Prostitution, solicitation, and related conduct conjure images of dark alleys and seedy street corners, but more frequently than ever, arrangements are being made online. Platforms like Skip the Games, the now-defunct Backpage.com, Adult Friend Finder, Craigslist, and others enable a more streamlined experience that appeals to both sides of the transaction.
However, the increase in these activities has caught the attention of law enforcement. Online prostitution stings are becoming more common, leading to serious charges, potentially harsh penalties, and embarrassment for accused individuals.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP, our criminal defense attorneys understand the stakes are high when you’re accused of prostitution and solicitation in Ohio. You face fines, imprisonment, and not to mention damage to your reputation. Fortunately, there are strategies for fighting charges that stem from online stings, and our team can help. Call (614) 304-3403 to set up a free consultation with a Columbus prostitution and solicitation defense lawyer.
You might also benefit from reviewing some important information about these cases.
How Skip the Game & Similar Sites Work
Simply put, these websites are like any other online marketplace with sellers and buyers, except that the transaction involves sex. Some may even portray themselves as a dating site for consenting adults.
Still, authorities know that the sex trade is thriving through these online platforms. Though the specifics vary among different services, the basics are similar:
- Users create a profile in the same way as they would on social media sites, legitimate dating sites, or online marketplaces like eBay. They share their physical description and upload photos and videos for other online community members to view. The content ranges from merely provocative to pornographic.
- After completing a basic profile and entering contact information, users can post personal ads with a “menu” of the sexual acts and experiences they’re willing to perform. There’s typically no mention of money in the ads to avoid raising suspicions of law enforcement.
- Users can then contact the person offering sex, provide information on the services they’re seeking, make arrangements to meet, and establish a price.
Skip the Games.com Can Lead to Charges
When Craigslist shut down its adult section and authorities effectively shut down Backpage.com through legislative measures, other services picked up where they left off. Skipthegames.com is just one example of entrepreneurs getting creative and developing similar sites, leading to a sizeable surge in website-enabled prostitution transactions.
But law enforcement in Ohio regularly uses online prostitution stings to crack down on online solicitation and make arrests. These operations are where police pose as a user on an illicit site to arrange meetings with real users, then arrest the person who offered to buy or sell sex.
Law enforcement methods in sting operations have evolved considerably through training and their efforts to track wrongdoing. They now involve increased usage of artificial intelligence, online “listening” technology, and related tools.
Police are better able to detect and pursue suspects online and charge them with crimes like:
- Prostitution: Engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money or another item of value.
- Solicitation: Offering or requesting another person to engage in prostitution; and,
- Trafficking: Using other individuals as prostitutes and profiting from it.
While these offenses are serious for anyone, online solicitation charges can be even more severe when they involve a minor.
Penalties for Prostitution and Solicitation in Ohio
If you’re arrested and convicted for unlawful activities associated with using Skip the Games.com or another online platform, you could face imprisonment and fines.
Prostitution and solicitation are third-degree misdemeanors in Ohio so you could be sentenced up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both. However, offenses can be elevated to felonies for repeat offenders and anyone positive for HIV/AIDS.
When prostitution, solicitation, or other illegal conduct involves a child, you may be charged with a felony. The degree depends on the child’s age and other specific circumstances, but your punishment may include five or more years imprisonment and fines reaching $10,000 or more.
What Happens If You’re Arrested in a Sting?
You should prepare a defense if you’ve been arrested for solicitation and prostitution after using an online site like skipthegames.com. This starts with contacting an attorney, who can explain your options and chances of getting the charges dismissed, diminished, or winning in court.
Hire a Prostitution Defense Attorney
Once you’ve been arrested or accused of solicitation or prostitution, contact a local defense lawyer immediately. Not only will they be able to keep you from adding to the evidence against you, but they’ll be able to act as a point of contact for investigators.
The arresting law enforcement agency will begin collecting evidence against you. Often, this includes a formal interview between you and the arresting officer. Have your attorney present: they can tell you when to answer and what to say.
Police will start collecting evidence against you as soon as they become aware of you online. This includes any records of conversations on the site you were accused of using or money exchanges. Your attorney can access that evidence with “discovery,” so you’ll know what records the prosecutor plans to use in their case against you. Your attorney will base much of their case on what’s found in discovery.
While it may seem like a good idea to destroy any damning evidence, it is also likely illegal once the police have requested to see it. You’d be better off saving everything and turning it over to your lawyer: that would include conversations with other Skip the Games.com users, receipts, or images so they can use them for your defense.
Defenses Against Prostitution and Solicitation Charges
If your attorney can’t get the prosecutor to drop the charges against you, it’s your right to send the case to trial, where the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney can cast doubt on that evidence, and if a jury isn’t satisfied, you’re 100% guilty, and you might be acquitted.
Although sites like Skip the Games.com do not carry the same physical presence as traditional prostitution stings, your defense attorney could still make a case that law enforcement agents tricked you into committing a crime on the site. It’s not as common as “in-person” prostitution rackets used to be, but a good lawyer could argue it.
However, this defense won’t work if you respond to an advertisement.
You may be able to argue the whole thing was a misunderstanding, that you were simply engaging in dialogue or showing mutual interest, not offering to pay for sex. It’s a thin argument, but one that may cast doubt and one your attorney could help you with.
You said, They said
Many cases involving solicitation are simple matters of hearsay. Although the conversations on sites like Skip the Games.com are recorded, your defense attorney may be able to suggest a lack of evidence from your online exchanges.
Trust Our Columbus Defense Attorneys to Protect Your Rights
Your situation may seem grim if you’ve been arrested for prostitution or solicitation related to using websites like Skip the Games.com or any other scenario. However, it’s always important to remember that an arrest is not a conviction, and prosecutors have a difficult burden of proof in court.
Please contact Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP to schedule a no-cost case assessment to discuss your defense options. You can reach LHA by calling (614) 304-3403 or visiting us online. We’re happy to offer helpful advice and explain the relevant legal concepts once we review your situation.