defendants have argued that they intended to hire the escort for legitimate escort services. For instance, the defendant went to meet-up to determine if he was interested in using the escort services in the future and did not intend to have sex with the escort, but merely wanted to meet the escort to see if the escort was presentable for valid escort-type services. In cases where no money changes hands and there is no discussion about performing sex acts in exchange for money, there may be reasonable doubt as to whether the person charged with soliciting a prostitute or vetting an escort.
Most of the sting operations are audio and video recorded and in most instances it is clear that the defendant is soliciting sex. In those cases the accused often seeks the advice and representation of an attorney to minimize the damage associated with a solicitation conviction. This usually results in plea bargaining and a plea agreement.
If you have been charged with soliciting a prostitute and wish to retain an attorney to protect your constitutional rights, contact the Berry Law.