In the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) makes numerous arrests for solicitation of prostitution through sting operations. Sting operations
commonly involve undercover officers attempting to exchange sexual favors for money or vice versa. Due to the undercover nature of MPD’s sting operations, many people arrested for solicitation attempt to assert an entrapment defense. However, entrapment is a difficult defense to assert in a DC Solicitation case.
Under DC Solicitation laws, you must assert an entrapment defense for it to apply in your solicitation case. A person is entrapped if law enforcement officials induced a person to commit a crime which she or he would not otherwise have committed. To assert an entrapment defense, you must first make a showing that MPD induced you to engage in the solicitation of prostitution. This rule means that you have to present some evidence to show that the police coerced, threatened, or fraudulently persuaded you to commit a crime.
Showing inducement can be challenging though because undercover officers are allowed to use fake names, false appearances, and decoys—among other tactics—to legally persuade you to engage in solicitation of prostitution. Officers are also permitted to initiate discussions about solicitation and exchange money involved in the crime. Furthermore, a mere request by a law enforcement official to engage in criminal activity, standing alone, is not an inducement. Unfortunately, the police rarely record the sting operations, which leaves the only evidence of the crime as the undercover officer’s recantation of what the parties supposedly said.
Once a defendant makes an inducement showing, the government must then prove that the defendant was ready and willing to engage in the solicitation of prostitution. To determine whether a defendant was ready and willing to engage in the solicitation of prostitution, the fact-finder can consider evidence such as the defendant’s prior similar conduct, the defendant’s reputation or character, the defendant’s acceptance to do the crime, or other circumstantial evidence. This means that the government can argue that going to a hotel in response to an online ad can show intent to engage in the crime of solicitation.
Usually, evidence of your past conduct and your character is not admissible in court but by asserting an entrapment defense you permit the government to introduce such evidence. This fact is another reason why asserting an entrapment defense can be problematic because evidence about a defendant’s past conduct or character may be more harmful to the case. Depending on the individual’s background, this issue may or may not be a problem for asserting an entrapment defense. Because the entrapment defense is difficult, often times its better to seek diversion or try and get the case dismissed on a discovery issue or otherwise.