It is a crime to solicit a prostitute in the State of Minnesota. Depending on the severity of the offense, and the frequency of the offender, it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
In 2010, police in Minnesota arrested 966 individuals for solicitation of prostitution, pimping, or offering sexual services. This was up from 61 in 2001. These arrest rates peaked in 2005 when the state made a concerted effort to crackdown on massage parlors. That year, they arrested 2,133 individuals for vice crimes.
Stings on the Net & in Person
As technology evolves, many prostitutes and their customers are moving their activities online. Sites such as Craigslist and Backpage are common places where prostitutes will advertise their services using code words and slang to avoid the appearance of overt solicitation of prostitution.
It is not uncommon for police officers to post ads offering their services, and then to arrange a meeting at an area hotel. The police keep records of these communications which they can then use in court proceedings to show intent. Once the suspect is within the hotel room, an undercover female officer will then confirm the individual’s intent by making an overt offer of sex for money. Once the suspect agrees, police officers will swarm in and make an arrest.
During these “busts,” police may seize any property they believe was used in the commission of the crime. This includes property on the individual’s possession such as money, condoms, etc. that can be used to show the individual had intent to engage in the crime. They may also seize an individual’s computer, cell phone, or vehicle.
These busts can result in both charges of engaging in an internet sex crime, and solicitation of prostitution. Individuals can be charged in either state or federal court for these crimes. Should the suspect be convicted of soliciting a minor, the penalties can be harsh. In Minnesota, the penalty can be a term of imprisonment of up to 3 years, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Legality of Stings
Minnesota law does not consider police prostitution stings to be entrapment. Entrapment occurs when the police officer implants the idea of criminal activity into the mind of the suspect. Since the suspect has contacted the police officer conducting the sting either by email or in person, this has not occurred. The exception to this is if the police exert pressure or attempt to persuade the suspect into soliciting sex.
If an individual is offered sexual services by an undercover officer and they refuse these services, an individual cannot be charged with solicitation. However, if they are offered services, agree, and then change their mind either out of conscious or because they suspect a sting, they can be charged as they have shown intent.
In Minnesota, individuals convicted of soliciting a prostitute for the first time can face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail. If the individual is convicted of a gross misdemeanor, the penalty can be $3,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Those charged with gross misdemeanors are typically individuals who have previous convictions for either engaging in, or soliciting prostitution. Felony charges for prostitution are typically reserved for those who engage in pimping, or the solicitation of a minor. Convictions of felony prostitution charges can result in prison sentences of up to 15 years, and up to $30,000 in fines.
Last August, the Minneapolis Police Department suspended sting operations following the dismissal of three cases within a month. These cases involved police officers who had sexual relations with the suspected prostitutes. The officers in question visited multiple massage parlors in the city. During their visits, they negotiated prices for sexual services and allowed the “therapist” to massage their genitals.
This activity was contrary to both the law and department policy. By allowing themselves to engage in the unnecessary sexual conduct, their behavior put the legality of such stings into question. Indeed, it wasn’t the first time it had happened and similar incidents in 2009 are the reason that officers must follow strict protocols when conducting such stings.
Defending Against Prostitution Charges
Defenses against prostitution charges include entrapment, mistaken understanding, insufficient evidence, lack of viable evidence, and legal impossibility. The effectiveness of each defense depends on a number of factors. These include the available evidence, police error, etc. For this reason, it is advisable for individuals charged with solicitation to seek counsel from a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. If it can be shown that the individual was coerced into the activity, that evidence is lacking, or that it is a case of mistaken understanding, an individual cannot be convicted of solicitation in the State of Minnesota.