Howard County cracks down on illegal massage parlors

The Howard County, Maryland, executive recently signed a bill allowing local law enforcement to crack down on suspected illegal massage parlors that were barely more than covers for prostitution rings.

Up until this point, that sort of investigation had to be handled entirely by state forces, which are spread thin and may not be entirely in touch with what is going on in some local massage parlors.

In fact, a state licensing inspector had to be involved if police wanted to do anything about a massage parlor that was being utterly blatant — even if there were multiple complaints about a place and obvious-sexual ads posted online offering services through the business.

The goal of the measure is not to crack down on prostitution — rather, it’s designed to stop the exploitation of the women who are often being forced to work in these types of establishments. Massage parlors that offer sexual services are thought to be one of the primary offenders when it comes to human trafficking, especially for sexual services. Several advocacy groups that work to free women from sex trafficking and human slavery support the measure.

It is something that those who operate those kinds of businesses might want to consider carefully, however — as should those thinking of engaging the services of a woman working for an illicit massage parlor. Anyone involved in the operation, including patrons who are caught up in a “sting” operation, could stand the chance of being charged with some form of human trafficking violation.

Most human trafficking charges in Maryland are misdemeanors that can net you 10 years in prison or a fine up to $5,000 — unless the victim is a minor, in which case the crime is elevated to a felony with a potential penalty of 25 years in jail and a $15,000 fine.

If you are caught up in a raid on a massage parlor, your best move would be to remain silent and contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. There are possible defenses, especially if you didn’t realize what kind of place you were in — but let your attorney handle any conversations with the police for you.

Source: Columbia Patch, “Massage Parlor Bill Passes In Howard County,” Elizabeth Janney, April 07, 2017

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