Minnesota Criminal Law: Defending Prostitution Charges
by Prostitution Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher
Should sex between consenting adults be a crime? After all, many sex crimes are non-consensual.
Though not in all states and nations, in Minnesota prostitution law makes a crime of consensual sex for money. In Minnesota, prosecutors charge more customers with prostitution charges than prostitutes. And Solicitation of Prostitution is often the charge.
Not Always a Crime
We often call prostitution the oldest profession.
It has been around a long time.
But in the United States and around the world, many governments have laws that either regulate it, or criminalize it.
When a crime, the laws drive it into an unregulated underground economy.
Arguably, most social ills associated with prostitution are really the effect of criminalization. (Compare with jurisdictions where it is not a crime.)
Minnesota generally treats prostitution as a crime through many Minnesota criminal statutes.
And federal prosecutors can file a federal crime.
This page, by Prostitution Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher, focuses on Minnesota state laws.
How to get a Prostitution Arrest
Backpage prostitutes, and those on similar escort web sites like Eros, predominate these days. So, little prostitution happens on the street anymore. Police are aware, and routinely set up sting operations, with their own backpage and other online ads.
When the would-be client calls, a police officer lures them along. And eventually police lead the target to the destination — often a hotel room or apartment. Once inside, she (or he) soon confirms the arrangement of some sexual act for a price. She leaves the room “for a moment.” Police officers jump out for the arrest and what follows.
These events in the room may be video and audio recorded. Police invite the client to admit or offer excuses. Though it’s a mistake to do either, most do. The police officers release most after identification procedures, with a court Summons. Police are then ready for the next one.
In the past couple years, police began cutting corners, arresting people at the door of the sting location. They rely upon the text messaging to show intent to solicit prostitution. If the target says anything at the time of arrest, even better for them.
Another troubling recent trend is police bait-and-switch. This scenario involves a target who is looking to solicit an adult prostitute. Once the police decoy has the victim coming along towards the promise of an adult connection. Then they text: “oh hey, I’m 15 y.o., is that ok?” If the target continues, a felony charge results. We can defend these cases.
Now is the time to retain an experienced prostitution defense attorney.
Is prostitution a misdemeanor?
Usually. But prosecutors can charge it as a gross misdemeanor as well, often with a weak claims of the element “public place.”
And prosecutors can also charge felony prostitution; on a claim of a patron’s agreement to hire a prostitute under age 18 years old. Minnesota’s criminal statutes relating to prostitution crimes are in Sections 609.321 – 609.326.
Common Prostitution Charges
Though prosecutors charge these types of cases as Felonies, Gross Misdemeanors, or Misdemeanors, the misdemeanor cases are common.
If you are facing a prostitution charge at any severity level; you need the best prostitution attorney to defend you and your good name.
Here are some examples of the more common charges:
Solicitation of Prostitution in a Public Place
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.324, subd. 2. The “public place” element makes it a Gross Misdemeanor. Prosecutors sometimes claim private apartments and hotel rooms are “public.” And this is the most common of these charges. But your prostitution attorney will ask the jury to tell the state that a hotel room is not a public place.
Engaging in or Agreeing to Engage in Prostitution (18 or older)
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.324, subd. 3. A Misdemeanor generally, the crime enhances to a Gross Misdemeanor if a similar prior conviction exists within two years.
Loitering with Intent to Participate in Prostitution (Public Place)
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.3243.
This Misdemeanor crime statute falls into the highly suspect class of “Loitering” crimes.
Loitering crimes have a history of constitutional law issues.
Police and prosecutors often target disfavored people and classes.
A prostitution attorney sees this kind of discriminatory enforcement all the time.
A “loitering with intent” crime often rests upon:
- subjective interpretations of others’ behavior (prone to bias),
- a series of speculations,
- to presume the other person’s “intent.”
The “loitering” term is to cover over the lack of any real prohibited act, or any act at all.
Though less common, prosecutors charge some prostitution-related crimes as a Felony. And most felony prostitution charges include an alleged an underage person.
Solicitation, Inducement or Promotion of Prostitution (Any Age)
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.322. Otherwise known as pimping. This is a Felony crime for those other than the prostitutes and patrons themselves.
Engaging in, Hiring, or Agreeing to Hire a Minor (Under 18) to Engage in Prostitution
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.324, subd. 1. This Felony targets patrons who hires those under 18 years old.
Age. A person’s age alone can change the level of the criminal charge under the statutory scheme. There are many permutations relating to age in the statutes. But the most important is probably the difference between age 18, and under 18.
Most of these criminal statutes define these crimes as a felony if the prostitute is under age 18.
Role. The law treats Promoters more harshly than Customers, who in turn are treated more harshly than Prostitutes.
Location. When in a “Public Place,” a charge is more severe. So, housing, as well as “Place of Prostitution” can be factors. Prostitution in a motor vehicle can result in a driver’s license record notation; and vehicle forfeiture under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.5312, subd. 3. And there is a charge enhancement provision for school or park zones.
So, a skilled prostitution attorney takes a close look at the evidence of these factors, for defenses.
Law Enforcement Methods
In recent years much of the activity in this area has migrated from the streets to the internet. And the police officers pursuing these cases have largely followed. Police stings originating on websites like backpage.com are now the norm.
But one thing that has not changed is that most prostitution busts are sting operations or traps. And once police apprehend a suspect, typically they will try to get the person to make a statement.
No matter what excuses the person makes, the statement will be valuable to police and prosecutors. But the target who remains silent unless their lawyer is present; will be less likely to face charges or conviction.
A prostitution attorney can help prevent charges, and resolves charged already filed favorably.
Minnesota Statutes Section 609.325 “Defenses” seems an effort to legislate away defenses. But it does create a defense for some prostitutes. We can raise defenses to these charges, however.
Law enforcement sets up their prostitution sting room, staging location and webpage. Then, they can move “patrons” through as if an assembly line, one after the other. Police hustle one out the back door to make room for the one coming in the front.
Over time, they cut corners to save time and end up charging people on weak evidence — people who are not-guilty.
An experienced prostitution defense lawyer can spot these cases and win.
The Entrapment Defense
The entrapment defense is an affirmative defense. The accused shows evidence in court that she or he (1) had no predisposition to commit the crime; and (2) that the crime would not have occurred but for the actions of police.
Most arrests in this area today are the product of a police sting or trap. But not every police sting operation meets the criteria of a legal “entrapment” defense. It is possible, however, to make an entrapment defense if police go too far.
The courts allow police to use a certain amount of deception in their work. But sometimes they cross the line, and accuse people who have not committed any crime. A good prostitution attorney is able to spot an entrapment defense when the facts support it.
Sentencing Entrapment applies when police manipulated the defendant to increase the severity level of the crime. The enhancement element was not the product of the free will of the defendant. And if this happens, a good prostitution attorney will persuade the judge to disregard the enhancement. Not a complete defense, sentencing entrapment provides a disincentive to police to create bigger crimes out of smaller ones.
Example: Police lead a sting-target to a place expecting a person 18 or older. But along the way, they bait-and-switch. Police later tell the target the decoy is under 18 — and the target goes ahead anyway. If the target was guilty of soliciting adult prostitution; he yet may be not-guilty of felony underage-prostitution due to sentencing entrapment.
More on Prostitution and Minnesota Law
For another take on this topic, see our popular article: Sex Workers, Prostitution and Minnesota Law.
Though prosecutors charge sex workers less often than customers, workers sometimes face prostitution charges.
When they are, it’s not uncommon for the case to be weak, and not the result of a planned sting.
When comes to suspected sex workers, we’ve seen a pattern of harassment.
Police seem to want to drive sex workers away to another jurisdiction. This can take the form of weak evidence and false charges.
But an experienced defense attorney like Gallagher can spot these cases and help his client prevail.
Prosecutors often falsely charge people with prostitution, though not-guilty. In part, this may be due to a lack of understanding by police or prosecutors.
Examples of harassment of sex workers
For example, most sex workers want to have some security — someone to be aware of their whereabouts and personal safety. That person may not be aware of what the sex worker is doing. But we’ve had a prosecutor charge the client simply waiting in the parking lot in their car for their friend.
Another example was a client who was an exotic dancer, or stripper, in a bar. Undercover police were present looking for violations by the unwelcome bar owner. Police observe a bar customer grab our dancer-client’s breast — a violation of norms in strip bars. (No touching the dancers.)
Unaware of undercover police, our dancer-client yell and kick at him; and storm off the stage. And then she yells at the bar owner tending bar, for not throwing the guy out. She then retreats to her dressing room, shutting the door. So she was an assault victim. Yet later, a prosecutor charges her with prostitution. (We achieved dismissal of all charges in the end.)
But law enforcement usually focuses their stings on customers, not prostitutes.
Breaking Free is a local non-profit that helps people in prostitution, get out of it.
What is at stake
Most cases involve misdemeanor prostitution charges. Some, however,involves gross misdemeanor and felony charges. But regardless of the level charged, a first-time defendant will want to keep their criminal record clean of any convictions. It’s important. It’s worth retaining a good prostitution attorney to help make that happen.
Part of protecting a person’s record is the embarrassment factor. People don’t want their good name smeared with any criminal conviction, much less for prostitution.
With more serious felony prostitution charges or with prior convictions, jail or prison time becomes a real concern.
For these cases, clients will want a good prostitution attorney to avoid or reduce any potential incarceration.
When a person becomes aware of being a police target, they may wish to retain the best prostitution attorney for pre-charge counsel and defense.
How a Prostitution Attorney Can Help
A good criminal defense lawyer can help a person facing one of these charges. We identify a goal and successful outcome. And then we map out a path with the best chance of achieving that outcome.
Thomas C. Gallagher can bring you all of the knowledge and skills to achieve a favorable outcome. His experience doesn’t hurt, either.
Why Gallagher Defense
Thomas Gallagher is a Minneapolis Prostitution Attorney with over 30 years experience defending clients successfully. Perhaps Gallagher has not seen it all yet, but close. You can put his experience to work for you. Gallagher has the best-ratings for lawyers available. And multiple sites show his many five-star reviews from clients.
If you’d like to discuss this with Minneapolis Prostitution Attorney Thomas C Gallagher, call 612 333-1500. Gallagher can use his experience to help you.