Sexual solicitation and solicitation of prostitution are both misdemeanor crimes in the District of Columbia. These are crimes that police enforce aggressively, prosecutors care little about prosecuting, and judges typically sentence lightly. They both carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $500.00 fine. The Metropolitan Police Department routinely carries out small and large scale prostitution sting operations. Female undercover police officers will pose as both street walkers and post fake ads on online websites known for advertising prostitution. In addition, male police officers will actively solicit women thought to be street walkers and respond to advertisements on websites that typically offer escort services.
Proving solicitation should be difficult for the government because it is a crime that requires specific words be spoken. DC prostitution laws require that the parties essentially establish a contract of money in exchange for sexual activity. That means the government must prove a meeting of the minds—an explicitly stated offer of sex or sex acts for money and an explicit acceptance. Metropolitan Police Department officers typically do not record prostitution stings. The only evidence used against defendants in a typical DC solicitation case is the undercover officer’s testimony as to what was said in the sting. Our experience at Scrofano Law PC is that officers may embellish the facts or outright make up things that were said in the encounter to meet the elements of the crime. With no recorded evidence to the contrary, judges must either believe the officer or the defendant.
On the other hand, most folks who get arrested for solicitation are usually diversion eligible—especially if it is their first offense. The United States Attorney’s Officer for the District of Columbia prosecutes solicitation misdemeanors in DC and routinely offer Deferred Prosecution Agreements (or “DPA”). A DPA requires the defendant to complete 32 hours of community service over a period of four months and, as long as the person does not get rearrested, the government will drop the case. The advantages of a DPA are many, including the fact they do not require the defendant to admit guilty and they put the case in the defendant’s own hands. In other words, if the person arrested completes the community service and does not get rearrested, they are guaranteed to get their case dropped.
While we often push for trial at Scrofano Law PC, we recognize that there are always inherent risks in any trial. If a case can be dismissed through diversion, that is usually the best option. In any trial, particularly a bench trial, the accused will ultimately rely on the judge’s decision as to guilt or innocence. Good lawyering can go a long way but nothing beats the ability to control one’s own destiny.
At Scrofano Law PC, we have obtained numerous diversion agreements for clients and successfully challenged DC solicitation cases in securing dismissals and not guilty verdicts for clients.
If you or a friend or loved one has been arrested for solicitation, contact Scrofano Law PC for a full case evaluation.