If you have been charged in Minnesota with gross misdemeanor soliciting prostitution in a public place, you may have an excellent defense. The typical fact pattern involves the police setting up a sting operation where they create a fictional “prostitute” with a pretty name like “Brittany.” Brittany then posts an online advertisement offering to perform sexual services at a location selected by her. The advertisement includes a phone number where potential customers can contact her by text message. The customer then will offer in the text message to pay Brittany money in exchange for sexual services. Brittany may request that the customer first stop at a convenience store near her location to purchase a designated item. Police will conduct surveillance at this location in order to identify and follow the customer to the predetermined location. Police will then arrest the customer at either the hotel parking lot or door.
Minn. Stat. § 609.324, subd. 2(2). The statute provides:
Whoever, while acting as a patron, intentionally does . . . the following while in a public place is guilty of a gross
misdemeanor: . . . hires, offers to hire, or agrees to hire an individual 18 years of age or older to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact.
A “public place” is defined as: a public street or sidewalk, a pedestrian skyway system . . . , a hotel, motel, steam room, sauna, massage parlor, shopping mall and other public shopping areas, or other places of public accommodation, a place licensed to sell intoxicating liquor, wine, nonintoxicating malt beverages, or food, or a motor vehicle located on a public street, alley, or parking lot ordinarily used by or available to the public though not used as a matter of right and a driveway connecting such a parking lot with a street or highway.
When the solicitation by the customer occurs by text message at an unknown location, the state cannot prove it occurred in a public place which is an essential element of the crime and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Under this fact pattern, a skilled criminal defense attorney would move to dismiss the charge based on a lack of probable cause. If you have been charged with soliciting prostitution in a public place, please give me a call at (612) 339-1024 to discuss your case.