Prostitution/Sexual Solicitation in D.C.

It is against the law in Washington, D.C. to solicit/perform sexual acts in exchange for money. The maximum penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to $500 and/or not more than 90 days in jail.  

Everything you need to know if arrested for this offense in D.C. is provided below:  What is prostitution/sexual solicitation?  What are the penalties?  Will I go to jail?  Is there special treatment for first-time offenders?  What will happen at my initial court appearance? What if I want to take my case to trial?  Will I have a criminal record after being charged with prostitution/sexual solicitation?  Will I need a lawyer?

What is prostitution/sexual solicitation?

 “Prostitution” is defined as a sexual act/contact with another person in exchange for money. According to this definition, both the person offering the services and the person receiving the services could be convicted of the offense.  “Soliciting for prostitution” is defined as inviting, enticing, offering, persuading, or agreeing to engage in prostitution.

People are usually arrested in the District as part of a “sting operation.”  Sometimes the “decoy” — a female undercover officer posing as a prostitute — approaches people at a traffic light or gas station.  As soon as there is any discussion of sex in exchange for money, backup officers move in to make the arrest. These interactions are typically not recorded.

Recently, for example, Koehler Law has represented a number of Uber and Lyft drivers.  The presence of these drivers in different parts of town, along with their need to interact with people they do not know, creates all sorts of potential for misunderstanding and confusion. 

In other instances, D.C. police lure the “john” to a hotel room through Craigslist or some other social media site.  The undercover officer confirms the arrangement and steps into the bathroom to “freshen up.”  The backup officers then burst into the room to make the arrest.  Police use a hidden camera to record the interaction.

What are the penalties for a conviction for prostitution/sexual solicitation in D.C.?

The maximum penalty for prostitution in D.C. is a fine of $500 and/or not more than 90 days imprisonment for the first offense; a fine of $750 and/or up to 135 days imprisonment for a second offense; and a fine of $1000 and/or not more than 180 days for a third and each subsequent offense.  The court may “suspend” the sentence (that is, order probation in lieu of incarceration) for a conviction of prostitution.  It may also order the person to stay away from the area in which the offense occurred, submit to medical and mental health treatment or fulfill any other conditions the court may impose.  D.C. Criminal Code 22-2701.  D.C. Criminal Code 22-2701.1.  D.C. Criminal Code 22-2703.

Will I go to jail?

Prostitution/sexual solicitation is a minor criminal offense, with only the most frequent offenders facing the prospect of actual time behind bars.  As described in greater detail below, the government will frequently offer first-time offenders some type of diversion program in which the person performs community service in exchange for the charges being dismissed.   Even in cases in which the person decides to take the case to trial and is then found guilty, it is much more likely that the court will “suspend” the sentence.  A “suspended” sentence is only served upon a finding by the court that the defendant has failed to serve the conditions of probation.  

Is there special treatment for first-time offenders?

Yes. The government typically offers first-time offenders a “diversion” program.  The diversion program that is usually offered in this type of case is called a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA).  After passing three drug tests, the person has four months to complete 32 hours of community service at an approved organization.  The government dismisses the charges upon successful completion of the agreement.

People who are not eligible for a DPA might be able to participate in a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA).  According to this voluntary agreement between the government and defendant, the defendant agrees to waive his right to trial and to plead guilty to the offense.  However, instead of proceeding to sentencing, the government provides the defendant with the opportunity to complete an agreed upon set of conditions (typically community service).  If the defendant completes these conditions successfully, the government allows him to withdraw the guilty plea and dismisses the charges.  If the defendant fails to abide by his end of the agreement, the court will enter the guilty plea into the record and sentence him accordingly.  

As with all diversion programs, participation in either a DPA or DSA is solely at the discretion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

What will happen at my initial court appearance?

A criminal case in D.C. typically involves at least three court hearings:  arraignment, initial status hearing, and final status hearing/trial.  The first hearing is the arraignment.  Held in Room C10 of D.C. Superior Court, the purpose of the arraignment is inform the defendant of the charges against him and to hear his plea.  The court will also advise the defendant of the right to counsel, and the government will turn over initial paperwork related to the charges.   

An initial status hearing is typically scheduled three or four weeks from the arraignment.  The defendant’s lawyer will  be in contact with the assigned prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office during this period of time.  The parties will decide whether to enter into a diversion program or other type of non-trial disposition or to schedule a trial at the second court date.  

What if I want to take my case to trial?

Every person charged with a criminal offense in the United States has a constitutional right to a trial.  The government has the burden of proving every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  

Courts are reluctant to conclude that police officers are lying under oath.  As a result, the most common defense in this type of case is that there was some type of miscommunication or misunderstanding.  Koehler Law recently proved, for example, that because our client did not speak English, he could not have engaged in a discussion of money in exchange for sex.  

Will I have a criminal record after being arrested for prostitution/sexual solicitation?

Yes.  Everyone who has been arrested for a criminal offense in Washington, D.C. has some type of criminal record.  In some cases, the record may be nothing more than an entry in the FBI database, accessible only to other governmental entities with permission to use the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).  In other cases, the record may be publicly available – accessible to anyone looking for it — through D.C. Superior Court’s website.  The type of record a person has, along with how visible it is and what the person must do to have it removed, will depend on how far into the criminal process the person made it.  For example, was the person who was arrested also booked, charged and/or convicted of an offense?  For information on expunging or sealing your criminal record, please click here.  

Will I need a lawyer?

Yes.  Although you have the right to defend yourself, the court will actively discourage you from doing so.  This is because of the enormous stakes and complexity involved in a criminal case.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you.  You are also welcome to call us with any questions at 202-549-2374 or jkoehler@koehlerlaw.net. 


Do you need legal assistance with a Prostitution/Sexual Solicitation charge in Washington, D.C.? Contact Jamison Koehler today.

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