Crimes related to loitering often lead to the conviction of innocent parties that had no intention of committing the charged crimes. Among these crimes is the offense of loitering to commit prostitution, whereby you may face arrest based on circumstances that a police officer suspects will lead to sexual activities that amount to prostitution. Generally, loitering to commit prostitution falls under a criminal category of offenses to reduce the number of commercial sex workers in the streets. However, these arrests have caused numerous injustices to the defendants. The unfairness occurs because of the full discretion that an officer in charge of arrest, as well as the prosecutor, has in accusing you of the crime.
However, you can retaliate and present defenses for the offense of loitering to commit prostitution to prevent an unlawful conviction for a crime you did not commit. To ensure that your defenses are significant and firmly structured, you will need the services of an experienced defense attorney who is conversant with sex crime defenses. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we have served our Los Angeles clients by providing the best criminal defense strategies to present in court for any charges they face. Additionally, our professional team will be happy to offer legal advice and guidance on some issues regarding your trial to keep you ready for any possible outcomes.
Defining the Crime of Loitering to Commit Prostitution
Typically, the reference for this crime gives a clear definition of the activities that culminate in the offense. Under section 653.22 of the California Penal Code, the offense consists of lingering around a public place to engage in prostitution.
Additionally, the definition of the offense states that a defendant arrested for loitering to commit prostitution often displays suggestive behavior that appears as a way of soliciting customers. Therefore, when an officer decides to arrest you for loitering, he/she can do so by merely observing and using discretion to determine whether you were aiming to engage in prostitution.
You need to note that such an officer can proceed to arrest you even if you do not engage in any prostitution later on, and the arrest is based on the conduct you exhibit in a public place.
Elements of the Crime That a Prosecutor Must Prove
After facing arrest, you will undergo several processes that lead to a court trial. During the trial preparation process, the state prosecutor will take over your matter and obtain a court order to conduct investigations. During these investigation procedures, the prosecutor’s goal is to collect as much evidence as possible to prove that you are guilty of the offense. Therefore, he/she may go after any witnesses present when you were arrested or source surveillance footage that displays video evidence of your loitering activities.
Specific to the offense of loitering to commit prostitution, the prosecutor must prove three main elements of the crime to ensure that his/her claims prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Under criminal law, you, as the defendant, cannot face any conviction if the prosecutor fails to make a clear and convincing argument in court. Thus, your defense attorney plays a significant role in questioning the prosecutor’s source of evidence as well as lines of arguments to ensure that you do not undergo an unfair trial. The elements that the prosecutor needs to prove are:
You Were Loitering
The act of loitering involves staying or delaying at one place or area for a long time, often with an underlying intention to commit an unlawful act. Loitering May also involve a person delaying to move from one place, usually intending to indulge in prohibited activities. For example, shoplifters often loiter outside the shop they intend to steal from. The loitering period will enable them to study the shop’s structure to ensure that they make a definite escape plan. Similarly, when a defendant loiters intending to commit prostitution, he/she is usually waiting for the right time to engage in the illegal act, or for a prospective customer to approach him/her.
The prosecutor will use these guidelines to present information and evidence proving that you were loitering mostly by introducing surveillance footage collected as evidence. If the prosecution can demonstrate that you lingered around a place for a long time, without any valid reason, he/she can infer that you intended to commit the offense of prostitution.
Moreover, the loitering period should be long enough to raise suspicions and avoid accusing innocent parties of loitering. Thus, the prosecutor needs to show that you spent a long time at a public place before the arrest, amounting to reasonable suspicion of an underlying intention. In this case, most of the evidence presented will come from eyewitnesses who saw you in the public place you were arrested or from video footage that provides timeline details. When sourcing the evidence and witness statements, the prosecutor will try to validate his/her information because if the evidence is not credible, it gives your defense attorney a chance to dispute the allegations given.
You Had the Intention to Commit Prostitution
During a criminal trial, you cannot face a final sentence before the prosecutor can quash any doubts to do with your unlawful intention to commit a crime. The proof of your intentions is one of the crucial details to your case, mainly because it works to prove that you had decided to engage in the offense beforehand. Therefore, you will be said to have premeditated engaging in prostitution.
Despite the importance of proving the element of criminal intention, it is one of the most challenging points to demonstrate in court, primarily because you cannot determine what a person was thinking around the suspected time of engaging in a crime. Consequently, the prosecutor relies on the kind of behavior you were engaged in before you faced arrest. Depending on the behavior, the prosecutor can then present an argument to show that you were thinking about engaging in prostitution through your actions.
Overall, the offense of prostitution involves engaging in sexual activity for payment. However, several sexual indulgences do not fit the description of prostitution. They include engaging in sexual behavior for entertainment to the public. For example, an exotic dancer involved in strip performance for payment by the audience cannot face arrest for prostitution, even though the activities he/she engages in may be viewed as sexual.
Subsequently, the prosecutor relies on specific conduct that does not fall within the entertainment sector. Here, the sources of evidence on your behavior revolve around your efforts to engage people in conversations to solicit them into prostitution activities. Some of the behaviors that may infer your intention to commit prostitution are:
You Beckoned at Passers-By Or Stopped them Repeatedly to Talk to Them Suggestively.
If you positioned yourself in an area where many people passed by, especially at night and loitered to try and catch their attention, the prosecutor might successfully prove your criminal intention. Your action of beckoning at someone passing by or whistling at them to attract their attention is also conduct that could indicate an intention to engage the person in sexual activity. Moreover, if the person walks by and stops and engages you in a conversation, the prosecutor will also analyze your body language in court to determine whether you exhibited any sexual cues like touching the person’s hands suggestively as you two spoke.
Also, the prosecutor needs to show that you did this repeatedly, showing that you did not merely engage one person in an intimate conversation, but intended to try attracting the attention of multiple people. Therefore, the prosecutor must include evidence to prove that you beckoned at more than one person, aiming to talk at least one of them into some sexual activity.
You Drove Around a Specific Area Severally Trying to Get the Attention of Pedestrians or Other Motorists
Similarly, if you loitered in a vehicle, the prosecutor may still be successful in demonstrating your intention to engage in sexual activities that amount to prostitution. If you tried to stop several pedestrians from talking them into receiving sexual favors in exchange for money, the prosecutor would have shown that they had a criminal intention. The gestures may also extend to other road users, such as motorcycle riders and drivers.
For example, if you flashed your lights at oncoming vehicles to signal them to stop and talk, it may have been the starting point of a pitch to lead them into sexual activity. However, the prosecutor must also be keen to prove that you conducted such activities several to prove that your intentions lead to soliciting customers into sexual activity.
You Waved or Beckoned at Drivers to Stop Them and Converse With Them Suggestively
Another scenario that may lead to the prosecution proving your intent is when you waved and tried to stop drivers from talking to them suggestively. In this case, the defendant would be standing along the street, waving at any car that drives nearby. Your intent may also be derived by other actions you engage in to attract attention like walking towards a parked car or shouting obscene words that indicate you are willing to engage in sexual activity for payment.
Since the prosecutor will mainly rely on footage displaying your conduct or statements from onlookers or the people you were arrested with, he/she may also obtain information on the exact words you used to lure the drivers who stopped for you. If such information is present, the prosecution may have an easier time proving that you intended to engage in prostitution. For example, if you made negotiations with the driver about the price he/she would pay you afterward, the transactional agreement shows a link to the intention to commit prostitution.
You Were Often In the Company of Someone Convicted of Prostitution Offenses
While you may not exhibit explicit behavior that shows a criminal intention to commit prostitution, you may have been spotted loitering with a past convict of sex crimes on several occasions. In this case, the prosecutor relies on the provision under section 653.22 of the Penal Code that gives police the mandate to arrest you even if they suspect that you merely intended to engage in prostitution activities.
Therefore, you may undergo a cross-examination session with the prosecutor as he/she tries to extract information as to why you were in the company of a past sex crimes convict. While the judge will require you to answer several questions that the prosecutor posits, your right to refuse to give self-incriminating evidence prevails. Thus, your defense attorney will object to any direct questions that may lead to you exposing unnecessary information.
You Engaged in Loitering To Commit Prostitution for Around Six Months Before Arrest
Sometimes, you will be under investigation before arrest to give the police probable cause to arrest you for the offense of loitering to commit prostitution. Hence, when the officers eventually arrest you, they will deliver all collected information collected through observation to the prosecutor, who will introduce it in court as evidence of ongoing behavior. Typically, the standard duration of observation is six months, whereby the officers running the check will collect video footage of your loitering and soliciting of customers. Moreover, the officers may also involve themselves directly by approaching you and collecting additional information like your name and identification number.
Consequently, with such evidence against you in court, the prosecution will have repeatedly proved your intent to commit prostitution. It may even present information concerning actual sexual activities that you undertook.
You Committed Prostitution Offenses or Any Other Sex Crimes Within Five Years of Your Current Arrest
Another way to build upon the presence of intention is by running a background check on any previous engagement in sexual crimes, including prostitution and lewd conduct in public, among others. Although making inferences based on previous activities is unfair, the court often allows such arguments from the prosecutor, primarily because of the statistics that indicate a recurrent engagement of past behavior after a convicted person leaves jail.
As a result, the prosecutor presents all previous criminal records and highlights any subsequent arrests for sexual offenses. While this mode of deriving criminal intention is not always accurate, it plays a significant role in persuading the judge of the possibility of your guilt in committing the offense.
You Possessed Condoms
The prosecutor will sometimes go overboard and use the items he/she finds in your possession at the time of the arrest to prove the point of criminal intention. However, several regulations govern the methods applicable in determining the admissibility of specific evidence in court.
Thus, having a packet of condoms is not enough to prove that you had an intention to commit prostitution later on. The prosecutor must show that you had set the item aside expressly for use during the sexual activities. To do this, he/she may refer to your loitering activities and making suggestive conversations with potential customers to establish that you had a purpose for possessing the condoms.
You Were Loitering In a Public Place
A public place is any location or area that is open and easily accessible to any member of the public. Thus, you do not necessarily have to meet any requirements like paying an entry fee to access a public place. Therefore, any parking lots, buildings, or parks are public places for the offense of loitering to commit prostitution. Additionally, the entrance to a building, bar, or restaurant is a public place among other premises. You should also note that a car, whether moving or parked in a public place where a defendant may loiter.
Since the specifications are precise, all the prosecutor needs to show is that you used any of the mentioned areas as your loitering spot to engage in conduct that would lead to prostitution.
Defenses to the Crime of Loitering to Commit Prostitution
Your criminal defense attorney will do his/her best to present legal defenses to disprove the prosecutor’s claims despite the overwhelming evidence that the prosecutor may prepare against you. For a successful presentation of defenses, you must present all factual information you have to your lawyer to ensure that he/she is aware of important details that the prosecutor may have missed. The available defenses for the offense of loitering to commit prostitution are:
An Illegal Entrapment
When police officers collect your behavioral data over a specific period, they may decide to engage you in entrapment. Most of the time, the entrapment of a defendant puts them in a compromising proposition that pressures them into engaging in illegal actions that lead to the commission of the crime.
An officer engaged in an illegal entrapment of the defendant is usually working undercover and approaches you to try and push you into engaging in the offense. While the prosecutor may later argue that the move was to determine whether you were capable of committing prostitution, the officers who induced you into the crime typically have the upper hand against you. Therefore, they may offer you large sums of money to lead you into committing the crime. If you accept the cash and proceed to make further propositions regarding engagement in sexual conduct, they will then act quickly and arrest you.
The defense is applicable where you were an innocent bystander lured into a crime by the efforts of an officer, simply because he/she suspected you of loitering. Thus, the tactic preys on you by subjecting you to undue influence from the incentives presented by the undercover police officers.
When your lawyer presents the defense of illegal entrapment in court, he/she should enhance the argument by showing that you had genuine intentions of staying in one area for a long time. For example, if you were waiting for a friend or your parent to pick you up, all you need to show is any prior communication you had with the third party concerning the pick-up. Moreover, you may have been waiting to meet with someone at the disclosed location, which ended up delaying the meeting. If the officers responsible for your entrapment overlooked such possibilities, the defense would work well in your favor.
Misleading Evidence to Prove Criminal Intent
It is also not uncommon for an officer to mistake your actions and consider them as conduct showing your indulgence in criminal activities. Unfortunately, most defendants find themselves facing charges for innocent engagements that the prosecutor applies as evidence of intent to commit prostitution. Also, some of the information introduced in court may be misleading and based on biased stereotypes.
For example, if you wore revealing clothing and happened to wait outside for a taxi ride, the prosecutor may use the inference of provocative clothing to drive the idea that you were trying to solicit potential customers into engaging in sexual activity with you. Moreover, since you were waiting for a car ride in a public place, you may face allegations of trying to stop drivers and engaging them in conversations that would lure them into sexual conduct. All these misrepresentations may lead to your unlawful arrest and defendant caused by the police actions on assumptions and suspicions.
It is up to your criminal defense attorney to present highly persuasive arguments as he/she presents this defense in court, mainly because the prosecutor will put more emphasis on the police officers’ reports against your own. Therefore, we recommend working closely with your lawyer and disclosing any additional information that will be pivotal in proving that your actions were innocent and not aimed at soliciting anyone into accepting prostitution services from you.
Penalties for Loitering to Commit Prostitution
When the judge finds you guilty despite the defenses presented, you will face penalties for the offense. In California, the offense of loitering to commit prostitution attracts misdemeanor charges.
Consequently, you may face a fine penalty that requires you to pay up to $1,000. Alternatively, you may face up to six months in County jail for the offense. However, the severity of sentencing may vary at the judge’s discretion. He/she will assess the circumstances surrounding your case and the credibility of your defenses. Afterward, the judge decides to raise or lower the punishment according to the information available in each case.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Facing charges related to sex crimes like prostitution may be highly detrimental to you in several aspects. You may suffer humiliation, career hardships as well as draining legal procedures. However, with the services of a well-qualified defense attorney, you can fight the allegations presented against you and seek justice for wrongful arrest and charging. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we will help ease the burden you face after facing sex crime charges. Our services will guarantee you a stress-free litigation process that delivers the desired outcome for your case. If you need legal assistance and representation for the offense of loitering to commit prostitution in Los Angeles, call us today at 310-935-1675.