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Prostitution

Prostitution Defense Attorney Minnesota

Prostitution is an offense that occurs frequently in the Twin Cities. And law enforcement routinely conduct stings to catch those individuals selling sex in exchange for money, or who are arranging for the sale of these services, or who are buying sexual services.

Sometimes the arrests are legitimate but there are times where individuals are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, I have had a number of cases where the client was simply “bantering” with an undercover officer only to be arrested before any explicit exchange of money for services had occurred.  In other cases, I have had clients arrested for offering money for acts not falling within the limits of the prostitution statute.

Regardless of how legitimate the arrest is, it is important for a person to secure the experience and skill of Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer F.T. Sessoms, a lawyer who is very experienced in handling prostitution cases. Everyone has rights and those rights, as well as your good name, need to be protected. This can only be done by calling a seasoned attorney who is well-versed in the Minnesota prostitution law and its defenses.

Prostitution Defense You Can Trust

There are a number of activities that fall within the realm of prostitution. Those activities include:

  • Performing sexual acts in exchange for money
  • Loitering in a public place with the intent to sell sexual acts for money
  • Soliciting an individual to perform sexual acts in exchange for money
  • Promoting an individual for prostitution (pimping)
  • Receiving the profits that are generated from prostitution or promoting prostitution
  • Prostituting in a park or school zone

If convicted of any of the above prostitution-related acts, the penalties are very serious. However, they do not have to be. Even if a conviction occurs, there are ways to avoid the maximum penalties and punishments that could be imposed by statute. Other times, a case can be dismissed, reduced or the client can be acquitted after a court or jury trial.

A Typical Case: Here are the facts from a case I recently handled which illustrates a common police “sting” operation and what I argued to have the case dismissed (Only the defendant’s name has been changed):

On February 22, 2016 an undercover Rochester Police Department officer posted an ad in the escort section of backpage.com.  The ad was titled, “Sexy Brunette in Town-22”. The ad contained a photo of a female wrapped in a towel and said, “perfect slim body”, “sensual flirty sweet”, “sexy legs”, “nice tits” “soft skin”.

On the same day, starting at 9:17 a.m., the undercover officer missed three calls from Defendant John’s telephone.  At 9:33 a.m., the undercover officer called the Defendant back and he asked if she was available.  Mr. John asked the officer how much it would cost for her time and she responded “$120 for a half hour and $150 for an hour”.  Mr. John asked if the officer was “GFE” (girlfriend-experience friendly) and if she “French kissed.”  Mr. John then asked for the address and told the officer he would come over.

At 10:06 a.m., Mr. John called and said he was two minutes away.  The undercover officer then told the Defendant, “you know you have to wear a condom right?  I don’t do bareback.” Mr. John responded, “Do you have that?”. The undercover officer then stated, “Yeah I have condoms but you have to wear one, okay?’.  Mr. John responded stating, “Yeah, yeah”.

At 10:07 a.m., Mr. John called to confirm the location of the undercover officer.  At 10:12 a.m. Mr. John called back and described his location.  The undercover officer determined that the defendant was on the wrong side of town and texted him the correct address.

At 10:17 a.m., Mr. John called and said he was at the wrong location and would come to the correct address in 15-20 minutes.

At 10:37 a.m., the officer received a text from Mr. John stating, “I am here”.  A short time later, Mr. John knocked on the hotel room door and was immediately placed under arrest.

Mr. John was taken into the hotel room where he began crying and begging for help.  Mr. John was distraught and was expressing suicidal thoughts.  Some minutes went by before the police began recording their interaction with the Defendant.

Argument:

  1. The Gross Misdemeanor Prostitution Charge Should Be Dismissed.
  2. Minnesota Statute § 609.324.2(2) Does Not Apply To Telephone Solicitations:

 The Defendant is charged with violating Minnesota Statute § 609.324.2(2) which states:

“Subd. 2. Prostitution in public place; penalty for patrons. Whoever, while acting as a patron, intentionally does any of the following while in a public place is guilty of a gross misdemeanor:

(2) hires, offers to hire, or agrees to hire an individual 18 years of age or older to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.”

A “public place” is defined by Minnesota Statute § 609.321, subd. 12 as:

Subd. 12. Public place. A “public place” means a public street or sidewalk, a pedestrian skyway system as defined in section 469.125, subdivision 4, a hotel, motel, steam room, sauna, massage parlor, shopping mall and other public shopping areas, or other place of public accommodation, a place licensed to sell intoxicating liquor, wine, nonintoxicating malt beverages, or food, or a motor vehicle located on a public street, alley, or parking lot ordinarily used by or available to the public though not used as a matter of right and a driveway connecting such a parking lot with a street or highway.”

All of the conversations in this case between the Defendant and the undercover officer were over the telephone while the participants were in two separate locations.  So the first issue is whether any telephone conversation falls within the definition of a “public place”.  The Defendant respectfully submits that telephone conversations do not fall within the definition of Minn. Stat. 609.321, subd. 12.

A “telephone conversation” is not contained within the statutory definition of § 609.321 and in State v. White, 692 N.W.2d 749 (Minn. App. 2005) the Court of Appeals discussed the intent of the “public place” aspect of the prostitution statute stating:

“The district court concluded that the intent behind this gross-misdemeanor prostitution statute was to further discourage the solicitation and negotiation of prostitution in open view of the public. Although the statute does not include a statement of purpose or intent, this intent can be readily inferred from the definition of “public place,” which explicitly includes hotels, motels, establishments licensed to sell alcohol or food, and other places of “public accommodation,” where prostitution might be visibly solicited. Minn.Stat. § 609.321, subd. 12. And, as illustrated by the citizen complaints that prompted Officer Willis’s undercover operation here, it is the publicly visible nature of much prostitution activity that prompts criminal enforcement.” Id. at 751.

After White was decided, the definition of a public place was amended to include “a motor vehicle located on a public street, alley, or parking lot ordinarily used by or available to the public though not used as a matter of right and a driveway connecting such a parking lot with a street or highway.”  But the intent of the legislature remains the same, which is to “discourage the solicitation and negotiation of prostitution in open view of the public” and to discourage “the publicly visible nature of much prostitution activity”. White at 751.

In State v. Colvin, 645 N.W.2d 449, at 452 (Minn. 2002) the Minnesota Supreme Court noted:

A statute must be construed according to its plain language. Minn.Stat. § 645.16 (2000). If ambiguous, the intent of the legislature controls. Id. A rule of strict construction applies to penal statutes, and all reasonable doubt concerning legislative intent should be resolved in favor of the defendant. State v. Olson, 325 N.W.2d 13, 19 (Minn.1982) (citing State v. Haas, 280 Minn. 197, 200–01, 159 N.W.2d 118, 121 (1968)). If construction of a statute is uncertain, a statute may not be interpreted to create criminal offenses that the legislature did not contemplate. State v. Soto, 378 N.W.2d 625, 627–28 (Minn.1985). “The rule of strict construction of criminal statutes is essential to guard against the creation of criminal offenses outside the contemplation of the legislature, under the guise of ‘judicial construction.’ ” Id. at 628 (quoting State v. Mims, 26 Minn. 191, 192, 2 N.W. 492, 492 (1879)); see also Haas, 280 Minn. at 201, 159 N.W.2d at 121.”

Telephone conversations are private. See, Minn. Stat. § 626A.02.  So even if all of the Defendant’s telephone calls occurred in the public square, they are at most one-half of the conversation and the eavesdropping public would have no idea of their significance.  The whole purpose of the gross misdemeanor solicitation statute is to protect the public from witnessing a one-on-one solicitation and the statue simply does not apply to a solicitation which occurs over the telephone. Cf. White, supra. 

The police were in control of this undercover operation.  And if they wanted to make arrests for solicitations in a public place; if they wanted to discourage “the publicly visible nature of much prostitution activity”; then the undersigned respectfully suggests that they should have conducted their undercover operation in a public place instead of attempting to shoehorn telephone conversations into the definition of the statute.

I.  The State Does Not Have Any Evidence That The Telephone Agreement Occurred In A Public Place:

  In this case, the officers readily admitted at the motion hearing that they had no idea where Mr. John was when he telephoned and discussed the hourly rates, the girlfriend experience, etc.  So even assuming arguendo that telephone conversations are covered by the statute, there is no evidence that Mr. John negotiated with the undercover officer while he was in a public place.   Mr. John did go to the hotel but that location merely served as the receptacle for his arrest.

The crime charged is one of public solicitation by Mr. John.  So the location of the undercover officer in receiving the solicitation is irrelevant[1].

Furthermore, the rule of lenity[2] and the legislative intent of the statute[3] require that the statutory phrase, “agree to hire” be narrowly construed to concern only the actual solicitation of prostitution.  In other words, Mr. John’s crime (if it occurred at all) was complete when he agreed to the rate and proceeded to the hotel. So even if this court believes that telephone conversations are covered by the statute, the lack of evidence as to Mr. John’s whereabouts when he made his telephone solicitation agreement also requires that the charge be dismissed.

II.  The Defendant’s Statements Do Not Constitute A Solicitation For Prostitution:

  Minnesota Statute § 609.324.2(2) requires that the Defendant, “hires, offers to hire, or agrees to hire an individual 18 years of age or older to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.”

Minnesota Statute § 609.321, Subd. 11 defines “sexual penetration” as:

“Sexual penetration” means any of the following acts, if for the purpose of satisfying sexual impulses: sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any intrusion however slight into the genital or anal openings of an individual’s body by any part of another individual’s body or any object used for the purpose of satisfying sexual impulses. Emission of semen is not necessary.”

Minnesota Statute § 609.321, subd. 10 defines “sexual contact” as:

“Sexual contact means any of the following acts, if the acts can reasonably be construed as being for the purpose of satisfying the actor’s sexual impulses:

(i) the intentional touching by an individual of a prostitute’s intimate parts[4]; or

(ii) the intentional touching by a prostitute of another individual’s intimate parts.”

So what did the Defendant agree to do in the present case?  Mr. John asked the undercover officer how much she charges for her time.  He also asked if she was “GFE” friendly and if she would French kiss.  In addition, Mr. John was told by the officer that he had to wear a condom.  But what act of “sexual contact” or “sexual penetration” was agreed to by the parties? Was it sexual intercourse? Fellatio? Masturbation? What was it?  And if this Court does not know then a jury should not be left to speculate as to the contents of the agreement.

The fact of the matter is that none of the defendant’s statements constitutes and offer or agreement to hire an individual to perform sexual penetration or sexual contact.  The police had the opportunity and the obligation to determine the specifics of the Defendant’s offer but they chose not to do so.  The Defendant should not be forced to trial based upon speculation and innuendo and he respectfully requests that the case be dismissed.”

[1] To conclude otherwise would mean that the police can always (and without a defendant’s knowledge) increase the penalty for the crime by simply receiving the telephone solicitation in a public place.

[2] State v. Colvin, supra.

[3] State v. White, supra.

[4] Minnesota Statute § 609.341 Subd. 5 defines “intimate parts” as “includes the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or breast of a human being”.

As a result of my efforts, my client (“Mr. John”) was not convicted of any crime!

Advocating For Your Future

While most prostitution offenses are classified as misdemeanors, this should not be taken lightly. Even a misdemeanor can cause a person to have difficulty finding a job or finding a place to live. If a background check is involved, then the offense can be seen and there are many employers and landlords that do not like to see any criminal offenses at all among their employees or their tenants. Those that overlook misdemeanors may not pay wages that are meaningful, so there are many ways in which a prostitution conviction can affect your life. That is why it is important to call your attorney as soon as possible so work can begin on your case. By fighting the charges, you have a much better chance at a brighter future.

Contact Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney F. T. Sessoms:

Prostitution is a serious offense that happens throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is a charge that can be filed against individuals selling sex services, marketing these services, and those who pay for them. If you have been accused of a prostitution-related charge, it is important that you secure the representation of the very experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney F. T. Sessoms.

To learn more about your rights and options, contact me, Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney F.T. Sessoms, at 612-344-1505 and request a consultation as I would be happy to discuss your case with you.