City to cease using condoms as evidence in prostitution cases

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The San Francisco Police Department announced today that they will stop using condoms as evidence in prostitution cases.

This will address the issue of police searching prostitution suspects for packaged condoms and wrappers. Under current city policy, police cannot confiscate condoms to be used as evidence. They can, however, photograph condoms. But recent reports form the Bay Area Reporter found that police sometimes broke the policy, and did confiscate condoms. 

The SFPD, the District Attorney, the office of the Public Defender, and the office of Sup. David Campos spoke with groups that work with sex workers in meetings that led to the new policy, which will be in place for a three to six month trial period.

Public defenders also agreed to not use lack of condoms as proof of innocence for people facing prostitution charges.

A July report from Human Rights Watch criticized San Francisco, along with New York, Washington, DC and Los Angeles, for using condoms as evidence. Local sex worker health clinic the St. James Infirmary has also implored the police department to stop the practice.

It discourages sex workers from carrying condoms, they say, exposing prostitutes and clients to sexually transmitted diseases

“Cops in four of the major cities that we documented in this report are stopping sex workers on the street and harassing them for carrying too many condoms, and threatening to arrest them,” said Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch, in an interview about the report. “And this is a problem because it’s making sex workers less willing to carry and use condoms while they’re working.”

The Human Rights Watch report emphasized that many sex workers, as well as women and transgender people, fear carrying more than one or two condoms with them in public.

"Transgender people have terrible problems with being profiled by the police, being arrested falsely for prostitution, and just being equated with sex work in the mind of many, many police officers," said McLemore. 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health actually distributes condoms to sex workers as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS and other STDs—and police then photograph and even take them, to use against them in court.

In 1994, city departments agreed on a similar trial period to test the policy of not confiscating condoms. After the trial period, then-District Attorney Arlo Smith declared that condoms could no longer be confiscated for use as evidence.

This trial period could lead to a similar policy change, which would permanently ban the use of condoms, physical of photographed, as evidence in prostitution cases.

Comments

intent. But if you find 100 condoms on a person, in a vehicle or in a home, it's enough to at least make you look further. So while the condoms are inadequate to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in any event, they could constitute "probable cause" for a further search and/or questionning.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 5:35 am

Before I went back on hormonal birth control, condoms were my method of choice. They can get pricy in the stores, so I bought them in bulk. Two, 48 pack containers as well as the few I have scattered around my dresser from the freebees I get at clubs and festivals (think Pride, Folsom, etc), would put me over the 100.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:34 am

Before I went back on hormonal birth control, condoms were the method of choice for my husband and I. They can get pricy in the stores, so I bought them in bulk. Two, 48 pack containers as well as the few I have scattered around my dresser from the freebees I get at clubs and festivals (think Pride, Folsom, etc), would put me over the 100.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:37 am

100 toothbrushes or 1,000 rolls of bathroom tissue. But you can hardly blame anyone if you get a few suspect glanes.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Your assumption that a person having 100 condoms in their home or car makes them a prostitute, is utterly ridiculous. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a prostitute!!) I know plenty of sex-educators that have lots of condoms at their house, or people that throw sex parties, or even myself, just because it is cheaper to buy condoms in bulk. Why the safer-sex hating?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 9:54 am

"made them a hooker". I simply said it increases the probability of that perception.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:31 am

but i think there is something wrong with being a prostitute. not every one in every circumstance, but look at prostitution around the world and it is not exactly a choice that women make like becoming a doctor, lawyer or housewife.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

So, how many prostitutes do you know personally? Or how many have you met? But based on some hypothetical 'non choice' you think giving pleasure for money is wrong?

Hate to break this to you, but there are many millions of women out there who were forced to marry someone or, out of economic necessity, stay married to an abusive man, so they have no 'choice' in the matter. In fact, a recent news article says that child marriage continues to plague developing countries across the world, where girls as young as six are wed to men sometimes four, five, six or seven times their age...one in three girls in the developing world will marry before they turn 18. UNFPA released a report detailing how more than 142 million girls under the age of 18 will become child brides in the next decade.

So is marriage wrong? Because clearly these women and girls had no choice? How about the women who, out of desperation, become domestic servants? I don't imagine that many women make a 'choice' to clean the urine, feces and vomit of strangers either in private homes of in motels, motels, restaurants etc. Not only is that not a 'career' they would grow up wanting to enter, but they also get paid minimum wage- or less. And around the world, domestic servitude is the number one destination for victims of human trafficking... so If this is not exactly a choice, is domestic servitude wrong? How do you determine what 'choices' women make that would please you and what choices would make their work/ relationships wrong?

Pardon me for pointing this out but your 'argument' about prostitution around the world being 'wrong because women don't have choices'... is full of bovine excrement.

Posted by Norma Jean Almodovar on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 7:20 am

Excellent points Norma Jean -- and if I may extrapolate on your tack, the sort of facile self-congratulatory thinking to which you were responding is widespread and characterizes erroneous thought on many topics; and is, in short. an impediment to justice and peace in the world.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 8:26 am

Unfortunately, your logic is faulty, because one would need "probable cause" to justify any search which might reveal "100 condoms" in the first place.

In other words, it's still "fruit from the poisoned tree" if you try to use them in the way you have mentioned.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

Obviously, you've never bought condoms at Costco.

Posted by eddieVroom on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

I don't think any female non-hooker would ever carry more than 1 or 2. That being said, prostitution should be legal anyway. I'm sick of CA being a religious nanny state.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 7:59 am

I've shtupped a few street girls myself. But there is little doubt that there are attendant crime and health issues surrounding prostitution, so I'm not quite ready to let anything go.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 8:02 am

While I agree with you that the idea of CA as a religious nanny state is sickening, you are very, very wrong about the number of condoms a female non-hooker would carry! I used to have a little compact-looking thing I kept in my purse at all times that held 4, and sometimes I'd carry more; I liked to be able to give one or two away to a friend in need and still have a few left for me. If I was going to my boyfriend's for the weekend I'd definitely want more than two! When I was working at SF State, we used to hand out condoms, so sometimes I'd have hundreds in my backpack on my way to wherever we were handing them out.

Some women are afraid, because of comments and assumptions like yours, to carry more than a condom or two, but I think getting pregnant and/or AIDS is scarier than having someone assume I'm a hooker. I feel sorry for the women who got sick or pregnant - or died - because they were too afraid to carry more than a few condoms because they knew even well-intentioned people like yourself might get the wrong idea, and hope that we as a country can get past that sort of thinking before it kills too many more people.

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

While I agree with you that the idea of CA as a religious nanny state is sickening, you are very, very wrong about the number of condoms a female non-hooker would carry! I used to have a little compact-looking thing I kept in my purse at all times that held 4, and sometimes I'd carry more; I liked to be able to give one or two away to a friend in need and still have a few left for me. If I was going to my boyfriend's for the weekend I'd definitely want more than two! When I was working at SF State, we used to hand out condoms, so sometimes I'd have hundreds in my backpack on my way to wherever we were handing them out.

Some women are afraid, because of comments and assumptions like yours, to carry more than a condom or two, but I think getting pregnant and/or AIDS is scarier than having someone assume I'm a hooker. I feel sorry for the women who got sick or pregnant - or died - because they were too afraid to carry more than a few condoms because they knew even well-intentioned people like yourself might get the wrong idea, and hope that we as a country can get past that sort of thinking before it kills too many more people.

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

While I agree with you that the idea of CA as a religious nanny state is sickening, you are very, very wrong about the number of condoms a female non-hooker would carry! I used to have a little compact-looking thing I kept in my purse at all times that held 4, and sometimes I'd carry more; I liked to be able to give one or two away to a friend in need and still have a few left for me. If I was going to my boyfriend's for the weekend I'd definitely want more than two! When I was working at SF State, we used to hand out condoms, so sometimes I'd have hundreds in my backpack on my way to wherever we were handing them out.

Some women are afraid, because of comments and assumptions like yours, to carry more than a condom or two, but I think getting pregnant and/or AIDS is scarier than having someone assume I'm a hooker. I feel sorry for the women who got sick or pregnant - or died - because they were too afraid to carry more than a few condoms because they knew even well-intentioned people like yourself might get the wrong idea, and hope that we as a country can get past that sort of thinking before it kills too many more people.

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

While I agree with you that the idea of CA as a religious nanny state is sickening, you are very, very wrong about the number of condoms a female non-hooker would carry! I used to have a little compact-looking thing I kept in my purse at all times that held 4, and sometimes I'd carry more; I liked to be able to give one or two away to a friend in need and still have a few left for me. If I was going to my boyfriend's for the weekend I'd definitely want more than two! When I was working at SF State, we used to hand out condoms, so sometimes I'd have hundreds in my backpack on my way to wherever we were handing them out.

Some women are afraid, because of comments and assumptions like yours, to carry more than a condom or two, but I think getting pregnant and/or AIDS is scarier than having someone assume I'm a hooker. I feel sorry for the women who got sick or pregnant - or died - because they were too afraid to carry more than a few condoms because they knew even well-intentioned people like yourself might get the wrong idea, and hope that we as a country can get past that sort of thinking before it kills too many more people.

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

While I agree with you that the idea of CA as a religious nanny state is sickening, you are very, very wrong about the number of condoms a female non-hooker would carry! I used to have a little compact-looking thing I kept in my purse at all times that held 4, and sometimes I'd carry more; I liked to be able to give one or two away to a friend in need and still have a few left for me. If I was going to my boyfriend's for the weekend I'd definitely want more than two! When I was working at SF State, we used to hand out condoms, so sometimes I'd have hundreds in my backpack on my way to wherever we were handing them out.

Some women are afraid, because of comments and assumptions like yours, to carry more than a condom or two, but I think getting pregnant and/or AIDS is scarier than having someone assume I'm a hooker. I feel sorry for the women who got sick or pregnant - or died - because they were too afraid to carry more than a few condoms because they knew even well-intentioned people like yourself might get the wrong idea, and hope that we as a country can get past that sort of thinking before it kills too many more people.

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

There are at least 100 in my place, but they're all used. I've got to get the maid in here.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:12 am

Aaargh, sorry for the multiple posts - I should have waited longer before I tried again!

Posted by Bryndis Tobin on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

That's funny, we keep a big jar full of condoms on the bar at my place to hand out at parties or to take along to RenFaire events. Yet another data point to show that "too many condoms" is a ludicrous and *very unsafe* means of determining guilt. How many false positives does one need before they give up the tactic, a tactic which is very obviously going to INCREASE the spread of HIV or other dangerous diseases? Literally billions of people carry and use condoms in the world today. How can they possibly use these perfectly-legal objects to try and convict people of crimes, just because they have more than some arbitrary, unannounced number?
That's insane!

Posted by Ermine on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

I'm glad to learn that S.F. Is -ceasing- this practice, at least. Better late than never!

Posted by Ermine on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

so does that mean that if a suspect is caught without condoms that they are not guilty? this idea that a condom is some kind of proof of intent of anything other than safe sex seems just bizarre. how can they justify that?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

One central practice used to entrap sex workers is a vice cop posing as a client asks the sex worker if they use condoms. If they say yes, that dialog is used against them. My question is, what is the policy now about the vice cops using the mention of condoms? Since this is a police agreement, what about the DA? What about if the alleged sex worker mentions condoms on the tape?

Posted by Carol Leigh on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

One central practice used to entrap sex workers is a vice cop posing as a client asks the sex worker if they use condoms. If they say yes, that dialog is used against them. My question is, what is the policy now about the vice cops using the mention of condoms? Since this is a police agreement, what about the DA? What about if the alleged sex worker mentions condoms on the tape?

Posted by Carol Leigh on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

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