Since the beginning of 2017, 30 law enforcement agencies across 15 different states have coordinated multiple efforts to break apart prostitution rings and catch solicitors in the act. Most of the prostitution stings have been categorized under the umbrella campaign The National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). According to police reports, the campaign, which ran from January 18th to February 5th, was highly successful, snaring more than 750 people around the country with prostitution and sex crimes related arrests.
Much of the prostitution and sex trafficking sting was actually focused on Illinois, especially Chicago and the outlying Cook County region. Sheriff officials from Cook County and throughout Illinois boasted that a total of 108 arrests were made in the state during the short time NJSI was active. The law enforcement group effort also claims that at least 29 of the arrests all around the country brought charges against sex traffickers of note, not just prostitutes and solicitors on the street.
Some of the Initiative's efforts involved placing officers undercover. The Arlington Heights Police Department confirmed that it used undercover agents to arrest and charge at least five solicitors.
Entrapment & Questionable Police Methods in Stings
While police officials behind the National Johns Suppression Initiative are quite proud of the apparent success of their effort, it is always important to consider the details of how such prostitution stings are carried out. If law enforcement agents are overzealous in their pursuit of justice, they may inadvertently or intentionally commit violations of their own.
Prostitution stings in particular are prone to unjust entrapment of a potential suspect. Entrapment occurs when a police officer or law enforcement agent entices, encourages, or persuades someone to commit a crime. If this occurs, any evidence collected afterwards to use against the suspect may be deemed inadmissible, as it could be argued that the arrest or stop should have never occurred in the first place had the police not committed entrapment.
Consider these simple examples of what is and is not entrapment:
- Police leave a bicycle unchained outside of a convenience store and with a purse hanging off the handles. Someone who does not own the bicycle walks up, grabs it, and tries to ride off. The suspect can be arrested for attempted theft crimes without triggering entrapment since it is not enticement, encouragement, or persuasion to simply leave a valuable item unguarded.
- An undercover police officer stands near the bicycle and purse. When a passerby arrives, the officer tells the individual that the bicycle is unattended and would be easy to steal. If the passerby decides to try to take the bicycle or purse, it would most likely be seen as entrapment since the officer planted the idea of committing a crime in the person's head.
Entrapment as a defense in prostitution sting cases relies heavily on the details but also can feel like a “he said, she said” scenario. Most courts will hold that entrapment only occurs if the enticement, persuasion, or encouragement is persistent and reasonably convincing to the average person. An undercover officer who stands on a street corner and offers sexual favors for money just once per passerby might not be seen as committing entrapment.
At the Law Offices of Mitch Furman, we are adamant about protecting the rights of the accused and keeping both law enforcement and the criminal justice system honest. Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Mitch Furman can defend you if you are charged with a sexual offense, such as prostitution or solicitation, and can even offer pre-charge representation if you suspect you will be charged in connection to an offense. To begin, call 312.651.4206 and ask about scheduling a free consultation at your first convenience.