Some people find police prostitution sting tactics questionable or illegal
None of us want to live in a world where the trafficking or sexual exploitation of the vulnerable is allowed to occur. Lately, there has been an increase in the national conversation surrounding sex trafficking and its harmful effects on its victims. Although the dialogue was initially a response to high-profile cases such as Jeffrey Epstein, more people are talking about the sex trafficking that occurs in their own backyard.
Much of what law enforcement does to fight for trafficking victims and to bring abusers to justice is admirable. Some of our nation’s bravest men and women risk their lives to bust prostitution rings where victims have been coerced or forced to experience the unspeakable. These undercover operations have saved countless lives and put some of our nation’s worst offenders behind bars.
However, some people are beginning to question where the line should be drawn in the sand when it comes to prostitution sting tactics. While busting trafficking rings where victims are being abused is crucial, many police officers are using questionable tactics when it comes to situations between consenting adults, including scenarios where money hasn’t even exchanged hands.
Controversial police tactics raise criticism
In May 2019, Pennsylvania resident Heather Strausbaugh posted an advertisement on Backpage.com, an advertising service that has often been called the “Craigslist of prostitution.” Strausbaugh’s ad described a “discrete service” and mentioned the number 80, although no direct references to sexual activity or the exchange of money were mentioned.
A man responded to the ad and Strausbaugh met him in a hotel room. They made conversation before the man undressed and the two laid side-by-side on the bed. Strausbaugh began to massage the man’s naked body, including the genital region. Suddenly, law enforcement broke down the door and stormed the room. The naked man was in fact an undercover police officer and Strausbaugh had found herself in the middle of a sting operation.
At trial, Strausbaugh’s attorney argued that at no point did the officer pay Strausbaugh, nor did they make mention of a specific sum. Despite this, Strausbaugh was still found guilty. Many people were outraged that the officer stripped naked and allowed Strausbaugh to touch him sexually.
While Strausbaugh’s case is disturbing, it’s hardly an isolated event.
While we might think that the arrests in prostitution stings typically occur after an alleged sex worker has stated that they agree to accept money for sexual services, the shocking reality is that many undercover officers will actually begin to engage sexually with the accused before backup officers make the arrest.
Worse yet, many police departments have no formal protocol concerning what can and can’t be done during a prostitution sting. Therefore, these officers are allowed to strip nude or engage in sex acts with the people they’re trying to bust.
Entrapment of alleged prostitutes and johns
Alleged sex workers aren’t the only people who suffer from unscrupulous prostitution sting tactics; those accused of soliciting the services of prostitutes can also find themselves in unfair and legally questionable situations.
Many undercover police officers will pose as prostitutes in an effort to solicit customers, only to arrest them once they’ve taken the bait. However, there have been numerous instances where the accused customer didn’t even realize that they were soliciting a prostitute but rather thought that they were having a chance legal encounter with a willing partner.
Too often, the lines between a justifiable sting meant to protect the vulnerable and pure entrapment are blurred. Many people who would never seek out the services of a sex worker find themselves coerced by trained undercover officers who are more concerned with meeting an arrest quota than they are with protecting their communities.
Fighting for justice against entrapment
If you’ve been accused of engaging in prostitution, you don’t have to simply accept the charges and the embarrassment. Whether you’re wrongly accused of attempting to sell sexual services for money or were tricked into soliciting the services of a sex worker who was in actuality an officer, you have the right to fight back against these unfair charges in a court of law.
It’s a good thing that law enforcement agencies are fighting against legitimate sex trafficking rings where our most vulnerable are exploited and abused. However, the use of entrapment and unlawful sting tactics in an effort to simply make as many arrests as possible does nothing to help society at large.
If you find yourself facing solicitation or prostitution charges, you need a prostitution defense lawyer who will fight for your rights in a court of law. Texas is eager to convict in these cases, so the right representation is critical in ensuring that your rights are protected and that a fair outcome occurs.