Charged with First-time Soliciting Prostitution in Stearns County

 In Law Articles

Police in the St. Cloud area, including Waite Park, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Sauk Center, are continuously investigating individuals soliciting prostitution.  Often, police officers receive a tip of prostitution activity.  At that point, law enforcement opens an investigation and follow all leads, including requesting arrest warrants for the alleged perpetrators if necessary.

Other times, police officers conduct undercover “sting” operations.  Minnesota courts have routinely held that law enforcement officers may pose as undercover prostitutes in an effort to investigate and prosecute prostitution cases.

For example, in St. Cloud/Stearns County, a police officer conducting an undercover prostitution sting may post an advertisement on Backpages.com, Craigslist, Facebook, or other social media platforms posing as a prostitute or a minor prostitute. Internet websites and social media outlets are commonly used to advertise and solicit prostitution, and undercover police officers frequently locate and arrest suspects following online communication.

Generally, Minnesota courts have allowed police to mislead and even outright lie to individuals attempting to solicit a prostitute. Law enforcement has many powerful tools to investigate and prosecute prostitution in Minnesota.

What are penalties for first-time prostitution conviction?

In Minnesota, there are three levels of solicitation charges – misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor and felony – and each carry serious penalties if convicted.  The penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of each case.

Misdemeanor Charges for Solicitation

Whoever engages in prostitution with an individual 18 years of age or older or hires, offers to hire, or agrees to hire an individual 18 years of age or older to engage in sexual contact, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Punishment for a misdemeanor is up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor solicitation must, at a minimum, be sentenced to pay a fine of at least $500.

Gross Misdemeanor Charges for Solicitation

In Minnesota it is a gross misdemeanor to solicit prostitution in a public place. Whoever, while acting as a patron, intentionally does any of the following while in a public place is guilty of a gross misdemeanor:

  • Engages in prostitution with an individual 18 years of age or older
  • Hires, offers to hire, or agrees to hire an individual 18 years of age or older to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.
  • Repeat offenders (people with a prior conviction of solicitation of prostitution) may also face gross misdemeanor charges.
  • Penalties for a gross misdemeanor conviction includes up to 365 days in jail and a fine up to $3000.  Repeat offenders may be ordered to pay a fine of at least $1,500 and serve 20 hours of community work service. The judge may waive this requirement if community work service is not feasible under the circumstances of the case.

Felony Charges for Solicitation of Minor Child:

Felony criminal penalties include up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $40,000 for any solicitation conviction involving:

  • a minor under the age of 13 years
  • someone hiring, offering or agreeing to hire a minor under the age of 13 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact
  • someone hiring, offering or agreeing to hire an individual who the actor reasonably believes to be under the age of 13 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.

Criminal penalties include up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000 for any conviction involving:

  • a minor under the age of 16 years but at least 13 years
  • someone hiring, offering or agreeing to hire an individual under the age of 16 years but at least 13 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact
  • someone hiring, offering or agreeing to hire an individual who the actor reasonably believes to be under the age of 16 years but at least 13 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.

Criminal penalties include up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for any conviction involving the following:

  • engaging in prostitution with an individual under the age of 18 years but at least 16 years
  • hiring, offering or agreeing to hire an individual under the age of 18 years but at least 16 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact
  • hiring, offering or agreeing to hire an individual who the actor reasonably believes to be under the age of 18 years but at least 16 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.

Are there defenses for first-time solicitation charges?

Yes.  Minnesota courts have recognized several defense to first-time solicitation charges. Anyone unlawfully entrapped into committing prostitution has the right to present the defense at trial. Additionally, the Minnesota Supreme Court identified the legal standard for a prostitution investigation, specifically, whether undercover officer conduct is sufficiently outrageous to violate an individual’s right to due process; in other words, whether undercover police violated someone’s due process rights is determined by the nature of the police officer’s conduct and whether the conduct was legally justified.

If you or someone you know has been charged with solicitation of prostitution, call Attorney Luke Neuville, owner of Neuville Law Office, for a free consultation at 612-354-2622.

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