Fact: Police officers have been known to do all of these things in order to catch suspected prostitutes, so do not assume that a client who is willing to show his penis cannot be a cop. When hotel rooms are used for stings, police will sometimes set out illegal drugs, hoping that providers will assume that law enforcement officers would never have drugs around. In State v. Morris, a Minnesota appeals court ruled that a police officer exposing himself to a provider wasn’t outrageous enough to overturn a prostitution conviction. Cops will do whatever it takes to make arrests, and even experienced providers have been tricked into incriminating themselves.
Myth: If an undercover officer actually has sex with a provider, the provider can’t get in trouble.
Fact: While it is unlikely that a law enforcement officer would go through with actually having sex with a provider, there have been cases wherein the police have hired a civilian to participate in a sting operation, in which case they could go through with sex.
Myth: Providers only have to worry about new clients potentially being undercover cops.
Fact: Law enforcement officials often leverage hobbyists who have been busted for other crimes to infiltrate the world of escorts and escort agencies. Sometimes the hobbyist won’t even know he is being used as an informant until after the date. There have been cases where the police catch a hobbyist who is leaving a hotel and threaten to arrest him unless he incriminates the provider. Unfortunately people are often willing to turn on even their close friends in order to get themselves out of legal trouble and avoid public exposure.
Myth: There’s nothing you can do to defend yourself if you get busted.
Fact: Everyone has the right to remain silent and not cooperate with authorities. Everyone has the right to consult with an attorney before deciding to talk to the police, and the police do not have to be honest when providing legal advice or promising that you will avoid prosecution if you cooperate. You should never say anything to authorities before consulting with an experienced prostitution attorney. You do not have to plead guilty or turn in your clients or fellow providers, though law enforcement will likely try to scare you into doing both.
Myth: Police only target providers who work on the streets in stings.
Fact: In a lot of areas, more providers have been caught through postings on Craigslist or other internet sites than have been arrested on the streets.
Check out our video on common Minnesota Prostitution Myths below:
Common Myths about Prostitution Convictions
Myth: It’s only prostitution if you make it clear that you are trading money for sex.
Fact: Juries are allowed to consider the “totality of the circumstances” and draw whatever conclusions seem reasonable to them, so it doesn’t matter whether or not money is ever mentioned. If you post sexually suggestive photos and hourly rates on your website, then meet with a client who contacted you through your site, the jury will probably assume that you were charging for sex as well as companionship.
Myth: You are not guilty of prostitution if the client doesn’t actually hand you the money, or if he tells you it is only a gift.
Fact: Juries often conclude that an offer or agreement to have sex for money was implied by your words or actions. So if the prosecution can prove that the client contacted you looking for sex, that you agreed to meet with him, and that he brought money to the meeting, you will probably be convicted even if there’s no evidence that he actually gave you the money.
Myth: If you get suspicious that a client may be an undercover officer, you can avoid a prostitution conviction by telling him you changed your mind and don’t want to have sex anymore (or that he doesn’t have to pay for it).
Fact: As long as the prosecution can convince a jury that you agreed to trade sex for money, you are guilty of prostitution even if you later withdraw your offer. Providers in Minnesota who have tried to appeal prostitution convictions on this basis have not succeeded.
Common Myths about Prostitution Penalties
Myth: You will face the same charges no matter where the “act” occurs.
Fact: Prostitution that takes place in private homes is usually punished less harshly than prostitution that occurs in public places. Prostitution near a school or park is punished even more severely. Remember, courts consider prostitution to take place when you agree to have sex for money, not when the sexual encounter occurs. For instance, if you meet a client at a bar where you agree on a price, then return to your house to have sex—that is considered a public act of prostitution.
Myth: Prostitution is a petty crime which results in only minor punishments.
Fact: The least serious prostitution charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and no more than 90 days in jail. First offenses that occur in private homes are usually classified as misdemeanors.
Prostitution offenses can also be classified as gross misdemeanors, which carry a maximum fine of $3,000 and a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Providers who commit public acts of prostitution, solicitation of prostitution, or who have past convictions for prostitution are generally charged with gross misdemeanors.
The most serious prostitution offenses are felonies, which can result in prison sentences of more than a year, or fines of more than $3,000. Typical prostitution felonies involve minors, promoting the prostitution of another person, or prostitution-related racketeering charges.
Myth: A provider who brings a friend to a date isn’t a pimp.
Fact: Police try to implicate as many people as they can in the most serious possible crimes when they conduct stings. Bringing a friend for purposes of prostitution will implicate you in the promotion of prostitution, a felony for which you can be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $30,000 (or even more if your friend is under 18 years of age). Police will often threaten to charge providers with promotion of prostitution in order to convince them to snitch on their associates.
Any of the following activities can be considered promotion of prostitution:
- A client pays you for both your services and you take a cut before giving your friend her share
- You help find clients for your friend (even if you don’t participate in her dates)
- You let your friend use your residence or hotel room to entertain her clients
- You drive your friend to an appointment with a client
- You give a client another provider’s phone number, or give another provider a client’s number (even if you don’t make money from doing so)
Myth: Prostitution convictions can only lead to fines or jail time.
Fact: Minnesota police may seize any property used to commit or help commit a crime. So if you use your computer to book appointments, or drive your car to meet clients, the police can take these away from you, and they can also confiscate any money you earned through prostitution.
Myth: If you get arrested, no one will know.
Fact: Providers are charged under their real names, and arrest records are public knowledge, so it is actually quite likely that people will find out. In addition, the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments often post the names and photos of people arrested for prostitution on their websites. Prostitution convictions stay on a person’s record forever and will pop up whenever background checks of any kind are conducted.