Prostitution vs. Solicitation Charges in DC

Prostitution is a sexual act or sexual contact with another person in exchange for a fee, either giving a fee or receiving a fee. Now this fee doesn’t necessarily need to be a specific dollar amount but has to be a giving or receiving of something of value.

Solicitation of prostitution is the inviting, enticing, offering, persuading, or agreeing to engage in prostitution. So both with prostitution and with solicitation a person who is receiving services or a person who is providing services as a prostitute or offering or inviting the giving or receiving of services as a prostitute both can be convicted equally of solicitation. So it doesn’t apply to just one side or the other.

Prostitution is the act and solicitation is the name of the crime that initiates the act of prostitution.

What are Some Common Scenarios Where You Have Seen These Charges?

The most frequent way that I see solicitation charges is where two people engage in a conversation in which an agreement is made to perform a sexual act or engage in sexual contact in exchange for a fee, and one of the individuals is an undercover police officer.  Once the agreement is made, the undercover officer will make a call for other officers to move in and make the arrest.  Typically, no money actually changes hands and no sexual acts are performed.  The undercover officer is typically posing as either a prostitute on the street or online, or as a prospective client.

People can be wrongfully charged on either side. In some circumstances, an individual is simply seeking the services of an escort or a private dance, as opposed to sexual acts.  In other situations, an individual may have been arrested as merely an innocent bystander amongst a group of people who sought out a prostitute.

Recent Trends in DC Solicitation Cases

Metropolitan Police Department’s solicitation sting operations surge from time to time.  Regardless of how the police investigate or make these arrests, my experience has been that the United States Attorney’s office is very open to negotiating resolutions with people so that they do not have to take high numbers of these cases all the way to trial and defendants will often get the benefit of that by being able to resolve their case without being convicted.

In the past, people charged with solicitation would attend a one day class called John School and get the charges dismissed. That program ended many years ago.  Instead, many solicitation defendants are now eligible for deferred prosecution agreement, in which they would complete community service in exchange for having their charges dismissed. I think potentially at some point in the future we might see solicitation go the way of marijuana in Washington DC where it eventually becomes decriminalized.