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As prostitution changes in Maryland, so do solicitation arrests

When someone mentions the word prostitution, images of women walking darkened streets may come to mind. But the world's oldest profession has changed dramatically in recent years, and like workers in most other industries, those who engage in prostitution are increasingly reliant on the Internet.

This change means that those who solicit prostitutes rely on the Web, too. Law enforcement agencies in Maryland recognize this and have developed new ways of conducting sex stings and arresting people for solicitation. As with any other police tactics, men and women who are arrested need to be sure that the procedures used were legal and followed protocol. They also must do everything they can to protect their privacy and prevent the arrest from ruining their lives.

How exactly has prostitution changed? Most notably, encounters don't typically happen through a car window. Instead, prostitutes and their clientele use online advertising to arrange meet-ups in motels. This approach is seen as safer for prostitutes, but it may not keep those who respond to the ads any safer from prosecution. Police working undercover are also operating out of motel rooms, and despite the apparent assumption that an officer posing as a prostitute will reveal her identity when asked if she's working for law enforcement, they aren't required to answer truthfully to that common question.

Another change authorities are seeing is a time shift. Rather than late at night, many people who are arrested for solicitation in the middle of the day, often during lunch breaks or right after business hours, when solicitors are on their way home from work. Police have acted accordingly by setting up undercover operations in motels during these hours.

Being arrested for solicitation can be terrifying, even though the charges are often misdemeanors that don't carry any jail time. For defendants, the biggest concern is that their case will go public and severely damage their reputation. The first step in avoiding this is to seek the services of an attorney who focuses on sex crimes. By getting help with their criminal defense immediately, defendants can often keep their cases private.

Source: The Washington Post, "Dark world of prostitution turns to the day," Robert Samuels, Dec. 19, 2012

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