Changes to Prostitution Laws

A prostitution sting took place last weekend in Salt Lake City on the heels of amendments to some prostitution laws. What has changed and how does it affect those arrested?

Salt Lake City prostitution sting

Photo by: Nils Hamerlinck

Salt Lake City police were out on the street last week in an attempt to disrupt the prostitution problem plaguing many parts of the city. Within four days, undercover officers posing as prostitutes or Johns were able to apprehend over 40 individuals. Will any of those arrested find stricter penalties due to recent changes to Utah law? In order to understand what laws regarding prostitution have changed it is important to know the legal terms of and who they apply to.

Prostitution

Prostitution is according to Utah Code 76-10-1302 when an individual:
• “engages, offers, or agrees to engage in any sexual activity with another individual for a fee, or the functional equivalent of a fee;
• takes steps in arranging a meeting through any form of advertising agreeing to meet, and meeting at an arranged place for the purpose of sexual activity in exchange for a fee . . . ;
• Loiters in or within view of any public place for the purpose of being hired to engage sexual activity.”
Prostitution was and remains a class B misdemeanor yet as was evident in the sting this weekend, help is often offered to prostitutes in case they are sex trafficking victims or stuck in their employment out of fear from their employers.

Patronizing a prostitute

When someone is charged for prostitution, those charges are usually only for those acting as prostitutes, not the Johns paying for the illegal services. When a John or another individual:
• “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
• Enters or remains in a place of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity”
that person would be guilty of patronizing a prostitute, a class A misdemeanor. The charges for patronizing a prostitute haven’t changed since they were increased last year, however the wording for patronizing, exploiting, or aiding a prostitute have been adjusted. Now the guilty party only has to believe the other party is a prostitute in order to face those specific charges.

Sexual solicitation

While still covered under Part 13 of Utah Criminal Code defining aspects of prostitution, sexual solicitation differs slightly from prostitution or patronizing a prostitute. Sexual solicitation occurs when an individual:
• “offers or agrees to commit any sexual activity with another individual for a fee, or the equivalent of a fee;
• Pays of offers or agrees to pay a fee or the functional equivalent of a fee to another individual to commit any sexual activity; or
• With intent to engage in sexual activity for a fee or to pay another individual to commit any sexual activity for a fee . . . or to pay another individual to commit any sexual activity for a fee . . . engages in, offers or agrees to engage in, or requests or directs another to engage in any of the following acts:
o exposure of an individual’s genitals, the buttocks, the anus, the pubic area, or the female breast below the top of the areola;
o masturbation;
o touching of an individual’s genitals, the buttocks, the anus, the pubic area, or the female breast; or
o any act of lewdness.”
Sexual solicitation is different from patronizing a prostitute as those who patronize a prostitute know or believe they are making a deal with a prostitute, not just some random person. Sexual solicitation may also consist of lewd acts leading up to paid sexual favors. Until last month, sexual solicitation was a class B misdemeanor yet penalties were recently increased to a class A misdemeanor, matching the penalties for patronizing a prostitute. Additionally, those facing three or more charges of sexual solicitation will now face a third degree felony.

Legal help on tougher charges

As prostitution laws continue to toughen, those arrested may be surprised by the increased severity of their charges. For more information on prostitution laws or for legal help regarding charges, consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Compensatory Service in Lieu of Fine Amounts

Work it off or pay it off, the state of Utah now allows those convicted of an infraction or some misdemeanors to choose performing a compensatory service instead of paying a fine.

Monetary punishment

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

Anytime someone is found guilty of a crime, they have to pay the courts a fee as part of the punishment for their crimes. Depending on the severity of the crime, the fee can also be accompanied with jail or even prison time. The greater the charge, the heftier the monetary fine will be. While some residents can afford to dish out money for fines, others have a difficult or even impossible time affording the fine amount.

Another option for restitution

For those unable to bear the financial burden that results from their poor choices, the State of Utah now allows individuals to work off fine amounts with compensatory service instead. HB0248 put into effect last week has adjusted the ways in which someone can pay for their legal mistakes. This bill introduced compensatory service which is “service or unpaid work performed by a person, in lieu of the payment of a criminal fine”. Not all fines can be worked off however. The new compensatory service only applies “when a defendant is sentenced to pay a fine for an infraction, class C or class B misdemeanor”. Only then shall “the court consider allowing the defendant to complete compensatory service”. The option of compensatory service is not available for fines associated with felonies or class A misdemeanors.

Hourly “wage” for service

If someone chooses to work off their fine instead of paying for it, the new section 76-3-301.7 states “The court shall credit timely completed compensatory service reported . . . against the fine or bail amount at the rate of $10 per hour and shall allow the defendant a reasonable amount of time to complete the service.” For more information on potential fine or compensatory service amounts regarding pending criminal charges, speak with your legal counsel.

Utah Dog Bite Laws

With thirty percent of Utah households owning dogs, it is important for both dog owners and others to know what their rights are on both sides of Utah dog bite laws.

Dog bite statistics

Photo by: State Farm

Over four million dog bites occur each year around the country and many more go unreported. Dog bites can range from a minor nip that doesn’t break the skin to a severe mauling that results in the victim’s death. Under Utah law, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pets and may face bodily injury claims and criminal charges if their dog attacks.

Liability of owners

Most dog owners are surprised when their furry friend turns vicious. Many times the owner claims that the dog is “well-mannered” or “would never hurt a fly”. Regardless of the dog’s previous good behavior however, the owner is liable for any harm caused by their beloved pet-even on the first bite. Utah Code 18-1-1 states: “Every person owning or keeping a do is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog, and it is not necessary . . . to allege or prove that the dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper of the dog knew that it was vicious or mischievous.”

When dogs bite

Far too often dog attacks on persons are seen on the news. Sometimes the dog turns on their own people while other times the victim is a friend, neighbor, or random individual in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dogs are also known to turn on their own kind. Twice this month a dog attack has been reported in Utah that resulted in the death of someone else’s canine companion. In a residential neighborhood in Salt Lake City, a Chihuahua and Shih Tzu were being walked on leashes when they were attacked and killed by two larger dogs who had escaped from their own leashes. Another incident in St. George occurred when two dogs, one described by police as a pit bull breed, attacked a poodle being walked on a leash, resulting in the death of the leashed animal.

Dog at large or at home

Photo by: Richard Gillin

Dog bites may result in criminal charges depending on the circumstances surrounding the attack. If like the above incidents a dog is roaming around unleashed when it attacks an animal or person, the dog owner may face criminal charges for allowing a vicious animal to go at large. Utah Code 76-9-304 states “Any owner of a vicious animal, knowing its propensities, who willfully allows it to go at large or who keeps it without ordinary care, and any animal, while at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, causes injury to another animal or to any human being who has taken reasonable precaution which the circumstances permitted, is guilty of a class B misdemeanor unless the animal causes the death of a human being, whereupon the owner is guilty of a felony of the third degree.” If a person is bitten while in the home of the dog owner, the victim may file a claim for damages and injuries which the homeowner’s insurance or the dog owner themselves would be fiscally responsible for. The owner may not face criminal charges as long as the dog is not at large, is properly licensed, and hasn’t been mistreated or bred for fighting that would increase its likelihood to attack. If a dog attacks a person and not another animal, that animal may be euthanized regardless of its location when the bit occurred.

Defending a bite

Having a dog that used to be well mannered is not a defense, unless the owner can prove their dog was provoked into biting. While most dog bites are accidental, there are occasions where a person may incite a dog into biting them- possibly hoping for a financial payout or to get rid of a “nuisance” neighbor dog. If this is suspected, the dog owner is encouraged to discuss their options with an attorney. Additionally, if a bite occurs but there is no physical harm done to the victim (the bite/nip doesn’t break the skin), it is best to obtain legal counsel to discuss whether or not that fits in the parameters for Utah’s dog bit laws. Different cities and municipalities may have additional laws in place regarding licensing, leash, and bite laws. It is recommended to always check with local codes for the full scope of the law pertinent to the dog and owner’s location.