Blurring the Lines Between Internet Dating and Prostitution in Virginia

by J.D. Garrett on November 17, 2013

Internet dating or internet prostitutionIn April of 2013, a Virginia woman went online to find love, but ended up being arrested for prostitution. A recent article told the story of “Donna,” a woman from Fairfax, Virginia. Donna is a highly educated woman in her fifties. In an attempt to find romance, Donna responded to an ad on Craigslist. She and the man who posted the ad began to correspond via email, and at one point, he asked to see her breasts. Donna thought nothing of the request – as she said in the article, “I’ve been getting that request since 6th grade, that’s nothing new!”

In what would be a strange encounter, Donna and the man eventually decided to meet in a public parking lot in Northern Virginia. She got into his car and they began to talk. At some point, the man proposed sex. Donna quickly said no, and the man offered to drive to a more secluded spot – a request that Donna also explicitly rejected. At one point, she began to unhook her brassiere since the man had previously asked to see her breasts, but the man told her to stop. The man then waved money in her face, pushed the wad of cash at her, and forcefully demanded that she take it. By this point, Donna was petrified, so she took the money. Virginia police then surrounded the car, Donna was arrested, and then ultimately convicted of prostitution.

In many instances, prostitution is an amorphous crime. The idea of men and women flagging one another down on street corners is no longer accurate; the Internet has made prostitution much easier in which to engage, and much more difficult for the police to detect. As a result, it is hard to determine the line between casual dating on the Internet and prostitution. Donna’s story is a bizarre example of one of the ways Virginia police are conducting stings in an attempt to curb prostitution in the Internet-era.

Prostitution Laws in Virginia

Section 18.2-346 of the Virginia Code pertains to prostitution and commercial sexual conduct. The Code prohibits people from committing sexual acts in exchange for money or something equivalent to money. It is also crime to even offer to commit a sexual act in exchange for money or its equivalent. In order to be convicted for offering to commit a sexual act, the person must take some action in furtherance of that offer. Prostitution is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

It is also a crime to solicit prostitution. The Code defines solicitation as an “offer [of] money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts.” To be convicted of solicitation, the person must take some action in furtherance of his or her offer to pay money in exchange for sexual acts. Solicitation is a Class 1 misdemeanor; however, if the person who was offered money was sixteen years or older, but under the age of eighteen, the crime is a Class 6 felony. If that person is younger than sixteen years of age, it is a Class 5 felony.

In light of Donna’s story, it is evident that the lines between prostitution and innocent conduct are not clearly defined. If you have been arrested for prostitution, solicitation, or any other crime in Virginia, it is important that you contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We will review the facts of your case and put together your strongest defense.

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