HPD Targets Massage Parlors and Escorts in Sex Assault Stings to Curb Prostitution


Recent arrests in April 2015 suggest that, as prostitution defense evolves, so does the prosecution of prostitution offenses.  However, the newest strategy by HPD seems to be more of the same.  In fact, close scrutiny of the HPD approach leads us to conclude that, rather than “more of the same”, it really is “LESS of the same.”  Here’s why.

In arresting a large number of alleged providers from several massage parlors in Honolulu, it is clear that HPD is putting a priority on prosecuting prostitution offenses.  However, instead of charging those persons arrested as prostitution providers they evidently have been charged with the offense of Sex Assault in the 4th degree.  Sex Assault in the 4th Degree prosecutes nonconsensual sexual contact.  Since the arrests are recent, we have not had an opportunity to review arrest reports yet, but presumably undercover officers are posing as prostitution customers and entering massage parlors to be subjected to sexual contact.  This tactic presumably relieves prosecutors in Honolulu from having to prove an agreement was reached to exchange sex for money, which is the definition of prostitution in the State of Hawaii.  Instead, an undercover officer will simply testify that he was subjected to sexual contact by a defendant provider.

This tactic may be related to the recent public debate in Honolulu wherein HPD argued in favor of allowing their undercover officers to engage in full sexual intercourse with unsuspecting prostitution suspects in order to effect prostitution arrests.

The disconnect with the law, however, is that such sexual contact seems intuitively consensual between the undercover officer and his target provider, and therefore, not sexual assault.  Imagine the cross examination of that same undercover officer, the alleged victim of sexual contact.  That undercover officer would have to admit on cross examination that he was acting on orders, and that his orders were to receive sexual contact.  The undercover officer obviously entered the establishment of the massage parlor for the purpose of receiving sexual contact.  The lack of consent is a major missing piece of the puzzle here, and predictably, should result in many NOT GUILTY verdicts for people arrested as providers or prostitutes at massage parlors.

Another matter to consider is the potential consequences of such an arrest.  The different charge means a significant increase in potential punishment to someone being prosecuted in this scheme.  While prostitution is a petty misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine, sex assault in the 4th degree is a full misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $ 2,000.00 fine.

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested in Honolulu or any other jurisdiction in Hawaii for prostitution or sexual assault in the 4th degree, particularly in this type of sting operation, you should contact Benjamin Ignacio, Criminal Defense Attorney, to determine your rights as a defendant.  We would be particularly motivated to go to trial on your behalf.

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