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Loitering To Commit Prostitution

Loitering is hanging around a business or a public area without a legal or specific motive to be in the area. In Van Nuys, where the police seek to crack down on prostitution, you can be charged with loitering to commit prostitution when the prosecutor is not able to establish that you were soliciting prostitution. Even though the offense is a California misdemeanor, a conviction could mean a potential jail sentence, paying fines, and a criminal record. If you're wrongly accused, you might still be found guilty should you fail to engage an experienced criminal defense lawyer like our attorneys at Leah Legal.

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Loitering to Commit Prostitution (PC 653.22)

The term "prostitution" can be defined as committing sexual conduct for remuneration or compensation. A defendant could also be put in custody and imprisoned under California Penal Code Section 653.22 if they were loitering and planned to engage in prostitution, even if they never committed the act, or were arrested while offering to commit it.

The police search for suspects in specific locations and particular signals that they are prostitutes who are looking for customers. That means the police can arrest you because they thought you wanted to commit prostitution.

Understanding the Elements of the Crime

To find a defendant guilty of the offense in question, the prosecution should establish the below facts beyond any reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant was loitering
  • The defendant loitered in a public area
  • The defendant intended to engage in prostitution

To comprehend the above legal definition, here is an overview of all the facts of the crime.


Loitering is lingering or delaying in one place with no legal purpose and with the intent to engage in an offense if an opportunity arises.

Therefore, you aren't loitering if you're passing through an area. To be charged under Penal Code Section 653.22, you need to have spent some time in the area.

Additionally, you can't be arrested for Penal Code 653.22 if you prove that you have another reason why you are in the area, for instance, you are drinking with your friends in a restaurant.

Public Place

You can only violate Penal Code Section 653.22 PC if you were in a public area.

The term "public place" refers to any area that is open and accessible by the public. Perfect examples include a park, driveway, plaza, parking lot, or an alley. Please note, parking and moving motor vehicles are also public places.

Moreover, movie theaters, strip clubs, bars, restaurants, and buildings that are open and accessible by the public are public places. Entrances, doorways, and grounds around the buildings are also public areas.

However, you can't be charged with loitering to engage in prostitution for conduct that happens in a party held at a person's private home.

Intent to Engage in Prostitution

This is another element of the offense where the prosecutor should prove that you planned to commit prostitution.

Prostitution refers to a sexual act for cash or any other form of payment. However, it doesn't take in sexual conduct, which happens in a play, stage performance, or entertainment that is accessible by the general public, such as strip club performances.

How Does the Prosecution Know You Planned to Engage in Prostitution?

Determining whether you purposed to engage in prostitution is hard. Therefore, it is common for police to misinterpret a person's conduct who is in the wrong area at the wrong time. Any competent defense lawyer should assist a defendant in finding weaknesses and missing gaps in the prosecutor's case.

Proving Intent

As previously mentioned, you can only be sentenced to loitering with an intent to engage in prostitution if you showed the intention to engage in prostitution. You show the intent by behaving in a way, as well as under circumstances that openly prove that you have the purpose of getting another person to engage in prostitution or soliciting prostitution.

Conduct that Could Demonstrate Intent

According to California Penal Code Section 653.22, the following conduct can show that a defendant planned to engage in prostitution:

  • The defendant continuously signals, stops, talks with or attempts to speak with or stop people passing by, in a manner that shows the defendant is soliciting prostitution
  • The defendant continually stops or tries to stop motor vehicles by waving, calling the motorists, or gesturing, or talks or attempts to talk to motorists, in a manner that shows the defendant is soliciting prostitution
  • The defendant circles a place in a car and continuously contacts or beckons on, or attempts to reach or stop drivers or pedestrians, in a manner that shows the defendant is soliciting prostitution
  • The accused has committed at least one of the mentioned above conducts previously highlighted, or any other conduct that shows the defendant is soliciting prostitution within six months before their arrest
  • The accused had a previous soliciting lewd conduct, loitering to commit prostitution, or lewd conduct in public, prostitution, soliciting prostitution conviction within five years

These conducts are likely to prove intent to engage in prostitution if they occurred in a place that is popular for prostitution.

The Accused Determination

It is worth noting that the situations listed-above are not determinative or exclusive. That means you do not need to perform any of the conducts to be sentenced for violating PC 653.22.

The jury can also put other factors into consideration. For instance, they can put into account conduct, which shows you had previously solicited prostitution, even when the behavior happened more than six months before your arrest.

Other acts that can prove you planned to engage in prostitution include:

  • Carrying condoms
  • Being together with a person with a previous prostitution conviction
  • Giving the police a fake name when questioned

Well, you can see the amount of discretion the cops, judges, and prosecutors have in accusing and sentencing a person for breaking Penal Code Section 653.22. The law allows law enforcement officers to target specific individuals, groups, or neighborhoods unfairly.

Fortunately, it is not a must that you are found guilty because you performed one of the acts listed above. You will only be sentenced if the circumstances in your case demonstrate that you planned to engage in prostitution.

Penalties Attracted by Violation of PC section 653.22

Violation of PC 653.22 is a misdemeanor. It carries the following potential penalties:

  • A maximum of six months in jail
  • Up to one thousand dollars in fine

Only the judge determines the exact jail term.

Additionally, if a U.S immigrant is convicted, they risk deportation or losing privileges granted to them like a green card, work visa, or permanent resident alien status.

How to Fight Penal Code Section 653.22 PC Charges

Any sex crime conviction in California has long-lasting repercussions on a defendant's future, career, and life. Luckily, there are several legal defenses that your experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can use to fight the charges. They include:

Insufficient Evidence that a Defendant Planned to Engage in Prostitution

Various factors might demonstrate that a defendant purposed to engage in prostitution. However, to establish this, the judge has to:

  • Put into consideration all the case's circumstances, and
  • There requires to be adequate proof.

For instance, you could have made eye contact with female motorists because you were hoping a person will give you a ride or you enjoy being flirtatious. Unfortunately, under Penal Code Section 653.22, the police can detain anyone for a harmless act like this, particularly if it occurs in an area where prostitution happens. You will also be jailed if the judge buys the police's side of the story.

Since the law gives discretion to the prosecution team and judges, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer will collect all the essential facts. They will also tell your side of the story persuasively.


Entrapment is not one of the most common defenses. It is used when a law enforcer induces a law-abiding individual to engage in an offense that they wouldn't have otherwise engaged in. Usually, police operating undercover make Penal Code Section 653.22 violation arrests.

Entrapment could be an effective defense if the arresting officer acted in a bossy manner, such as using threats, flattery, pressure, or harassment.

Jury Nullification

Jury nullification is a process where the jury votes an innocent verdict, even though the judge believes beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. It occurs when the judge has a personal, ethical, or moral objection to finding the accused guilty. A judge can nullify any case's verdict, but it's common in prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution cases.

Technically, jury nullification is not a legal defense to Penal Code Section 653.22 PC charges. Instead, it is something that happens as most judges don't believe the offense should be punished, at least in the context of adult prostitution offenses charged as California misdemeanors.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact defense happens when a defendant mistakenly thought a fact was true, while it is untrue, and as a result, the offense is not completed. For instance, if you loitered intending to engage in what you thought was prostitution, but you loitered with a motive to engage in what was not prostitution, then you can use the mistake of fact as a defense.

This case can happen where you loitered outside a hotel, with an intent to enter the hotel and watch people engaging in prostitution. Mere presence at the time of the offense commission isn't an offense. In other words, because you loitered aiming to perform an act that is not an offense (that is to watch prostitutes).

Miranda Violations and Police Misconduct

Sometimes the police should have a search warrant reinforced by probable cause before searching a defendant's motor vehicle in a California PC 653.22 case. This is true if the law enforcer thinks you are using your car regarding violation of PC 653.22.

Under the United States 4th Amendment, the police officer should get your waiver to remain silent before being interrogated (Miranda Rights).

Any search or seizure of evidence conducted without a warrant is breaking your right to privacy. Consequently, any evidence collected during the illegal seizure or search might be prohibited in your case.

It also applies if you made an incriminating statement to law enforcers without first waiving your right to keep quiet or your entitlement to have a lawyer present during the interrogations.

Other police misconduct concerns that could result in Penal Code Section 653.22 defense include:

  • Police officer's racial profiling
  • Excessive application of force by the police
  • Police false reporting
  • Use of coercive strategies to get confessions
  • Failure to present exculpatory discovery (proof that favors the defendant)

Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations can be defined as the amount of time the prosecution team has to bring criminal charges against you. In California, the statute of limitations is a year from your arrest's date. Otherwise, the judge will not listen to the criminal case.

Plea Bargain

The best outcome in your criminal case is a dismissal of the charges. It is sometimes possible, depending on your criminal history and the strength of the prosecutor's case.

If the attorney is unable to have the charges dismissed, they can bargain for a charge reduction that carries less stigma or a lesser sentence.

Your charge could be reduced to PC 602 (trespass) or PC 415 (disturbing the peace). Your penalties could be reduced to house arrest, probation without a jail sentence, or work release.

Related Offenses

Discussed below are offenses that are charged in place of or alongside PC 653.22:

Loitering to Solicit the Purchase of Alcohol

Under Penal Code Section 303a, it is a crime to loiter near a restaurant, bar, or any establishment that sells alcohol with an intent to persuade people to buy you drinks. It is a California misdemeanor.

Sometimes, prostitutes find customers in clubs or bars and start the deal by convincing their clients to buy them a drink or two. If arrested under similar circumstances, you can try to get the loitering with a purpose to engage in prostitution charges reduced to a Penal Code Section 303a charge. Loitering to solicit the purchase of alcohol conviction will carry less stigma on your criminal record.

Local Ordinances

When PC 653.22 passed, the legislature did not stop the local government from imposing their laws on loitering for prosecution. Therefore, county and city governments can impose more severe restrictions and penalties like forfeiture of property on this conduct.

Lewd Conduct in Public (PC 647a)

You are more likely to be found guilty of loitering to engage in prostitution if you have a previous Penal Code Section 647a PC conviction. The same is true for a solicitation of lewd conduct prior conviction.

Lewd conduct in public can be defined as touching your or somebody else's private organs with sexual arousal intentions. It should be done when you are aware or ought to have known that there is a person nearby who will be offended.

Violation of California Penal Code 647a is a misdemeanor.

Prostitution and Solicitation of Prostitution (PC 647b)

Sometimes, the prosecution team will tag loitering to engage in prostitution charges on solicitation of prostitution or prostitution charges because a loitering charge is easy to establish.

Additionally, you will probably be sentenced for loitering to engage in prostitution if you have a solicitation of prostitution or prostitution conviction within the past five years.

A defendant can be charged with prostitution if they engage in prostitution and acts so willfully (on purpose or deliberately).

To be found guilty of soliciting prostitution, the prosecution team should present evidence that a defendant:

  • Solicited somebody else to engage in prostitution
  • Acted so with an intent to engage in prostitution

Violation of Penal Code Section 647b PC is a California misdemeanor.

Understanding the Relationship Between Loitering to Engage in Prostitution and S.B. 1322

According to California Senate Bill 1322, a Penal Code Section 653.22 charge does not apply to children below eighteen years of age. Signed into law in 2016, this defense applies, even if all the facts of the offense prove otherwise. Instead, the minor could be committed as a defendant minor in a juvenile proceeding.

Also, S.B. 1322 doesn't apply to people who solicit a minor to prostitution.

This law was tailored to protect exploited minors of human trafficking from undergoing the stigma that comes with a Penal Code Section 653.22 conviction.

Moreover, under SB1322, it is illegal to have a minor prostitute as an uncharged accomplice of pimping, something that permitted under Penal Code 266h.


Violation of Penal Code Section 653.22 PC is only prosecuted as a California misdemeanor. That means if convicted, you are eligible for expungement under Penal Code Section 1203.4.

Also known as dismissal, an expungement will release you from the negative repercussions and penalties of the conviction. One of its benefits is that the sealed conviction will not be disclosed to your potential landlord and employees. It also makes it easier to acquire professional licenses.

Hire a Los Angeles Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

It is illegal to loiter with a motive to engage in prostitution (Penal Code Section 653.22 PC) in Van Nuys. The charge carries a social stigma that often results in a damaged reputation or embarrassment. You also risk having a criminal record, paying fines, and serving a jail sentence. At Legal Leah, we understand that sex charges shouldn't be taken lightly. Consequently, we can help protect your rights and realize the best possible outcome. To speak to one of our compassionate attorneys, call us at 818-484-1100 today.