Since the 1990's vice or “sting operations” have been used in the Seattle area to target homosexuals and other groups that our community has viewed as undesirable and lacking moral character. Police have traditionally used “sting operations” to operate as a “moral force in policing sexuality.” This year the Seattle Times editorial board advocated for shifting the focus away from arresting prostitutes to focusing on the demand side of prostitution, also called the Nordic approach.
But they have missed one important point. Most Nordic countries like Sweden prohibit or outlaw their police from performing “Sting Operations” because of ethical concerns. Sting operations are fraught with ethical concerns over entrapment and allowing police to commit crimes in order to prevent crime.
Recently, Seattle Police arrested 204 men in a recent sting operation. Police flooded the Internet with offers of sex for as little as $30, opened their own massage parlor and seized more than $22,000 in cash without warrants, trials or guilty verdicts. Seattle police had female officers dress up in sexually suggestive attire and aggressively suggest sex to men who had not asked for it.
If you have been arrested in a prostitution or sex related sting operation you should be aware that many defenses exist.
STING OPERATION DEFENSES:
ENTRAPMENT: RCW 9A.16.070
Entrapment is a affirmative defense. This means that the defendant admits to the wrongdoing but asserts that he would not have committed the crime, but for encouragement of law enforcement.
FAILURE TO FORM A VERBAL CONTRACT
A "verbal contact" is also commonly known as an agreement. In most sex crimes, like solicitation of prostitution an agreement is required. This agreement is generally an agreement to exchange sex for money. There are two essential elements to a verbal agreement, these are 1. The offer; and 2. the acceptance.
So in order to form a verbal agreement, one party makes an offer and the other accepts the offer. Here is example #1:
Undercover officer: I will have sex with you for $100.
Man: Yes, here is $100
In this example there is an agreement or "verbal contract."
But what about example #2:
Undercover Officer: Would you like a massage?
Undercover Officer: the massage includes a handjob.
Man: Uh, well I just want a massage.
Man is then arrested by officers.
In this instance a verbal agreement has not been formed. The officer has pressured the man to engage into a verbal contract for sex , but the man did not clearly accept. In this instance a verbal contract has not been formed and the jury should enter a verdict of not guilty.
Lack of knowledge of age
Attempted Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor
Thought the Seattle area law enforcement has been running a new type of "sting operation." This type of sting operation is targeted at those attempting to purchase sex with juvenile or minor prostitutes. However, in many cases the government and police conduct in the sting operation is suspect. The government has to prove the element of knowledge. In this case government must show that the accused person had actual knowledge that the prostitute was underage. In "sting operations" the police officer is actually an adult that is pretending to be a minor child. In many of these cases the officers actions do not appear to be that of a child.
However, the main piece of evidence in this type of case are generally text messages between the defendant and the decoy officer. When decoy officers pretend to be children there are often many inconsistencies between how the officer conducted themselves and how an actual child would actually act. Additionally, in many attempted commercial sexual abuse of a minor sting operations the officer is on a website that is supposed to be restricted to adults and adult dating websites. These cases are very fact specific and sitting down with an attorney trained in this field can help you understand the evidence against you.