Over the weekend, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested 60 people for what’s referred to as “prostitution-related crimes.”  This term encompasses both the solicitation of customers seeking to receive sexual favors in exchange for money and the offering of payment for sexual acts or contact.  The recent roundup of suspects included not just “street-level” offenders but also those using hotels or internet services such as Eros and Backpage.

MPD’s heavy crackdown on prostitution in the District can be traced back to the establishment of “Prostitution-Free Zones” back in 2006.  This law allow for the arrests of individuals whom police “reasonably believe” are engaging in prostitution-related crimes within zones designated by the city as high-prostitution areas, which is a lower standard than what is typically required for a prostitution arrests.  The areas that had been designated as Prostitution-Free Zones were usually in heavily-trafficked downtown commercial areas, and their status as Zones quickly became common knowledge amongst sex workers.  As a result, people one sees in these areas who appear to be offering sexual favors for money are more often than not going to be undercover police officers.  These undercover officers do not need to wait for prospective “clients” to initiate contact; they can make the initial approach to any unsuspecting person on the street, even if the person had no intention of seeking out a prostitute.

Since the establishment of Prostitution-Free Zones, there is little evidence that prostitution or solicitation has actually decreased in the District.  Rather, it appears to have moved away from the highly-visible downtown commercial areas into residential parts of the city.  As last weekend shows, MPD has no intention on easing their enforcement of prostitution laws.  Arrests of suspects believed to be soliciting sex for money are still being made frequently downtown, but the whole city is subject to the crackdown.  Regardless of whether you are accused of prostitution or soliciting someone to engage in prostitution, it’s important to have a D.C. criminal lawyer to help you defend your rights and push for a favorable outcome to your case that will limit your penalties to the greatest extent possible.