Unlike in Nevada, it is illegal to purchase the services of a prostitute in Utah. Utah is known for strictly enforcing its laws against this behavior, referred to as the crime of “patronizing a prostitute.”
You can be charged for offering to pay a sex worker for sex or simply being in a place where sex work happens, like a brothel. Normally, this offense is charged as a misdemeanor. However, the charges can be upgraded to felonies, and the penalties may become much harsher. If you are suspected of soliciting a prostitute, the police may take you into custody and question you about the alleged offense. You will face several pre-trial court appearances and argue over bail. Defendants can enter plea deals to reduce their charges, but if not, our legal team can help you prepare for a trial. We can review possible defenses to your charges and fight to get them dropped or dismissed.
At Overson Law, PLLC, our compassionate, discreet Utah solicitation of prostitution lawyers will fight with all the tools in our toolbox to tell your side of the story. Call us today for a free, confidential case review at (801) 758-2287.
Charges for Solicitation of Prostitution in Utah
As noted above, solicitation of a prostitute is usually charged as a crime called “patronizing a prostitute” under Utah Code § 76-10-1303(1). Under the statute’s language, you do not need to actually engage in any sexual activity with the prostitute, so long as you either pay or agree to pay a sex worker for sex. The payment need not be money. Offering goods or services in exchange for sex may also warrant criminal charges. The person being solicited does not even have to be a prostitute or sex worker. As long as the defendant believed the other person was a sex worker, the defendant can be charged. This means that even if the person is only pretending to be a prostitute, like a police officer in a sting operation, you can still be charged with this crime.
Furthermore, “patronizing a prostitute” also can be charged against anyone who goes to a certain place for the purpose of paying someone for sexual activity. For example, if you go into an underground brothel, you could be charged even if you did not attempt to pay or pay for the services of a prostitute. Police sometimes bust places like this in sting operations, and anyone inside may be arrested.
Criminal charges for solicitation may vary based on the specific circumstances. If the person you were paying or soliciting for sex is not a prostitute, such as offering your tenant free rent in exchange for sex, you will be charged instead under the sexual solicitation statute. Charges may become more serious if the person you allegedly solicited was a minor, and child endangerment laws or other sexual offenses may come into play.
Penalties for Solicitation of Prostitution in Utah
Both patronizing a prostitute and sexual solicitation are normally charged as Class A misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. If you are convicted of a third violation, the charge will be elevated to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
Charges for solicitation where the other person was a minor are charged very harshly. If the crime involves the solicitation of a child, it will be charged as a third-degree felony whether or not you have prior convictions. A second-degree felony may be punished by at least 1 year and up to 15 years in prison.
Our Utah solicitation of prostitution lawyers can help you understand the extent of your potential penalties and how to fight against them. We can persuade prosecutors to drop or downgrade the charges in some cases. However, if prosecutors are unwilling to negotiate, we can help you meet the charge head-on in the courtroom.
How a Solicitation of Prostitution Case Works in the Utah Criminal Court System
After police obtain a warrant for your arrest, they will come to your home, place of work, or wherever you may be to execute the warrant and place you under arrest. Then you will be transported to the local police station for the booking process, where you will be fingerprinted and photographed, and your biographical information will be collected. Then you will be detained until your bail hearing and initial appearance, usually within 72 hours at most.
Because these crimes are usually charged as misdemeanors, your initial appearance will most likely include an arraignment. You can enter a plea after the judge reads your charges and explains your rights. Our experienced Utah solicitation of prostitution lawyers will likely advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty. Doing so gives us time to assess the strength of the case against you and negotiate with the prosecutor about a potential deal to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. In felony cases, such as when these crimes are committed against children, the arraignment will not occur until later.
In both felony and misdemeanor cases, your bail hearing will occur at or around the time of your initial appearance. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether you can be released on your own recognizance, or without bail, if bail should be set, or if you must be held in jail until the underlying case is resolved. While a judge typically will not hold someone charged with solicitation crimes, they may do so sometimes, especially if you have a lengthy criminal record. Our bail hearing attorneys can craft the most persuasive arguments to get you released on little to no bail.
Negotiating a Plea Deal for Cases of Solicitation of Prostitution in Utah
A plea agreement may be a great way for you to avoid harsh penalties while also avoiding the rigor of trial. Trials can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally traumatic for defendants and their families. A plea deal can help you avoid all that while reducing your penalties.
After bail is settled, our lawyers can try to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to get the charges downgraded to something less serious. This may involve you pleading guilty in exchange for the prosecutor’s lenient sentencing recommendation, which the judge typically follows. Alternatively, the prosecutor might reduce your charges or drop some of them while keeping others.
Getting a good plea deal is all about negotiation. The prosecutor may or may not come to you with an initial offer for a plea deal. If they do not, our Utah solicitation of prostitution attorneys can help you make the first move. If you do not like the deal offered, you can reject it, and we can make a counteroffer. Negotiations might take time, but they may be worth the effort in the end.
Of course, if you do not wish to plead guilty or take a deal, our skilled team of attorneys is ready and able to mount an aggressive fight for a not guilty verdict at trial.
Defenses to Charges for Solicitation of Prostitution in Utah
Depending on the specifics of your case, defenses could include lack of evidence tying you to the crime scene, mistaken identity, and the fact that the sex was consensual and not in exchange for money, among many others. Our Utah solicitation of prostitution attorneys can help you explore your legal defenses and develop the best possible defense strategies.
One of the first things you should do is check the evidence against you. Prosecutors cannot convict if there is insufficient evidence. If we believe your charges are based on scant evidence, we can file a motion to dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence. However, prosecutors may be able to refile if they find new evidence to support the charges.
Perhaps you did not actually offer any payment for sex, and the sexual encounter you had was consensual. If this is a situation of mistaken identity or some other misunderstanding, our lawyers can help you assert the truth and get your charges dropped.
Suppose your charges are based on your presence at a place like a brothel where people typically intend to pay for sex. If you did not realize you were in a brothel or otherwise had no intention of paying for sexual activity, we can argue that your charges should be dropped.
Perhaps you did pay someone for a sexual type of service that is not illegal. For example, paying a dancer in a strip club for a private dance is not solicitation of prostitution. Law enforcement sometimes treats patrons of places like strip clubs unfairly and usually assumes the worst. We can help you show the transaction was indeed legal and not for sexual activities.
It is also possible that you did solicit someone for sex, but your solicitation was not genuine. Perhaps you made a joke about paying for sex, and the other person misinterpreted your intentions. If you did not intend to offer payment for sex, we can persuade prosecutors to drop the charges.
Why You Should Hire a Lawyer for Your Solicitation of Prostitution Charges in Utah
Solicitation of prostitution is a non-violent offense, and many defendants are charged with misdemeanors rather than felonies. As such, a person might be hesitant to hire a lawyer to help them because they think they can handle their case alone. Be warned that even non-violent misdemeanor offenses can carry hefty penalties, and the judicial process is just as complex as it is for felonies. A lawyer may be your best bet for success.
Our Utah solicitation of prostitution attorneys can evaluate your charges and assess the potential penalties. One of the most crucial pieces of information in your case is how you can be sentenced. Understanding your charges is key to making effective arguments in court or negotiating a plea deal.
Plea deals do not just drop into your lap. They must be negotiated, and prosecutors must be convinced that reducing your charges is the right thing to do. An attorney will have the negotiation skills necessary to secure the best plea deal possible.
Your lawyer can also make motions as necessary as your case progresses. A criminal case must adhere to very rigid legal procedures. If the prosecutor deviates from standard procedure, your attorney can call them out and raise an objection. Also, your attorney can search for cracks in the prosecutor’s case against you and use them to your advantage.
Perhaps one of the most advantageous things about an attorney is their ability to withstand the pressures of litigation. Without a lawyer, many defendants crack under the immense stress of the case and end up making decisions that hurt them in the long run, like accepting a bad plea deal. Your lawyer can stand up to pressures from prosecutors, courts, and law enforcement to fight for you.
If You Have Been Accused of Solicitation of Prostitution in Utah, Call Our Defense Lawyers Today
Charges for solicitation of prostitution, also known as patronizing a prostitute, can come with severe penalties, including lengthy jail sentences. At Overson Law, PLLC, our Utah lawyers for solicitation of prostitution have worked with clients across the state to get their charges downgraded or dismissed. Call our office today at (801) 758-2287 for a free, confidential case evaluation.