At least 18 men, ranging from ages 19 to 81, were recently arrested in a San Diego prostitution sting. The sting operation lasted about seven hours in an area of Pomona known as the Blade. The Blade is known for being a hot spot for prostitution. According to reports, female officers posed as prostitutes in the area. The men who were arrested pulled over while driving through Pomona and attempted to solicit sex from the officers.
Are Sting Operations Legal?
Yes, sting operations can be legal. However, police have to be careful as to how these operations are carried out. Officers cannot coerce or encourage individuals to engage in criminal activity that they wouldn’t have engaged in on their own. This is what is known as entrapment.
On the other hand, it’s entirely lawful to set up a situation that is likely to draw criminal activity. In this situation, San Diego police officers went undercover as prostitutes in an area that is well-known for its prostitution activity. The officers were positioned on street corners and visible to drivers as they passed by. The men who were arrested took it upon themselves to pull their cars over and approach the officers to solicit sex.
The sting isn’t illegal just because the men weren’t aware that the women they were approaching were law enforcement officers. The choice to solicit sex was entirely their own. They just happened to solicit sex from someone who could bust them for it.
Understanding Solicitation in San Diego
It’s illegal to sell or pay for sex in California. Selling sex is known as prostitution. The person who engages in sex in exchange for compensation would be charged with the crime of prostitution.
Paying for sex, or offering some sort of compensation, is known as solicitation. The person who requests and intends to pay for sex would be charged with the crime of solicitation. The crimes are prohibited under California Penal Code Section 647 PC.
Proving Solicitation Charges
The state will have the burden of proving that the 18 men arrested in Pomona are guilty of solicitation. To do this, prosecutors will have to prove:
- The men requested that the female officers engaged in an act of prostitution
- The men intended to engage in an act of prostitution with the officers, and
- The officers received the request.
California defines engaging in an act of prostitution as “having sexual intercourse or doing a lewd act with someone else in exchange for money or other compensation.” Lewd acts include touching intimate or private body parts for sexual gratification or arousal.
Penalties for Solicitation
Solicitation is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The penalties that apply ultimately depend on how many times you’ve been convicted of the crime.
First-time solicitation convictions are punishable by a maximum of 6 months in a San Diego County Jail and/or $1,000 in fines. A judge may also decide that probation is an appropriate alternative.
Subsequent solicitation convictions carry mandatory jail time. You’ll be required to spend at least 45 days behind bars the second time you’re convicted. The third time around, you’ll be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days in jail.
Solicitation in a Car
The crime of solicitation will be aggravated if it is committed in a car within 1,000 feet of a residence. The state reserves the right to suspend or revoke your driver’s license for up to 6 months.
Anyone arrested for solicitation should seek legal assistance immediately. Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help with your defense today.