A sting operation happens when the police and/or other law enforcement agencies have officers/agents act as accomplices or victims to gather evidence and arrest potential offenders. An example is a Houston prostitution sting where an undercover police officer acts as a sex worker, solicits you to pay for sexual acts, and then arrests you when you agree.
But sometimes, law enforcement oversteps its boundaries and violates your rights. This is called entrapment and can result in getting your charges dropped. Still, it may be helpful to know how a prostitution sting works, and the tactics used to make arrests.
How Do Prostitution Stings Happen?
Sting operations are usually put in place because law enforcement suspects criminal activity is happening, but they do not yet have enough evidence for arrests and formal charges. So, law enforcement and county prosecutors set up scenarios to gather enough evidence and arrest suspects.
For an online prostitution sting, agents or officers go online and impersonate sex workers who are willing to engage in acts for money. They talk to their targets, set up a time and meeting place, and even have officers go undercover as pimps and prostitutes. When a perpetrator agrees to the solicitation and hands over the money, they are arrested.
What To Expect During & After a Sting
If you are arrested during a sting operation, the acting department routinely takes you to a designated police station or safe spot where you will be processed. From there, they read your charges and question you. Remember, you can (and should) remain silent and immediately ask to speak to an attorney.
They then put you in jail for the night (or weekend) to face a judge in the morning (or Monday). If you are part of a large-scale prostitution sting, such as in a hotel sting or a high-traffic area, you may be one of many individuals taken into custody. In these cases, you may be released faster but presented with paperwork with a future court date.
During your court appearance, a judge will read your charges, hear your plea, and set your case for trial if necessary. The court might also issue a search warrant to gather your personal property as evidence.
Identify & Avoid Prostitution Sting Operations
A well-planned sting creates a situation where you do not know that you are about to be arrested. So, while you might not be able to identify all the characteristics of a prostitution bust, knowing them can help you avoid a sting.
- Did Someone Reach Out to You? -If you were minding your own business online and suddenly someone contacts you and solicits you for prostitution, it might be a trap.
- It Is Too Good to Be True?- If the other person has the perfect answer to calm your fears, no matter what you question, watch out.
- Is The Other Person Too Persistent? – If you have said no multiple times and they keep trying, it might be law enforcement and possibly bordering entrapment.
When Are Stings Considered Entrapment?
Entrapment is when law enforcement gets a person who had no intention of committing a crime to change their mind and do it. This might sound the same as a sting, but it is technically not, and the lines between the two can be a little fuzzy.
With a sting, there is knowledge of specific crimes in the area, and the bust is set up to catch willing perpetrators in the act. With entrapment, the cops convince unwilling people to commit a crime and arrest them during the bust. It is law enforcement’s job to ensure they are handling all aspects of their investigation correctly so that they charge the actual criminals.
The Problem with Prostitution Stings
Prostitution sting operations have been around forever, but they are not the open-and-shut convictions the police might suggest they are. Aside from entrapment, some of the biggest criticisms of prostitution stings include:
- A Waste of Resources: Prostitution sting operations can be costly and time-consuming, and some argue that they waste law enforcement resources. Critics say that these operations are often low-priority and that they divert resources away from more serious crimes.
- They Are Not Effective: Some critics argue that prostitution sting operations are ineffective in reducing prostitution or related crimes. They say these operations merely move prostitution to other areas or push it further underground.
- Stings Harm Sex Workers: Prostitution sting operations can have a negative impact on sex workers. They can create a climate of fear and mistrust and result in the arrest and prosecution of sex workers who may be forced into the industry due to poverty or other factors.
- Sting Operation Cases Can Be Weak: Law enforcement often brags about the number of arrests made in a sting, but you rarely hear about how many of these cases result in convictions. It still takes evidence to convict you and to secure a conviction in a prostitution sting case. The prosecution must present evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. In some cases, the evidence may be circumstantial, witnesses can lack credibility, and other factors can make it challenging to meet this burden of proof.
Contact a Houston Defense Lawyer
Whether it happened online or as part of a wide-net sting operation on the street, if you think you have been unfairly charged with solicitation of prostitution, you need an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, attorneys Ned Barnett and Chase Clayton are on your side and know how to discretely and effectively address cases involving sting operations.
Contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 to learn how they can help you.