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Things That Exist, Vol. 2: 'Prostitution Free Zones' in Washington, D.C.

I feel like I'm on my computer constantly, poring through hundreds of feeds and stories daily, spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of legal blogs and information you deserve. But I definitely miss a lot of things that everyone else seems to know about -- the type of things where I can only scratch my head and say, "Really?!? They have that? Never heard of it." 

Today's thing I never knew existed: "Prostitution Free Zones" in Washington, D.C.

This week, Jim Romenesko posted an email exchange between Ed Tobias, a manager in the Global Security Department of The Associated Press, and a commander with the D.C. Police Department’s Third District. Tobias told his colleagues at the AP that he had "been in touch with the commander of the Metropolitan Police Department's Third District about the resurgence of the prostitution problem in front of our bureau" and that he'd asked the police to designate the 1100 block of 13th Street (where the AP is located) as a "prostitution free zone." The commander replied that "prostitution free zones are under legal review so currently so they are not being used, but we can definitely do some undercover work in the area."

While such zones may be under "legal review," they are currently authorized under Section 104 of the Omnibus Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 (DC Act 16-445).  Section 104

authorizes the Chief of Police to declare "Prostitution Free Zones" in the District of Columbia, in areas where the health or safety of residents is endangered by with prostitution or prostitution-related offenses. The law provides that, while a Prostitution Free Zone is in effect, it is unlawful for a group of two or more persons to congregate in a public space or property in that area for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or prostitution-related offenses.

Also referred to be some people as "No Ho" zones, Prostitution Free Zones may only be in effect for a maximum of 240 hours (10 days), and the area must be clearly identified. While the area is designated as a PFZ,

any group of two or more persons congregating on public space for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or prostitution-related offenses first will be warned by a police officer that they are in a Prostitution Free Zone and will be directed to disperse. Failure to obey the officer’s instruction could result in arrest, without a second warning. Offenders convicted under the law are subject to a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both.

Reports from 2009 show that D.C. did, in fact, establish some PFZ's during the inauguration of President Obama. Here is the photographic evidence:

(via Flickr)

In January 2012, however, the D.C. Attorney General stated that she believes that PFZs are probably unconstitutional, which may require employees of The Associated Press to fend for themselves along the 1100 block of 13th Street.

Posted by Bruce Carton on June 1, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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