When most people think about prostitution as a criminal offense, the first thing that comes to their mind is engaging in sexual activities for compensation. However, Penal Code 647b of the California law also criminalizes soliciting prostitution. You could face probation, fines, and even incarceration if the court finds you guilty. If you or a loved one is facing prostitution and solicitation charges in Pasadena, you need to hire an experienced and dedicated defense attorney to walk with you. The attorney will examine the facts of your case and the prosecutor's evidence to help you pursue the most favorable outcome. Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm specializes in many areas of criminal defense, including defenses against prostitution, solicitation charges, and related crimes. We will work around the clock to ensure your charges are reduced or even dismissed.
Prostitution And Solicitation Under California Law
Under California law, Penal Code 647b criminalizes three types of acts:
- Engaging in the act of prostitution
- Soliciting prostitution
- Agreeing to participate in the act of prostitution
Prostitution is when you have intercourse or do a lewd act with another person for cash or other type of compensation. A ''lewd act'' means touching the buttocks, genitals, or woman breast of either the customer or prostitute with some part of someone else's body for sexual gratification or sexual arousal.
An individual commits prostitution if he/she:
- Willingly engages in a lewd act or sexual intercourse with another person
- Does so for cash or other type of compensation
Under California law, willfully means you engaged in the act freely or on purpose. You do not need to exhibit a specific intent to violate the law.
You could solicit prostitution if you do the following:
- Request someone else to participate in the act of prostitution
- You do so with the intention to participate in the act of prostitution with someone else
For you to be guilty of California solicitation, you must show a clear intent to participate in prostitution. The following acts do not exhibit a clear intent of engaging in prostitution:
- Standing on a street wearing a miniskirt
- Being present in a known area of prostitution
- Nodding to a stranger
- Waving to a passing vehicle
Under California law Penal Code 647b, the prosecutor proves the following elements to convict you of agreeing to take part in prostitution:
- You agreed to participate in the act of prostitution with another person
- You intended to participate in prostitution with that individual
- You did something to facilitate the commission of prostitution
Doing ‘’something’’ is going beyond just accepting a solicitation. For instance, something could mean the following:
- Instructing the client who has accepted your solicitation to undress
- Handing over the payment you agreed on
- Driving to the location where the sexual act will occur
- Withdrawing money from an ATM to pay the other person
The Legal Status Of Prostitution In California
Prostitution is legal in a few U.S states and other countries. Therefore, sex workers who adhere to certain government rules can participate in sexual acts as a business. However, prostitution is not a legal activity under California law. The statute against prostitution has existed in California for 150 years, and some groups have been working hard to overturn the ban, citing business savvy, safety concerns, and personal rights.
In 2017, the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, located in San Francisco, heard the case regarding prostitution where the State of California did move closer to legalizing it. Unfortunately, in 2018, the appellate court shut down the case, citing public interest.
Currently, efforts are being made in California to allow prostitution. For instance, recently, the Senate passed Senate Bill 357. If the bill is passed into law, there will be no more penalizing of people for loitering while intending to participate in prostitution, as outlined by PC 653.22. The legislature is working hard to legalize prostitution purposely to deal with human trafficking offenses better. The argument is that legalizing prostitution will ensure that pimps or brokers will no longer use intimidation to threaten trafficking victims involved in prostitution.
Who Can Be Punished In Prostitution and Solicitation Offenses?
Depending on the circumstances, sellers and buyers of sexual engagement can be punished for prostitution and solicitation offenses. A person seeking to pay for sexual activity can be anyone over 18 years, homosexual, man or woman, or heterosexual. The buyers could be daily purchasers of sexual activities, commonly referred to as ''johns,'' or an individual offering money or another good to another person for sex as a one-off situation.
Similarly, individuals receiving payment for sexual activity can be gay or straight, female or male, or other. In addition, the individuals could be regular sex workers or one-time situations where they receive payment for the acts. In the United States, most professional sex workers have brokers who establish some safety, routines, and expectations for a cut of their earnings from prostitution. Typically, brokers are referred to as ''pimps, and they are not charged with the offenses of prostitution or solicitation.
Sex Workers And Senate Bill 233 In California
In California, as of 2020, law enforcers can no longer rely on the fact that you are carrying condoms to conclude that you are a prostitute and arrest you for loitering, solicitation, or public nuisance. The passing of Senate Bill 233 has brought about this relief. Because condoms cannot serve as proof of probable cause, this could reduce the incidences of prostitution arrests. Now sex workers have no reason to fear while carrying condoms because they will not be incriminated. In addition, Senate Bill 233 protects people, inclusive of sex workers, against some low-level criminal charges.
Before the enactment of Senate Bill 233, sex workers who fell victims or who witnessed serious offenses could not call the police for fear of being prosecuted because of the following:
- Engaging in lewd conduct — Penal Code 647a
- A misdemeanor drug crime
- Creating/maintaining a public nuisance — Penal Code 372
- Engaging in prostitution or soliciting prostitution — PC 647b
- Loitering with the intention to participate in prostitution — PC 653.22
Currently, sex workers are protected from facing the charges under any of the above offenses when they report either:
- Extortion — Penal Code 518
- Any serious felony
- Domestic violence causing a corporal injury — Penal Code 275.5
- Certain severe types of assault like an assault using a deadly weapon — Penal Code245 (a) (1)
- Stalking-Penal Code 646.9
- Human trafficking — PC 236.1
- Sexual battery — PC 243.4
The current statute allows sex workers to report ''johns'' and ''pimps'', which could be abusing them or other people.
The Steps To Follow When Charged With Prostitution And Solicitation
If you are or believe you will face a prostitution and solicitation conviction, you must remember that you have options. First, you should know that an accusation is just a mere allegation, whether formal or not. A charge or an arrest does not mean that you are guilty. Some of the steps you should follow up on an accusation include:
Record The Details
It could appear unnecessary or silly to write down details like topics of conversation, names, places, and time, but these can significantly help your defense and memory. The more time that passes between your legal defense and the alleged incident means you could forget the details, particularly if you consider them unimportant. Therefore, you need to record as many details as possible on your cell phone, notepad, or elsewhere.
Gather Any Proof
You can provide a video or audio of the alleged act to show that you neither agreed nor offered to a transaction of sexual acts. You could also gather proof revealing that what your accuser alleged happened did not happen.
Consult A Competent Attorney
Though attorneys differ, hiring one specializing in sex crimes and criminal defense would be the best decision. You need to work with an attorney who fully understands the local courts, local California laws, and the judge who will handle your case. Your best chance for the best defense is your attorney, with whom you should share all the details of the alleged incident as openly and honestly as possible.
Understand Your Rights
A conviction for an offense is a mere allegation, not a determination of your guilt. Therefore, a competent attorney can assist you in understanding your rights to ascertain if the police who arrested you went overboard or acted inappropriately.
Penalties For Prostitution And Solicitation
According to California’s prostitution and solicitation statutes, a charge under Penal Code 647b is a misdemeanor crime. If you are a first-time offender under this statute, you could face the following penalties:
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
- A jail term that does not exceed six months in a county jail
If you are a repeat offender, you could face the following penalties:
- A compulsory minimum jail term of 45 days in a county jail for a second offense
- A minimum mandatory jail term of 90 days in a county jail for a third offense
You could be ordered to forfeit the vehicle if you are found committing a prostitution crime while in your car. In addition to engaging in prostitution in a vehicle, if the act took place within 1000 feet of a residence, the judge could also suspend your driver's license for a period that does not exceed 30 days.
Additionally, most courts in California would order that an offender complete some AIDS education program and HIV testing, which is filed and submitted to the court. Finally, if the region where the offender frequents is prominent for Prostitution and Sting operations by the law enforcers happen there, the offender could also be restricted from visiting the area at any time. However, this could be hard for the offender if he/she lives nearby or works nearby.
Some sex acts or offenses in California require you to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290. However, prostitution and solicitation do not automatically require registering as a sex offender. Though it is rare, the judge also can order you to register as a sex offender as part of your punishment, based on the details of your case.
Defenses To Penal Code 647b Charges
In California, the consequences of prostitution and solicitation can be severe. If you face prostitution and solicitation charges, you must hire a competent attorney to fight for your freedom. A qualified prostitution attorney can assist you in creating several defenses to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Some of the defenses that your attorney could use successfully to help you in avoiding serious consequences of this offense include:
Lack Of Intent
To face the charges for engaging in prostitution and solicitation, you must have intended to do so. The specific intent of the prostitute and the client to participate in prostitution activity can be exhibited when money or other forms of compensation is exchanged. The police could also claim that your conversation with your client was sufficient evidence of your specific intent and thus qualify the filing of the charges against you.
If the prosecutor can only prove that you made certain hand gestures without proving your specific intent to participate in the act, the court can automatically dismiss the charges against you. For instance, if you wave or nod to a woman standing on a street corner, that does not amount to being guilty of prostitution and solicitation charges.
Lack Of Agreement
In California, most times, the police will follow a conversation between what they believe to be a prostitute and a client. They could then conclude that the prostitute and the client agree to participate in prostitution, but it is not true. However, in this case, the facts of the said agreement to participate in prostitution could suggest that the prostitute and the client had agreed to participate in the act.
The police could also allege that one person had solicited the other to commit a prostitution offense, yet this is not always the case. For instance, you could have gotten lost in a bad neighborhood, so you decide to inquire from a woman on the street for directions.
The police could have missed your conversation with the woman because of the distance. The police could merely conclude that you were soliciting a prostitute when the truth is that you were not. These scenarios where the police miss conversations between people of the opposite gender happen more often in California. When you hire an attorney, he/she can identify the mistakes of the police and have you acquitted of the charges.
The prosecutor must provide sufficient evidence that you engaged in prostitution and solicitation to file charges against you. If he/she fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot face charges for the allegations.
There could be reasons why proving your case is insufficient for you to face charges. First, there could be a lack of clear and definite agreement to participate in prostitution or solicitation of another person for prostitution. If the police do not produce a record of your conversation or their recording cannot be understood, there will be no substantial evidence for you to face prostitution and solicitation charges.
Second, maybe there was no act in furtherance of the agreement to prostitution and solicitation. For example, the police undercover posing as a ''john'' inquires if you could participate in sex with them for money, and you agree to do so. However, later you refuse to participate in any activity to further the engagement in lewd or sexual conduct. In this case, there will be no substantial evidence to support your prostitution and solicitation charges, and your case could be dismissed.
No Exchange Of Compensation
If you solicit another person for sex or agree to participate in sex with another person, but no request or agreement for compensation is involved, then you cannot face prostitution and solicitation charges. There must be a request or an agreement for payment for sex or lewd acts for you to be guilty of violating Penal Code 647b.
If no request or agreement existed, you are just involved in consensual sex with another person, which is lawful under California law. Typically, compensation does not need to be for money. However, often people only think of money in prostitution activities. Prostitution and solicitation could also involve exchanging another item or good instead of cash. For example, a client could agree to give a valuable item or drugs to the prostitute for sex.
Entrapment By The Police
Entrapment happens when the police act overbearingly, which would make a normally law-abiding person commit a crime. Often, law enforcement agencies use undercover police to pose as clients or prostitutes to arrest people who could wish to participate in prostitution and solicitation. When the undercover police pressure you in an overbearing manner to participate in prostitution and solicitation, the entrapment defense could be appropriate in your case, and you could get acquitted of the charges.
The police’s conduct must be overbearing for you to raise the entrapment defense successfully. For example, the police undercover just inquiring from you if you can exchange sex for money is not overbearing conduct that could make a law-abiding citizen participate in prostitution and solicitation. On the other hand, a prostitute undercover could approach you several times while walking down the street and agree to give you sex for money. You say ‘’no’’ until you finally agree because of the pressure. In this case, your attorney could raise the entrapment defense successfully to fight your charges.
The judge will also consider if you had a predisposition to commit the offense when considering the entrapment defense. For example, if you have previous charges for engaging in prostitution and solicitation, the judge will not believe that the police's conduct coerced you into committing a prostitution and solicitation offense.
Several offenses are related to prostitution and solicitation in California. They include:
- Human trafficking — PC 236.1
- Pimping — PC 266h
- Pandering — PC 266i
- Loitering intending to participate in prostitution — PC 653.22
- Supervising or helping a prostitute — Penal Code 653.23
Human Trafficking — PC 236.1
This offense occurs when you violate the personal liberty of someone else with the intent to obtain forced services or labor. This includes exploiting adults and minors sexually. You could face the following penalties if the court finds you guilty of this crime:
- A fine that does not exceed $500,000
- A jail term that does not exceed twelve years in state prison, or
- Both imprisonment and fine
Pimping — PC 266h
This offense involves deriving maintenance or support from a person's prostitution earnings. It also involves earning from money advanced, loaned, or charged against that person by any housekeeper where prostitution is allowed or takes place. The same statute applies to a person who receives compensation for prostitution and solicitation. You could face the following penalties if the court finds you guilty of this crime:
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- A jail term that does not exceed six years in state prison, or
- Both a jail term and a fine
Pandering — PC 266i
This crime constitutes procuring, inducing, or encouraging someone else to become a prostitute. You could face the following punishment if the court convicts you of this crime:
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- A jail term that does not exceed six years in state prison, or
- Both a jail term and a fine
Find A Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
A prostitution and solicitation conviction on your criminal history can have lasting repercussions on your professional and personal life. If you or a friend faces prostitution and solicitation charges in Pasadena, securing a legal defense for your charges is essential. Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm has decades of experience helping clients fight prostitution and solicitation charges. We have helped many defendants in Longbeach, CA, to successfully fight their charges. We have the knowledge and expertise to examine your case. We will create a hard-hitting defense strategy, which will assist you in getting the best outcome for your case. Call us at 626-628-0564 and talk to one of our attorneys.