The main thing most people think of when talking about prostitution as an offense is taking part in sexual activities for money. However, California law also prohibits another prostitution act: solicitation, where a person offers another payment to get involved in sexual acts. Agreeing to participate in sexual activities for compensation is also prohibited under the law.
If facing solicitation or prostitution charges, you risk paying fines, a probation sentence, or even jail time in case you are found guilty. Only a skilled and dedicated attorney can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your situation and the prosecution’s evidence to find you the best possible solution. The attorney may be able to have your charges dismissed. In cases where a dismissal is not possible, he/she can get a charge reduction. If you are facing prostitution or solicitation charges in Los Angeles, attorneys from The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm are readily available to help you fight your charges. The attorneys will use their vast knowledge of the California Prostitution & Solicitation laws to get you a favorable outcome.
Legal Definition of Prostitution & Solicitation
The act of prostitution is defined in the Penal Code (PC) 647b as exchanging money or any other consideration like services or goods for lewd conduct or sex. The law prohibits this act. The law considers it as prostitution or solicitation whether the proposed behavior did take place or not. Specifically, PC 647b forbids three forms of behaviors:
- Soliciting a prostitution act
- Engaging in a prostitution act
- Agreeing to take part in a prostitution act
The specific conduct you are charged with determines the facts the prosecuting attorney must prove for a conviction to take place. Let us look at these specific behaviors in detail:
Engaging in Prostitution Act
You will be convicted of taking part in a prostitution act if you willfully engage in lewd acts or sexual intercourse with another person for monetary gain or any other compensation. Willfully doing something means you did it on purpose or willingly. You don’t need to have intended to violate the law. The law defines lewd conduct as any action involving the touching of the genitals, female breasts, or buttocks of someone else with the intent to gratify or arouse the person sexually.
According to California law, you will be convicted of solicitation if:
- You request that someone else engages in a prostitution act, or
- You had the intent to take part in a prostitution act with that person
Based on who started interacting with the other, the prosecution may charge this crime against the customer or the prostitute. Also, for you to be convicted of solicitation, you must have had the intent to participate in a prostitution behavior. The intent, in this case, is shown by your offer to exchange money or any other consideration like drugs for sex. But, it’s not a must that the party you are reaching out to shares the same intent as you. For example, you may still be prosecuted for soliciting prostitution even when:
- The party you solicited wasn’t a prostitute
- The person posing as a prostitute was a police officer working undercover
- The person you solicited was, in reality, a prostitute but did not agree to your proposed transaction
Additionally, the intent of soliciting prostitution has to be precise. Certain acts might appear bad in themselves but are possibly harmless. These acts aren’t, by themselves, evidence of your intention to solicit prostitution. Such actions may include:
- Waving at a passing car
- Being present at a common prostitution area
- Standing in the corner of a street wearing a miniskirt
- Nodding to a stranger
Agreeing to participate in a prostitution act
You can break PC 647b laws by merely consenting to take part in a prostitution act. However, a conviction will only occur if you meant to fulfill the action. To prove the elements of the crime, the prosecutor has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Agreed to get involved in a prostitution behavior with another person
- Had the intent to participate in a prostitution act with the person
- Apart from accepting, you did an action to advance the commission of a prostitution behavior
This behavior translates to the exact opposite of solicitation. A person who offers to get involved in a sexual act could be prosecuted for solicitation. However, the individual who agrees to the offer is prosecuted for agreeing to participate in a prostitution act.
To be convicted of accepting to take part in a prostitution behavior, you need to have done an act that furthers the commission of the prostitution act. The additional something should be more than merely agreeing to prostitution. For example:
- Driving to the location where you accepted the sexual activity would occur
- Withdrawing funds from a bank or ATM to pay that other party
- Giving the other party the payment you had agreed upon
- Instructing the person who has consented to solicitation to remove his/her clothes
Note that in California, children that are under the age of 18 years cannot be convicted of solicitation or prostitution. This happened due to the enactment of Senate Bill 1322, which the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, passed into law in 2016, September 26. Senate Bill 1322 amended the law on prostitution & solicitation so that under 18 minors who commit prostitution are considered commercially sexually exploited children. If the child is convicted, he/she won’t be taken to a juvenile jail or hall. Instead, he/she may be deemed a dependent minor of the court. When this happens, the child will be taken to temporary custody.
In case the child is taken to temporary custody, a judge will order that he/she be placed in an emergency shelter or with his/her family member for a period not exceeding fifteen days.
The Punishment for Prostitution & Solicitation
Violating PC 647b is always charged as a misdemeanor. Its consequences vary based on the place where the violation occurred and whether it’s the defendant’s first offense or it’s a subsequent offense.
First offense penalties
The consequences of first prostitution & solicitation offense may include a maximum of six months of a county jail sentence and a maximum of $1000 in fines.
Prostitution & solicitation is considered a priorable crime. By priorable, it means the penalties increase with the number of offenses you have committed. The consequences of a second-time crime of prostitution and solicitation include a mandatory county jail time of at least 45 days. For a third and subsequent offense, you get a mandatory county jail time of 90 days.
Prostitution & Solicitation That Takes Place in a Vehicle In/Close to a Residence
The punishment for prostitution & solicitation increases if you committed the offense using a vehicle, and you were 1000 within a residential place. Apart from spending time in jail and paying a fine, you may also face the following consequences:
- Suspension of your privilege to drive for a period not exceeding thirty days
- You may be issued with a restricted license for a maximum of six months. This license allows you to continue driving to & from school or work. It also allows driving due to work purposes if the nature of your job entails driving.
Additional Punishments Imposed by the Local Government
Local authorities may impose extra penalties if you get convicted of solicitation or prostitution. For example, in LA, if you are found guilty of prostitution using an automobile, the local government may impound and forfeit your vehicle. This act is allowed under the law as a kind of asset forfeiture. The defenses against prostitution or solicitation charges at a local level are typically similar to the general defenses to PC 647b.
Neither solicitation nor prostitution requires mandatory registration as a sex offender as per PC 290. However, the judge on your case has the choice to order you to register as a sex offender if your offense led to sexual gratification or sexual compulsion. This description possibly applies to every solicitation conviction. However, practically, registration as a sex offender is rarely imposed in relation to solicitation and prostitution cases.
Immigration Consequences of a Prostitution & Solicitation Charge
In case you are a non-U.S citizen, a conviction of various crimes will lead to mandatory immigration repercussions. Being convicted of solicitation or prostitution does not cause any compulsory immigration-related consequences. However, a PC 647b charge can be considered as either a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony for immigration purposes.
Aggravated felonies refer to predetermined offenses, both felonies, and misdemeanors, which can prevent a non-immigrant from enjoying various immigration benefits. In case you get convicted of a crime that the law considers an aggravated felony, you may be subjected to removal proceedings in an immigration court. In this case, a conviction of PC 647b, based on the facts of the case, might be deemed an aggravated felony.
A crime of moral turpitude, on the other hand, is an offense that the law considers to be morally inexcusable. These crimes include both felony and misdemeanor offenses. Any crime that shocks the consciousness of an average person may prevent a non-immigrant from enjoying several immigration benefits. If convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, you will most likely be subjected to removal proceedings in an immigration court. Based on the facts of your case, a conviction of PC 647b might be a crime of moral turpitude.
Defenses to PC 647b Charges
Prostitution and solicitation charges have no best defense. However, there are many defenses that attorneys frequently use in arguing these cases for their clients. The attorney will review your case and determine which defense best applies. Common defenses include:
- No trustworthy proof
- There was no intent/mistake of fact
Entrapment happens when a peace officer gets involved in behavior that would lead to law-abiding citizens to commit an offense. However, there has to be something else more than merely giving a person a chance to break the law. Based on the facts of the case, conducts that may define entrapment include:
- Coaxing or flattery
- Continuous or repeated requests
- Guaranteeing that a particular action isn’t illegal or it will not be detected
- An appeal to sympathy or friendship
- Offering to award extraordinary benefits
You could use entrapment as a defense if you were busted during an undercover investigation. Typically, in this operation, a decoy police officer pretends to be a customer or a prostitute. The officer then attempts to lure the suspect in question into making a prostitution offer. Unfortunately, most of these officers go beyond what they are supposed to do, which leads to entrapment. Instead of suspects, they entice citizens that abide by the law with unjust flattery enticements or promises.
An entrapment defense is affirmative. This means that if you claim you were entrapped, it is then upon you to prove to the court how it happened. Fortunately, you wouldn’t need to prove entrapment beyond a doubt. You only have to prove it by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning you only have to show that it’s more probable than not that the officer entrapped you. If you can show this, then you should not be convicted.
No trustworthy proof
Lack of reliable evidence is a known defense used by attorneys to defend against PC 647b charges. This is true mainly when the supposed agreement to participate in prostitution wasn’t recorded. If this is the case, it raises a concern for jurors. They would ask questions like, if the police were wearing a wire, why then didn’t he or she record that conversation? This would lead them to think the officer has something to hide. Without listening to the conversation that ensued during the alleged act, many jurors will be hesitant to deduce that you are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
Insufficient evidence is a different defense to untrustworthy proof. Here, the existing evidence could be reliable, but it may be only a section of what a prosecutor needs to substantiate your case. For instance, you may have accepted to engage in sexual intercourse with another person and may have even paid the person. However, the prosecutor would need to prove that you had the intent to do the act for you to be convicted. It could be that you gave out the money to the other person, but it was not intended to be exchanged for sex.
There was no intent/mistake of fact
For you to be convicted of solicitation or prostitution, you must have had the specific intent to participate in lewd behavior or sexual activity. In certain cases, you may have committed what is called a mistake of fact as per the California law. The defense of mistake of fact may help to have the charges against you dismissed. This is in case you can prove the conditions of the act that resulted in your charges don’t indicate the specific intent to take part in prostitution.
Plea Bargains and Charge Reductions
Apart from arguing the above defenses, there are several charge reductions your attorney can negotiate on your behalf as part of plea bargaining. Pleading guilty to these charge reductions doesn’t bear the same stigma as does prostitution or solicitation. The most known charge reductions the prosecutor may offer you as a plea deal include:
- PC 415 disturbing the peace
- PC 602 criminal trespass
- PC 647a Lewd behavior in public
PC 415 and PC 602 do not have anything related to solicitation or prostitution. However, they are a signal that a person might have been initially charged with prostitution or solicitation. Also, they are less severe crimes that enable a person to prevent the stigma related to a solicitation or prostitution conviction. Consequently, these charges are a compromise, which often suits the defendant and the prosecution.
Alternatively, your PC 647b charges may be reduced to PC 647a charges, lewd behavior in public. This offense is less severe compared to prostitution & solicitation charges. Also, unlike PC 647b, PC 647a is not a priorable crime.
Related Offenses to Prostitution & Solicitation Charges
Related offenses to PC 647b are the various crimes the prosecutor can charge you with in addition to or instead of prostitution or solicitation. These offenses include:
Pimping & pandering (PC 266h & 266i)
Pimping refers to knowingly surviving on the part of or the whole of a prostitute’s earnings. It includes, but not limited to, taking a portion of the earnings of a prostitute, and in exchange, you find him/her customers. Pandering, on the other hand, refers to either:
- Making someone else available for prostitution purposes
- Encouraging someone or recruiting them to remain or become prostitutes
Pimping & pandering are charged as felonies. A conviction of either of them carries a potential sentence of six, four, or three years in prison.
Aiding or supervising a prostitute (PC 653.23)
Aiding or supervising a prostitute relates to the offenses of pimping & pandering. A person who helps another person to commit solicitation or prostitution in any given way could be charged with PC 653.23. For instance, driving your acquaintance to a place where he/she plans to get a prostitute could expose you to charges of aiding in acts of prostitution. PC 653.23 is charged as a misdemeanor. It carries similar penalties as those of solicitation & prostitution. That is a maximum jail sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $1000.
Lewd behavior in public (PC 647a)
According to PC 647a, it is an offense to get involved in lewd acts publicly or soliciting another person into doing so. Streetwalkers, as well as their possible customers, often get prosecuted under both PC 647a and PC 647b.
What usually happens is that police officers often place surveillance posts to monitor common prostitutes stationed at public places. When they see a customer make contact with these prostitutes, they will follow these suspects. After the suspects get involved in a prostitution act, mostly in a car, the officers arrest both suspects under PC 647a and PC 647b.
Because the cops are only monitoring from a safe distance, charges of lewd behavior can be hard to prove. However, since it’s a less severe crime compared to PC 647b, it is sometimes charged as a charge reduction after plea bargaining.
Loitering to engage in prostitution (PC 653.22)
You violate PC 653.22 laws when you wander in public places with the intent to participate in prostitution. For instance, continually standing on streets commonly identified for prostitution while scantily dressed and are waving to passing cars is sufficient to have you charged with PC 653.22. Loitering to get involved in prostitution is charged as a misdemeanor. Its possible punishment includes a maximum of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1000.
Rape (PC 261)
PC 261 defines rape as non-consensual sex. As per this law, a prostitute is allowed to request his/her customer to discontinue the prostitution act any time he/she wants to. And in case the customer declines, he/she could face both rape and prostitution charges. Rape is charged as a felony. Its consequences may include three, six, or eight years in prison. And if the victim in question were a child, you would get between seven and thirteen years of a prison sentence.
Indecent exposure (PC 314)
PC 314 prohibits you from exposing your genitals publicly. However, for you to be convicted of PC 314, you must have had the intent to draw the attention of the public to your genitals. Many acts of prostitution occur privately in hotel rooms, remote, secluded places, or cars. So, even though it may appear as though prostitution can additionally lead to charges of indecent exposure, acts that happen in private wouldn’t. Generally, PC 314 is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a jail sentence that does not exceed six months.
Get a Prostitution & Solicitation Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or a person you love is facing prostitution & solicitation charges, you must seek legal representation as quickly as possible. With several years of existence and experience, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm boasts the knowledge and expertise to assess your case and build a solid defense strategy. All of our attorneys strive to ensure you get the best, favorable results for your situation. Prostitution charges may have lasting repercussions on your personal as well as professional life. Thus, do not hesitate to seek help. Call us at 310-935-1675 to share your case and for a free consultation. We help persons arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Los Angeles County of California.