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 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.

Penalties Increased for Killing a Police Dog

A new bill sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto and Rep. Lowry V. Snow was put into effect this month, increases penalties for individuals who are charged with killing a police dog.

Dangerous job

Photo by: Michael

Police dogs have many jobs including detection of drugs or explosives, search and rescue, and apprehension of subjects on the run. Like other officers, their job is dangerous and can often result in death. This year alone, five police dogs have lost their lives – three of those while in the line of duty. In 2017, 24 canine officers were killed with one of those being a beloved member of the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. Canine police service dog Dingo was killed in July 2017 while trying to apprehend a suspect on the run. The fugitive, 28 year old Torey Massey fired multiple shots at Dingo which later resulted in the death of the police dog. The following month in Washington County, another police dog was shot in the head by a subject attempting to flee police. Unlike K9 officer Dingo, K9 officer Tess miraculously survived.

Killing a police officer

Police dogs face similar dangers that their human partners do while attempting to apprehend dangerous subjects, yet the consequences of taking a police dog’s life have been drastically lenient than those consequences of causing the death of a human police officer. Killing a police officer is considered aggravated murder by Utah law which could land the person responsible in prison for life or even facing the death penalty. Killing a police dog however would result in a third degree felony, the same penalty an individual may face for selling marijuana. A new bill that was recently put into effect in Utah has now increased the penalties for those charged with killing a canine officer.

SB0057 – Causing the death of a canine officer

SB0057 was put into effect Tuesday,

Photo by: Michael

May 8th 2018 and makes drastic changes to Utah Code 76-9-306 regarding injuring or killing a police dog. While previously it was a third degree felony to kill a police dog, that section now states “It is a second degree felony for a person to intentionally or knowingly cause death to a police service canine.” A second degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the same penalty for crimes such as robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Human lives vs animal lives

Some residents wonder why causing the death of a canine officer now comes with a stiffer penalty than if someone killed another person by driving while under the influence. There are a few reasons as to why killing a police dog would be punished more severely than drunkenly causing the death of a person.

• One major point is the intent. Section 76-9-306 states the second degree penalty is for those who “intentionally or knowingly” cause the death of a police dog. If a person “cause[s] bodily injury to a police service canine; engages in conduct likely to cause bodily injury or death to a police service canine; or lay[s] out, place[s] or administer[s] any poison, trap, substance, or object which is likely to produce bodily injury or death to a police service canine” then the person responsible would face a third degree felony-the same penalty as automobile homicide.

• Another reason why a police dog’s life may appear to carry more value than a person’s could be due to the K9’s close proximity to a human officer. Police dogs are always accompanied by their handler which means if someone shoots to kill a police dog, they are also putting the human officer at risk of serious injury or death as well. Increasing the penalties for killing a police dog may help keep other officers safe while in the line of duty.

Cooperate and consult an attorney

Running is never a recommended choice is fighting an arrest, as it can result in increased charges or safety concerns for the subject due to use of the unleashed service canine or even deadly force by law enforcement. If police officers attempt to arrest an individual it is best to be cooperative but consult legal representation before answering any questions. For more information on charges resulting from an arrest or an individual’s violent conduct towards officers or police dogs, speak to a qualified attorney immediately.

Utah Mother Arrested For Felony Child Abandonment

A Utah mother was arrested for felony child abandonment after authorities found her children to be living in deplorable circumstances.

Unsafe living conditions

39 year old Virginia Mary Martinez, a resident of the Shivwits Indian Reservation in Washington County, Utah was arrested after officers responding to a call about a loud verbal fight found Martinez living in a trashed trailer along with two small children. The young children, ages 2 and 3, were dirty and hungry with visible skin ailments due to the living conditions. The home Martinez and the children were living in was falling apart and crawling with bugs. After an investigation into the conditions at the Martinez home, the Division of Child and Family Services removed the toddlers and Martinez was arrested for child abandonment.

Child abandonment

Utah Code 76-5-109 regarding child abuse states: “Child abandonment’ means that a parent or legal guardian of a child;
• . . . Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• . . . intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing . . .
A person who commits child abandonment . . . [is] guilty of a felony of the third degree”.


Martinez is reported by a family member to have a possible drug problem and had admitted to not being able to obtain food for her children as she had no means of transportation. Now that Martinez has lost her children for an undetermined period and is behind bars, let this be an opportunity for her to obtain treatment for her addictions and hopefully be healthy enough to be reunited with her children later on. For more information on drug treatment options for those who are trying to raise children while fighting addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. For legal counsel contact a criminal defense attorney.