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.