Prostitution Laws and Arrests: What You Should Know

judge with paperwork

Sometimes, it’s not enough for something to be illegal on its own. Police can arrest you for one crime, trying to prevent another.

Recently in Virginia, police conducted a large prostitution sting, claiming that it was an effort to shut down human trafficking. The flaw in this logic is evident once you think about it. Instead of spending its resources on tackling modern slavery directly, the police focus on something that might be linked to human trafficking. They would rather go after consenting adults involved in a financial transaction.

Furthermore, the department can use this sting as a public relations stunt. This operation will make it look like they are concerned about human trafficking without really facing the issue head-on.

In this article, we will broadly discuss Virginia’s prostitution laws and provide defense strategies against alleged offenses.

What Qualifies as Prostitution?

Put simply, prostitution is directly offering sex acts in exchange for money. Technically, the crime is in making the deal. Once one person overtly offers sex for money or the other person agrees to pay for sex, they have broken the law.

How Do Police Make Prostitution Arrests?

Cops can use many methods to accuse someone of prostitution, most of which involve undercover work.

  • Police can pose as either prostitutes or “johns” (the person paying for sex). They can make or accept offers, depending on the situation. When posing as prostitutes, they can simply engage in “streetwalking,” where they dress in a way that makes people assume they are prostitutes. If someone stops and asks for sex, the police can easily secure their arrest from there.
  • Law enforcement can place coded, online ads, either as prostitutes or johns. Popular sites include Backpage and Craigslist. Transactions like these often take place in hotel rooms. The undercover officer will be in one room, with the rest of the team in the other. When the undercover cop gives the word, the team can rush in and make the arrest.

Virginia’s Prostitution Penalties

The crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the highest of its kind. It can result in up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $2,500. Alleged repeat offenders can face higher penalties the more they are charged.

Defenses Against Prostitution Accusations

Insufficient Evidence

Remember, the crime rests within the actual conversation between the prostitute and their customer. Police often do not record this conversation, so you can refute that the offense ever took place. At that point, the case becomes a “he said, she said” situation, which could sow enough doubt in your case to secure your release.

You Did Not Make the Request

Words on paper are not the same as words spoken aloud. People use tone of voice and facial expressions to convey irony or sarcasm, meaning that they don’t really believe what they are saying. If a playful joke was misinterpreted as a sincere request or offer for sex, you can explain this situation to the court.


An undercover sting is not the same as entrapment, and police are allowed to lie about being cops.

Entrapment is more complicated than that. Essentially, it is a process where the authorities lure you into committing a crime you wouldn’t have committed otherwise.

Traditionally, entrapment is difficult to prove in court, especially in a prostitution arrest. Entrapment does, however, happen in these scenarios. For instance, an undercover officer could offer a potential john sex for money. The john refuses, but the officer keeps working in the same location.

Day after day, the undercover cop coaxes the same person, trying to get them to make an offer. Eventually, the john gives in, and suddenly finds themselves under arrest.

If you believe you were a victim of entrapment, tell your attorney every detail of your case. They can help you decide whether you have a strong claim or if you should attempt a different defense strategy in court.

Our firm is here to help defend you against prostitution charges. If you’re facing this accusation, fill out our online contact form or call us now at (757) 267-4949.

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