Dismissing Solicitation of Prostitution Charges in Houston is Getting HarderPublished: May 04, 2018 in Sex Crimes
In Harris County, there’s been a 200 percent increase since 2014 in the arrests of prostitution clients, also known as “johns.” Last year, the Harris County Sheriff’s office arrested over 300 men who allegedly solicited prostitutes. In the City of Houston, police arrested 178 people. In almost 70 percent of these cases, the suspects’ solicitation lawyers were able to obtain the dismissal of their criminal charges.
One of the most popular strategies for obtaining a dismissal in a solicitation case is to enroll the defendant in a pre-trial diversion program. If accepted, offenders must comply with a six-month to yearlong probationary period during which they must pay fees, submit to drug testing, and attend counseling. Once probation requirements are successfully completed, the judge will dismiss the case. Unfortunately, this strategy is no longer as viable as it once was.
Prosecutors are Rejecting Diversion Programs in Solicitation Cases
In February 2017, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office attracted national recognition for its massive prostitution sweep, which was part of the 13th National Johns Suppression Initiative. Since almost all of the johns who were arrested subsequently enrolled in pre-trial diversion and avoided convictions, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office decided to instruct its prosecutors to reject requests for pre-trial diversion from individuals suspected of engaging in prostitution.
“We were treating johns in a much more gingerly fashion than the prostitute or seller,” said JoAnne Musick, division chief of sex crimes for the district attorney’s office. She stated that, on average, “our sellers would end up spending anywhere from three to 20 days in jail. That’s a pretty big difference because it takes two to tango. We did not like that disparity.”
After a criminal case is dismissed, the former defendant can request the expungement of the criminal records related to the case. When the request is granted, it’s like the charges never happened. According to Musick, some johns were able to enroll in pre-trial diversion more than once, effectively avoiding all accountability for their actions.
Does It Make Sense to Fight Human Trafficking by Arresting and Prosecuting Johns?
Michael Shively, a criminal justice expert, told the Houston Chronicle that cutting demand is the key to reducing sex trafficking. “Every cent that changes hands in sex trafficking comes from the pockets of buyers, and without them there simply is no sex trafficking or prostitution,” he said. The idea is that, if customers are dissuaded from seeking prostitutes, the sex trafficking business will die out on its own.
Stopping sex trafficking without targeting the supply side of the business is not only unrealistic, it’s also taking the path of least resistance. Setting up stings for johns is far easier than identifying, tracking, and dismantling human trafficking networks. By logging hundreds of easy arrests, the authorities can give their constituents the impression that they are effectively combating human trafficking, when in reality they are barely making a dent in a vast and resilient underground industry.
Call a Solicitation Lawyer for Help
If you have been charged with solicitation or other prostitution-related charges, Houston solicitation attorney Ned Barnett can help. A fierce advocate and careful legal strategist, he has the skills and experience necessary to bring your case to a positive resolution. Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule your free and confidential consultation.