Sarasota Sheriff Targets Gay Men in Park Arrests

About once a year the Sheriff’s department makes a series of arrests of gay men in the South Sarasota County Parks.  The men are charged with a variety of offenses involving lewd behavior or indecent exposure.  The Sheriff’s press release usually claims that the arrests are in response to citizen complaints.  The arrests are an embarrassment to the men, many of which have never been charged with a criminal offense in their lives.  In terms of profiles, most of the men are white, middle to old aged, and otherwise crime free and arrest free.

As a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer, over the years I have defended many men similarly arrested.  The reality is that most of the gay men do everything possible to not commit any crime, particularly in public.  The reality is that gay men sometimes hook up, just like heterosexual men, and most try and keep it a secret and do not openly approach anyone.  In every city and county, there is an area that is known as a hook up spot for gay men.  A better answer might be to simply acknowledge that fact, and tolerate the conduct as long as it does not affect others.  In the parks, the men will often go to a secluded area, away from other people, and do everything possible to not be seen.  I have seen cases where law enforcement places wildlife cameras in secluded areas to capture videos of men engaging in oral sexMany times undercover detectives will approach gay men suggestively, and encourage such conduct, and then arrest them when they respond.

We have limited law enforcement resources.  Personally, I would rather see detectives solving real crimes with real victims, rather than wasting resources prosecuting gay men for attempting to engage in adult on adult consensual sex.  It is simply a matter of law enforcement priorities.

The same goes for prostitution.  It is the world’s oldest profession.  If we had legalized prostitution, it would all but wipe out human trafficking.  What man would risk getting an STD or getting rolled and robbed by a drug addict if he could go to a legitimate house of prostitution where the women are registered, regularly health inspected, and ply their profession in a safe and controlled environment.  Men have been paying women for sex since the beginning of time.  As a sex crime lawyer, it seems to me, that a better answer is to tolerate consensual sexual encounters between consenting adults.