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

Photo by: dalius kniukšta

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 Man Arrested for Suspicion of Human Trafficking in Wyoming

A Utah man was arrested in Wyoming for suspicion of human trafficking undercover police responded to a prostitution ad found online.

“Hello, this is John”

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Undercover detectives in Cheyenne, Wyoming discovered an ad for prostitution on a website and arranged a meeting as a fake “John”. When officers arrived, two women on scene explained to officers they had been taken from Utah by a 35 year old man named Terry Blanks who was collecting their earnings from prostitution. Blanks was located nearby and arrested on two degrees of first degree human trafficking.

Human trafficking

According to Utah Code 76-5-309 and 76-5-310, Utah dishes out a second degree felony for human trafficking unless there is rape, aggravated sexual assault, or sexual crimes against children. Only then would the charge would be increased to a first degree felony. Although Wyoming was the last state to criminalize human trafficking, it now carries stiffer penalties than the neighboring state of Utah. Wyoming Statute 6-2-703 states “A person is guilty of human trafficking in the first degree when the person intentionally or knowingly recruits, transports, transfers, harbors, receives, provides, obtains, isolates, maintains or entices an individual for the purpose of:

(i) Forced labor or servitude . . .

(ii) Sexual servitude . . .

(iii) Sexual servitude of a minor”.

The charge for human trafficking is only reduced to a second degree felony in Wyoming if the person responsible behaves recklessly, not intentionally. For more information on charges that occur across state lines and how penalties and accompanying incarceration times vary depending on the state, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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

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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.