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Solicitation of Prostitution – Phoenix Code § 23-52

While prostitution has been called the world’s oldest profession, it is illegal in Arizona and most locations in the U.S. While prostitution is banned in nearly every state, how people who pay for prostitutes are treated is not uniform. In Arizona, for example, prostitution is illegal under state and local laws while solicitation is not codified as a state criminal offense. This means that if you are arrested for paying for a prostitute, the penalties that you might face will depend on where the offense was committed in the state.

What is Solicitation of Prostitution?

Solicitation of Prostitution occurs when someone offers money or something of value in exchange for another person to engage in a sexual act. There is no corresponding Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) but almost every individual city has their own municipal code outlawing Solicitation of Prostitution. The State of Arizona has said that the act of Prostitution is illegal, thus soliciting a prostitute is illegal too.

Every city in Arizona has the right to enforce their own statutes or city codes when it comes to Solicitation of Prostitution. The State of Arizona has stated that Prostitution itself is illegal and has allowed each city to monitor the area of solicitation themselves. The City of Phoenix has enacted City Code § 23-52 to cover Solicitation of Prostitution.

Variety of Arizona’s Solicitation Laws

Since Arizona leaves solicitation up to local governments, the laws against solicitation vary between the different cities. In Phoenix, solicitation of prostitution is codified at Phoenix Municipal Code § 23-52. Under this code section, it is unlawful to either engage in an act of prostitution or to solicit or hire someone else for an act of prostitution. By contrast, A.R.S. § 13-3214 only criminalizes engaging in an act of prosecution at the state level. This means that if you are arrested for soliciting a prostitute, your case will be prosecuted in the city court in the city where the offense occurred.

Solicitation of prostitution involves a situation in which a defendant offers money or something else that is valuable to someone else in exchange for a sex act such as intercourse or oral sex. Nearly all cities in Arizona have municipal codes that outlaw the solicitation of prostitution. Most of these codes have the same elements and carry similar punishments.

City police departments typically operate sting operations to try to catch people who are trying to solicit prostitutes. During these operations, some of the officers will go undercover to pose as prostitutes in areas in which prostitution is common. During huge events such as a Super Bowl or an NFL playoff game, the police may engage in large-scale prostitution sting operations. When sting operations occur, the officers will wait until an offer of money is made by the defendants before placing them under arrest.

Each city in Arizona is allowed to enforce its own city code prohibiting the solicitation of prostitution. In Phoenix, the city has enacted Municipal Code § 23-52 to prohibit both prostitution and the solicitation of prostitution.

Penalties for Solicitation of Prostitution in Phoenix?

Under Phoenix Municipal Code § 23-52, soliciting a prostitute is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of solicitation of prostitution in the Phoenix Municipal Court, you can face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum jail of 15 days up to 6 months
  • Fine of up to $2,500
  • Additional surcharge of 84% on any fines imposed
  • Up to three years of probation, which can include counseling and classes as a condition

If you are convicted a second time of solicitation of prostitution, you can face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days up to a maximum of 6 months
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 up to $2,500
  • Additional 84% surcharge on any fines imposed
  • Up to three years of probation, which can include counseling and classes as a condition

If you are convicted a third time of solicitation of prostitution, meaning that you have previously been convicted of solicitation two times, you can face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 60 days up to a maximum of 6 months
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $2,250 up to $2,500
  • Additional surcharge of 84% on any fines imposed
  • Probation up to three years, which can include counseling and classes as a condition

If you are convicted a fourth time of solicitation of prostitution or subsequent offense, you can face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory jail sentence of 6 months
  • Mandatory fine of $2,500
  • Additional 84% surcharge on any fines imposed
  • Up to 3 years of probation, which can include counseling and classes as a condition

Before 2018, people who were convicted of solicitation of prostitution within the Phoenix city limits did not always receive fines. The judges had the discretion of whether to issue a fine of up to $2,500. However, the Phoenix City Council voted to increase the penalties for solicitation of prostitution in 2018 to combat human trafficking. This change means that people will face minimum mandatory fines for second, third, and subsequent convictions. Now, if you are convicted of a second offense of solicitation of prostitution, you will be ordered to pay at least $2,000. If you are convicted a third time, you will be ordered to pay a minimum fine of $2,250. Finally, all subsequent convictions will result in mandatory fines of $2,500.

Every city has a municipal code that determines the amount of jail time that you might face upon a conviction of solicitation of prostitution. While the minimum jail time amounts might vary, most cities classify the offense as a class 1 misdemeanor. Under state law, judges are allowed to sentence people who are convicted of class 1 misdemeanor offenses to serve up to 6 months in jail and to pay fines of up to $2,500.

Judges also have the discretion to order people who are convicted to serve probationary sentences of up to three years and to comply with the terms and conditions of their probation.

Consequences After a Conviction of Soliciting a Prostitute

While solicitation of prostitution is not considered to be a sex offense or a felony offense, a conviction can still lead to collateral consequences that can impact your life even after you have completed your sentence. Some cities in Arizona publish pictures of people who are convicted for solicitation of prostitution in their local newspapers, leading to public humiliation. Being charged and convicted of this type of offense can also cause you to have problems in your relationship with your significant other and to possibly lose him or her.

A conviction for solicitation of prostitution also means that you will have a criminal record. Potential employers might see your conviction when they conduct criminal background checks. While employers are not supposed to turn down otherwise qualified applicants for most jobs because of a criminal conviction unless the conviction is related to the job, some employers will still decide not to hire someone who has any conviction, including for a Class 1 misdemeanor offense.

Potential Defenses to Solicitation of Prostitution

It is possible to successfully defend against a charge of solicitation of prostitution. Your attorney will review the police reports and any other evidence in the case to identify the potential defenses that could be raised in your case. Some of the possible defenses to solicitation of prostitution include the following:

  • The defendant did not have the intent to hire the prostitute for a sex act;
  • The defendant’s Miranda rights were violated;
  • The police violated the defendant’s right to an attorney; and
  • There were forensic flaws, or the police engaged in misconduct.

In many cases involving charges of solicitation of prostitution, experienced criminal defense lawyers will assert that their clients did not have the requisite intent to actually hire a prostitute to engage in a sex act in exchange for money. This argument might include what is known as the joking defense. In this scenario, the defendant will argue that he or she was simply joking when he or she “solicited” the undercover officer or prostitute. For example, if a couple of friends leave a Phoenix Cardinals game and yell out of their car windows at someone who looks like a prostitute to ask, “How much?” to a prostitute or an undercover officer does not mean that they actually intended to hire the prostitute or undercover officer for a sex act.

The prosecutor will be required to demonstrate the intent to exchange something of value for an act of prostitution beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor might try to do this by presenting evidence of repeated stopping, beckoning, attempted stopping, actual negotiations, and other actions that point to the defendant’s intent. A defense attorney might point to the fact that you did not have condoms or money to demonstrate that you did not have any intent to follow through with a sex act with the prostitute or undercover officer.

Under the Arizona state prostitution statute, several factors can be considered to determine whether a person shows intent to follow through with an act of prostitution, including the following:

  • Repeated beckoning, attempting to stop, stopping, or engaging people in conversation
  • Asking a prostitute whether he or she is a police officer
  • Asking the prostitute to expose his or her breasts or genitals
  • Asking to touch the prostitute’s breasts or genitals

Since the attorneys at DM Cantor know that the prosecutor will present evidence about these factors, they will present evidence that contradicts the state’s evidence. For example, we might present evidence that no amount of money or a specific sex act were discussed. Your lawyer will also review any audio recording of the interaction because the undercover officers normally will wear wires to record the conversations.

Your defense lawyer will also review the circumstances of what occurred in your case to identify any potential violations of your constitutional rights. If the police violated your constitutional rights, your attorney might file an evidentiary motion to seek the suppression of some of the evidence in your case. Evidence that is suppressed by the court may not be used by the prosecution in a jury or bench trial. In some cases, winning a motion to suppress evidence will leave the prosecutor with no choice than to dismiss the charges against a defendant.

One common defense that we sometimes raise is that the incriminating statements that you made were not made voluntarily. In Arizona, the voluntariness of an incriminating statement is evaluated by whether the police engaged in intimidation or other coercive tactics to get you to make a false confession or an incriminating statement. If we can show that your statement was made after you were coerced or intimidated by the police, it may be deemed to be inadmissible. Similarly, if the police failed to read you your Miranda rights after taking you into custody and then engaged in an interrogation, any incriminating statements that you made might be suppressed.

People who are charged with crimes also have the right to ask for an attorney. If you asked to speak to a lawyer, and the officer continued to try to question you and ignored your request, your lawyer may be able to ask the court to suppress any incriminating statements that you made after your right to counsel was denied.

Defense lawyers might also challenge any search warrants or forensic mistakes that might have been committed by the police during the investigation. For example, your lawyer might challenge the chain of custody for audio recordings or ask for the case against you to be dismissed if the police lost any audio recordings that were made. Your lawyer will also carefully review the police reports and compare it to other evidence in your case to identify potential misconduct. For example, some officers include false statements in their reports. Exposing this type of misconduct can help to win dismissals or acquittals.

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If you have been charged with solicitation of prostitution, you are facing the possibility of serving time in jail, paying substantial fines, and undergoing public humiliation. You should not treat this charge lightly and should instead get help from an experienced criminal defense law firm. The attorneys at DM Cantor have successfully defended many people against all levels of crimes and understand how to defend against solicitation of prostitution charges.

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