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People v. Ross.

2021 CO 9. No. 19SC573. CRS § 18-7-402(1)(a) and (b)—For the Purpose of Prostitution of or by a Child—CRS § 18-7-407.

February 1, 2021

The Supreme Court determined that it need not resolve the parties’ dispute as to whether “with intent” or “knowingly” is the applicable culpable mental state for the crime of soliciting for child prostitution under CRS § 18-7-402(1)(a) and (b) (respectively, “subsection (a)” and “subsection (b)”). Instead, the Court concluded that the requisite culpable mental state—whether with intent or knowingly—applies to all the elements (and every part of each element) in subsections (a) and (b), including that the purpose of the defendant’s conduct was the prostitution of or by a child. Thus, simply proving that the defendant’s purpose was prostitution in general, not child prostitution specifically, cannot suffice—even if there is eventually prostitution of or by a child.

Contrary to the People’s contention, neither the victim’s age nor the defendant’s knowledge of, or belief concerning, the victim’s age is an element of soliciting for child prostitution pursuant to subsections (a) and (b). The pertinent element is that “the purpose” of the defendant’s solicitation, meeting arrangement, or offer to arrange a meeting was “prostitution of a child or by a child.” And no part of that element is subject to strict liability.

Finally, like the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that, while CRS § 18-7-407 precludes a defendant from raising a defense based on either a lack of knowledge of the child’s age or a reasonable belief that the child was an adult, it does not relieve the People of their burden of proof under subsections (a) and (b). Therefore, CRS § 18-7-407 does not permit the People to avoid their obligation to prove that, in soliciting another or arranging (or offering to arrange) a meeting, the defendant’s purpose was child prostitution.

Because the Court of Appeals correctly approved the trial court’s ruling under challenge, the Supreme Court affirmed. However, the Court did so on other grounds because its reasoning differed in part from that of the Court of Appeals.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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