Utah Prostitution Stings – Catching Culprits of Opportunity or Entrapment

Although paying or receiving funds for sexual activity is against the law, many wonder if Johns arrested during prostitution stings in Utah are culprits of opportunity or victims of entrapment.

Catching one of their own

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A prostitution sting on Valentine’s Day netted the arrest of 51 year old David Moss of Lehi, Utah. Undercover detectives with the Utah County Special Victims Task Force arrested Moss, who was a former police officer with the St. George Police Department after he responded to a prostitution ad online and met two undercover female detectives posing as prostitutes. Moss’s arrest came after he made several incriminating statements online and in person including offers to “manage” the prostitutes and hide their activity from police. He also followed these comments with inappropriate behavior directed at one of the undercover officers.

Patronizing a prostitute

Moss was arrested for multiple charges including patronizing a prostitute which is described by section 76-10-1303 as “when the individual:
(a) Pays or offers or agrees to pay a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, a fee, or the functional equivalent of a fee, for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity; or
(b) Enters or remains in a place of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.”

Pimps vs Johns

Moss is also facing charges of exploiting prostitution, a third degree felony compared to patronizing a prostitute which is punishable as a class A misdemeanor for a first defense. While patronizing a prostitute is the typical charge for “Johns”, exploiting prostitution would be the charge for the “pimps” or those wishing to recruit or manage others in prostitution. Third degree exploiting prostitution is defined by Utah Code 76-10-1305 as when “an individual:
(a) Procures an individual for a place of prostitution;
(b) Encourages, induces, or otherwise purposely causes another to become or remain a prostitute;
(c) Transports an individual into or within this state with a purpose to promote that individual’s engaging in prostitution or procuring or paying for transportation with that purpose;
(d) Not being a child or legal dependent of a prostitute, shares the proceeds of prostitution with a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, pursuant to their understanding that the actor is to share therein; or
(e) Owns controls, manages, supervised, or otherwise keeps, alone or in association with another, a place of prostitution or a business where prostitution occurs or is arranged, encouraged, supported, or promoted.”

Gray area

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Since Moss came prepared with an illegal business plan, it is hard to say he didn’t know what he was getting into unless his inappropriate business endeavor was all a ruse to impress the ladies. Regardless, his actions will be making a lasting impression; a negative one when he faces a judge in court. While Moss’s case could paint a pretty clear picture of how horrible his remarks and behavior was – he was not the one placing the ad; he was merely responding to it. If the ad hadn’t been there, would he have still made the illegal choices that he did? This is a common question that comes up following prostitution stings. Are stings a way to catch criminals or are they a non-biased trap to catch anyone who may happen by? Some otherwise innocent individuals caught in the frequent prostitution stings throughout the state often fall into a gray area where you wonder if they had actually planned to commit a crime or just reacted to a setting they were placed in. This gray area where one may question someone’s criminal intentions that often occurs with stings can be known as entrapment.

Opportunity or entrapment

Entrapment is defined Utah Code 76-2-303 as “. . . when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” While many arrested during prostitution stings may have been “. . . merely afford[ed] . . . an opportunity to commit an offense”, there is always a concern others were arrested solely based on the enticement of the officers. Anyone facing charges following a prostitution sting whether or not they may have been the victim of entrapment are encouraged to seek legal counsel immediately.

Utah Traveler Arrested For Assault on a Police Officer

A Utah traveler was pepper-sprayed and arrested for assault on a police officer after he drunkenly started a confrontation at the Orlando, Florida airport.

Drinking and flying

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45 year old Brandon Strong was traveling with his 8 year old son when he was arrested at a Florida airport prior to boarding his plane back home to Salt Lake City, Utah. A JetBlue airport employee observed Strong starting an argument with a fellow passenger and told Strong he would not be allowed on the flight. Strong, who appeared to have been heavily intoxicated, engaged the airline employee, wrestling and cursing until police were called. When police arrived, Strong continued to behave aggressively towards the attending officers. Strong was videoed by multiple sources getting into a physical struggle with officers until he was finally pepper-sprayed and handcuffed. He was arrested on multiple charges including assault on a police officer.

Assault on a police officer in Utah

Utah Code 76-5-102.4 defines assault on a police officer as when a person:

(a) “Commits an assault or threat of violence against a [police] officer, with knowledge that the person is a [police] officer, and when the [police] officer is acting within the scope of authority as a [police]officer;”

Assault on a police officer in Utah is a class A misdemeanor unless the person has a previous history and/or causes substantial bodily injury, or if they use a dangerous weapon. In those cases, the charges would be increased to a third degree or second degree felony respectively.

Battery on a police officer in Florida

Unfortunately for Strong, he was arrested outside his home state of Utah and will face Florida charges for his conduct at the airport. In Florida, the charges for physical assault on a police officer carry stiffer penalties than they do in Utah. Florida law defines assault as being a threat of violence wherein cases where any physical contact ensues, the charges would then be increased to battery. According to Florida Statute 784.07 , battery of a police officer is a third degree felony which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine. For more information on criminal charges inside or outside the state of Utah, speak with an experienced attorney who can help you find the appropriate legal counsel to handle your case.

Increased Charges for Repeated Violation of a Protective Order

A Spanish Fork, Utah man was arrested multiple times on a single day for repeated violations of a protective order.

Violation of a protective order

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35 year old Dustin Larsen of Spanish Fork was arrested for contacting a woman who had filed a protective order against him. Not only did Larsen disobey the command for no contact listed in the protective order, he violated that order more than 150 times. Police arrested Larsen, who later bailed out and continued to go against the court issued no-contact orders. He was arrested again that day on increased penalties.

Repeated violations

The woman on the other end of the protective order reported to police that Larsen had contacted her by phone, text, and even through social media. Each time Larsen tried to contact the woman was a violation of the protective order against him. Since he violated that order multiple times, he could face multiple counts of the same charge. According to Utah code 76-5-108, “Any person who is the respondent or defendant subject to a protective order . . . under [the Cohabitant Abuse Act, Juvenile Court Act or Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act]. . . who intentionally or knowingly violates that order after having been properly served, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor “.

Increased penalties

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That section of Utah Code goes on the note that violation of one of the described orders “is a domestic violence offense . . . and subject to increased penalties in accordance with Section 77-36-1.1.” The aforementioned section explains that since Larsen was arrested for violation of a [domestic or cohabitant] protective order punishable as a class A misdemeanor, any subsequent arrest made within five years of that would have an increased charge of a third degree felony. Larsen went on to violate the protective order again the same day of his arrest and ended up being charged with the increased charges on his second trip of the day to the county jail.

Understanding court orders

Anyone who receives a court-issued protective order should read it carefully, perhaps with the help of an attorney to ensure they understand the document completely as well as what penalties they could face for violating that order. It is recommended that individuals facing criminal charges for violation of a protective order and other charges related to domestic violence seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.