ACLU Says Sheriff's Office's Prostitution Arrests Unconstitutional
The South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union issues letter to Greenville County Sheriff's Office.
An advocacy organization for civil liberties is publicly questioning the prostitution sting operation conducted by the Greenville County Sheriff's Office last week.
On Aug. 10, a prostitution sting in the area of Pelham Road and Interstate 85 resulted in a total of 17 charges filed against 15 people.
But the South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a letter to the GCSO stating that many of the arrests made in last week's sting, and in previous prostitution stings conducted by the agency, violated state and federal law.
In the letter, the organization asks the GCSO to stop such stings, and threatens the agency with a civil rights suit should they continue.
Lt. Michael Hildebrand, a spokesperson Greenville County Sheriff's Office, said the Sheriff's Office had not received a copy of the letter from the ACLU. He said at this time, it would be inappropriate for the agency to respond.
The group further contends that arrests were made without probable cause in cases where suspects were charged with loitering to engage in prostitution for no other reason that they were trying to set up lawful sex between two consenting adults. It specifically targets the Greenville County ordinance on loitering that it believes is implemented in violation of the state's constitution.
Because South Carolina state law has not criminalized such specific loitering under relevant statutes, the ACLU contends the GCSO is illegally arresting individuals. It also states that the agency has made prostitution and loitering to engage in prostitution arrests based upon no other reason that the suspects had been arrested for it in the past, and were therefore "known prostitutes" in a "area known for prostitution."
The letter requests that the Sheriff's Office discontinue such practices, and instruct the agency that by continuing sting operations that violate the state and federal constitution, it exposes the GCSO, 13th Circuit Solicitor's Office and individuals employed there to liability for false arrest, malicious prosecution and other constitutional violations.