Prosecution of Prostitution Cases in Maryland
What does the prosecution need to prove in prostitution cases?
Kush Arora: Depending on what form of the statute they are looking at, they need to prove either one of two things; either a person was offering sex or sexual acts for money, goods, or other services or a person was seeking out sex or sexual acts and was willing to pay for them in some way. That is really all that needs to be proven. It is not even necessary that a person actually give another person money or that a sex act actually begin to take place. Even taking a substantial step towards one of those things is enough for the police to arrest somebody and charge them with some sort of violation of the prostitution statute. A good example is that I often have clients who are responding to undercover operations arrive at a hotel room thinking that they are meeting somebody and are going to pay them for sex or some other sexual service. When they arrive, they are greeted by a police officer and it is at that time that they are placed under arrest. Then they call me and say that they never made a deal and they never gave anyone any money. A lot of times it doesn’t matter because just setting up the meeting by responding to a text, making a phone call, or sending an e-mail saying that they intended to meet at that hotel room and that they intended to pay a certain amount of money in exchange for a certain service is enough for the prosecutors to prove that substantial step towards hiring somebody for sex or sexual services. This is enough to constitute assignation and that is a violation of the prostitution statute.
How does the prosecution go about building their case?
Kush Arora: Usually a case like this is built on a lot of circumstantial evidence. Sometimes, if they are invading a hotel room or raiding a hotel room where a prostitute might be operating, things like condoms or other kinds of contraceptives around the room would be something that they would use. Large amounts of money would be something that they would use. Ledgers would be something that they would use to try and demonstrate what this room was being used for. Often, prostitution cases involve the person having lots of cell phones called “burners,” which are short-term use cell phones that officers might use as circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the room was being used for prostitution. In this technology era that we’re a part of, what they really look into are things like text messages, e-mails, and other data that might have been sent via electronic means that could help the officer to show the purpose of the room, what it was being used for, and what purpose the people visiting the room had. Usually those things are spelled out on those electronic devices.
In terms of catching a person who might be going to see a prostitute, they would conduct the investigation in much the same way using electronic data that was sent, text messages, and e-mails. All kinds of things like that would be pieces of information that might be used to demonstrate what their intention was when arriving at the place to meet with whatever person they were intending to meet with. It is very rare in prostitution cases for police officers to ever catch somebody in the act of prostitution; most of the time these cases have to do with what steps a person was taking towards committing an act that would violate the prostitution statute.
How does the state treat prostitution solicitation cases?
Kush Arora: Prostitution and solicitation cases are misdemeanor cases and when it comes to their penalties, they fall under the same category of seriousness as cases of DUI or possession of marijuana. They are at the low end of the scale when it comes to criminal charges against an individual. That being said, they are still treated extremely seriously and the circumstances of the case, particularly the ages and criminal histories of the people that were involved, will all be taken into account in determining how seriously the state takes the case. In the grand scheme of things, prostitution, solicitation of prostitution, and assignation of a prostitute are on the less serious side of the criminal justice system and on the scale of criminal cases that the prosecutors are dealing with.
Are these charges prosecuted intensely by the state?
Kush Arora: Prostitution and solicitation charges are prosecuted intensely by the state, but what I can share is that because the nature of these offenses is usually nonviolent, they are put on the same level as misdemeanor drug possession cases, shoplifting cases, and driving under the influence types of cases. They are still extremely serious and the state takes them very seriously, but they don’t carry the same level of prosecution that assault or reckless endangerment charges might because another human could actually be endangered to some degree by those acts.
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