Update: 5/15/15 – Arresting agencies throughout Pinal County have initiated a prostitution sting operation. The operation involves undercover officers posing as adult prostitutes on an internet forum. Typically, we have seen the arresting agencies using Back Page or Craigslist to advertise the services for the prostitutes. The latest sting operations are geared towards prostitution within Pinal County cities such as Apache Junction, Casa Grande and Eloy.
Phoenix, Arizona – Tempe Police Officers and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies have arrested over one hundred and forty suspects of prostitution. A large percentage of the suspects charged in Tempe and Phoenix were charged with Child Prostitution, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S) 13-3212.The majority of the operations involve identical fact patterns: Undercover officers posted an advertisement for sexual services on Craigslist or some other server. It is noteworthy to mention that the officers are posting on an 18-and-older website and even claim to be 18 years old in the advertisement. When the caller inquires about the services, the undercover officers then pull a bait-and-switch and say (or allude to the idea) that they are under the age of 18. When solicitor arrives at the hotel room, one thing is certain. The undercover officers do not appear to be 15, 16, 17, or anywhere in their teens. The reason is that they are not under the age of 18. Nevertheless, the solicitors are still being arrested, charged, and prosecuted for Child Prostitution.
Adam Feldman is a criminal attorney in Phoenix, Arizona and in this Google Hangout he answers questions related to the current Phoenix prostitution sting.
The substantive difference between prostitution and child prostitution is simply that the prostitute is under the age of eighteen for the latter charge. More importantly, the charging and sentencing differences are drastic. Prostitution, according to A.R.S. 13-3214, is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a 15-day mandatory term in jail. Child Prostitution, assuming that the prostitute is 15, 16, or 17, is a class 2 felony and will result in a prison sentence between 7 and 21 years.Interestingly enough, to commit the crime of Child Prostitution, the prostitute does not have to be a real prostitute and does not have to be under the age of 18. A.R.S. 13-3212 provides that age is not a defense to Child Prostitution if a police officer is posing as a child.Let that sink in for a few seconds. If an undercover police officer says (or insinuates) that she is 15, 16, or 17 years old, you can be charged with Child Prostitution. It does not matter if the undercover officer is older than 18 years old, which they always are. It does not matter if the undercover officer says she is under 18 years old despite looking well above this age. The Statute says that you are going to prison for 7 to 21 years.Herein lies the very question posed in the title: Are these undercover sting operations catching those who are truly committing Child Prostitution or are the operations entrapping individuals. I believe that the officers are absolutely entrapping the majority of these men into the crime of Child Prostitution, thus facing years in prison for their first brush with the law.
What is entrapment and how does it apply to this sting operation? Accordingly to A.R.S. 13-204, entrapment is an affirmative defense. This means that the burden is on the defense to first prove the following: 1) The idea of committing the offense first started with law enforcement; 2) Law enforcement officers urged the person to commit the offense; and 3) The individual was not predisposed to commit the crime. For all of the suspects, 1 & 2 are easily tackled because the cops held themselves out to be 18 on the advertisement only to switch it up once the solicitor called. The solicitors were looking to engage in adult prostitution and only engaged in such conduct at the urging of the officer. For most, 3 is an equally easy aspect to demonstrate. The majority of the suspects have no criminal history, are upstanding individuals in their communities, and have no history of any sexual deviancy.
Once defense has established the first three prongs of entrapment, the burden then shifts to the State to prove otherwise. This is almost an impossible task for law enforcement. When these individuals have no criminal history or history of sexual deviance, how will the State ever overcome any of the prongs? Answer: They wont.
This is not an article meant to condone or sponsor any of this type of conduct. Any form is prostitution is illegal and should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. However, the conduct should always fit the charged offense. In Arizona, the sting operations are needlessly disrupting the lives and professions of many individuals because the officers are entrapping people and overcharging them with felony offenses.
For more information, feel free to contact Adam Feldman with The Feldman Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Feldman has successfully handled countless criminal cases in Arizona. Mr. Feldman focuses on sex related offenses and other high-level felonies
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004