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FAQ: D.C. Solicitation of Prostitution

In the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) makes numerous arrests for Solicitation of Prostitution through sting operations.  Sting operations commonly involve undercover officers attempting to exchange sexual favors for money or vice versa.  MPD’s sting operations often target innocent behavior and because most stings aren’t recorded, it is usually your word against the officer’s word.

In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for Solicitation of Prostitution within the District of Columbia, without a doubt you have a million questions that you want answered.  At Scrofano Law PC, while the facts of every case are different, we believe the answers to the following questions are essential for you to know if faced with a possible DC Solicitation conviction: 

What are my chances of being convicted? 

To be convicted of Solicitation in the District, the government must prove (1) an agreement to exchange something of value (e.g. money) for (2) the purpose of engaging in a sexual act or sexual contact.  The government does not have to prove that payment was actually made, just that there was an agreement.

“Sexual Act” is defined as the penetration, even slight, of the no-no zones of another with a penis, hand, finger, or any other object.  “Sexual Contact” is defined as the touching of the naughty bits of another with any body part or even an object.

The outcome of your case is largely dependent on your interactions with the undercover officers during a sting operation.  Undercover officers must establish that certain “magic words” were spoken between you before you can be arrested for Solicitation.  The magic words are generally your explicit statement of intent to exchange money for sexual favors or vice versa.  Because a lot of cops don’t record these interactions, it is often your word against the cop’s word in court.  Unfortunately, this could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the surrounding circumstances.

The most common outcome of a Solicitation case is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which case you will not be convicted.  See Question #4 for more information about this type of agreement.  While there is no guaranteed outcome in any case, every piece of evidence the government has against you can be challenged.

Is entrapment a defense to solicitation? 

Due to the undercover nature of MPD’s sting operations, many people arrested for solicitation attempt to assert an entrapment defense.  However, entrapment is a difficult defense to assert in a DC Solicitation case.

For example, in the District many taxi or uber drivers become innocent targets of MPD solicitation stings.  Under DC laws, taxi drivers must pick up a patron waving down the taxi.  What usually happens is an MPD officer posing as a prostitute will wave down a taxi and because it is the law, the taxi driver will pick up who he or she assumes is just a person looking for a ride.  The MPD officer will induce the taxi driver give money for sex and then make an arrest when the taxi driver agrees to the arrangement.

You might be thinking that this is an example of an entrapment defense that is sure to win, well think again.

To assert an entrapment defense, you must first make a showing that MPD induced you to exchange sex for money.  Showing inducement can be challenging though because undercover officers are allowed to use various tactics to legally persuade you exchange sex for money.  Once a defendant makes an inducement showing, the government must then prove that the defendant was ready and willing to do solicitation of prostitution.  Unfortunately, the police rarely record the sting operations, which leaves the only evidence of the crime as the undercover officer’s recantation of what the parties supposedly said.

Because the entrapment defense is difficult, often times it is better to seek a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (see Question #4) or try and get the case dismissed on a discovery issue or otherwise.  For more detailed information about the entrapment defense, see my blog post. 

Will I go to jail and/or have to pay a fine? 

In the District, jail time and payment of statutory fines are uncommon for Solicitation convictions.  Technically, both jail time and fines are possible though.  The amount of time and fines depends on whether you have prior Solicitation convictions.

First offenders face up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.  Second offenders can get up to 180 days in jail and/or have to pay up to $2,500 in fines.  A person convicted of Solicitation who has 2 or more prior Solicitation convictions faces up to 2 years in jail and $12,500 in fines.

While it is unlikely that you will spend time in jail or pay a statutory fine for Solicitation, you may get up to 6 months supervised probation if convicted.  You will also have to pay a contribution of $50 to $250 to the Victims of Violent Crimes Fund.

Should I plea or go to trial?

In DC Solicitation cases, the government will usually offer a first offender a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”).  What this means is that the case will get continued for 4 months during which time you will have to complete 32 hours of community service.  After 4 months, if you have completed the community service, the government will dismiss the case against you.  A DPA is ideal because you do not have to plead guilty.

If the government does not offer a DPA, they might offer the following deal: if you plead guilty to Solicitation, they will recommend that the judge impose 6 months supervised probation.  As is the case with most government plea offers, this offer is anything but a deal.

If convicted at trial, judges will usually impose 6 months supervised probation anyway.  Therefore, it is better to go to trial because the likely result if you are convicted is 6 months supervised probation.  While the facts of every case are different, you are generally better off rejecting the government’s “deal” and trying your luck at trial where you could avoid punishment all together if acquitted. 

What if I get convicted? 

Any person convicted of a crime has the right to an appeal.  Whether or not you should appeal depends on what you are looking to get out the situation.  Because of the tedious and time-consuming judicial process, it is likely that you will have already completed your sentence before your appeal is decided.  While you probably won’t avoid your sentence, you can achieve a moral victory by winning an appeal because your conviction would be overturned and erased from your record.  A moral victory is a victory nonetheless, and you have a lot to gain from winning an appeal.

While an appeal may not be fruitful, you may be able to get your arrest and conviction record sealed.  If you are not convicted of Solicitation, you can get your arrest record sealed after 2 years so long as you do not get arrested or convicted of another crime during that time.  If you are convicted of Solicitation, you can get your arrest and conviction record sealed after 8 years so long as you do not get arrested or convicted of another crime during that time.

Should I hire a lawyer?

When faced with a possible Solicitation conviction, you may have more questions than the ones mentioned above, and you may need more detailed answers.  It is imperative that you hire an experienced Solicitation lawyer who will answer any and all of the questions you might have.  At Scrofano Law PC, we have helped numerous clients with all of their Solicitation questions.  While we can’t guarantee the outcome of your case, we can offer you predictability and reassurance every step of the way.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a D.C. Solicitation, call Scrofano Law PC immediately for a full consultation.