If you have been arrested on a charge of prostitution or solicitation of a prostitute in California, don't be fooled into thinking "no one prosecutes those kinds of crimes anymore." That simply is not true, and a conviction on either of these two crimes could lead to serious long-term consequences, including lifetime registration as a sex offender.
At our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm, we understand the details of how prostitution-related charges are prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 647b. We have defended all manner of prostitution and solicitation cases in the past and have won the best possible outcomes for our clients. We stand ready to do the same for you.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, do not hesitate to call us 24/7 at 818-484-1100.
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How Are Prostitution, Solicitation, and Similar Crimes Defined Under California Law?
Under PC 647b, both prostitution and solicitation for prostitution are defined and criminalized. And there are also additional closely related crimes that fall under this same umbrella.
- Engaging in prostitution is defined as having sex or committing any lewd sexual act with some other person in return for money or some other form of compensation.
To be guilty of prostitution, you must have committed this crime willingly and knowingly. That does not mean you had to know the act was illegal but simply that it was not a misunderstanding but a willful act of prostitution.
Note that a lewd act can be touching the genitalia of another person or touching the but or female breasts, if it be done for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.
- Solicitation for prostitution is defined as luring or inducing another person to commit prostitution. The act must have been done for the purpose of actually committing the crime.
It is possible for solicitation to be committed by a prostitute, by someone trying to contact a prostitute, or by someone trying to get someone who never committed prostitution in the past to do so.
In order to prove "specific intent" in a solicitation case, normally it must be shown that money or other compensation, such as narcotics, were offered for sex. It generally isn't sufficient to simply show a particular gesture was made or that sex was asked for.
It isn't enough to simply show a person was present in a place where prostitutes often wait "for business," nodded or waved to a passerby, or stood scantily clad by a busy street. Those elements might be brought up in a trial, but they cannot prove the charge by themselves.
And it is also generally required that the person being solicited "received" the solicitation. If it went unnoticed, a conviction would be very difficult to say the least. But that doesn't mean the person solicited had to agree to the offer for a conviction to take place.
In some cases, where it is proved you attempted to solicit but your message was never received, a lesser charge of attempted solicitation could be filed, which would cut your sentence in half in terms of fine and jail time if convicted at all.
- Agreeing to engage in prostitution is defined as indicating you would agree to commit prostitution when solicited to do so, with the intent of actually doing it, and with some other action done in "furtherance" of the crime.
To be convicted of this crime, you not only had to be solicited to prostitution and had an intent to engage in it, but an act of furtherance, such as making a payment for the "service," traveling to the place where the sex was to take place, or taking money from an ATM to give to give to the one who solicited you. Sometimes, speech acts can count as furtherance, but that would require something rather clear and beyond a simple "yes."
Possible Penalties for Prostitution Crimes
The crimes delineated under PC 647b are misdemeanors. The punishment is generally the same whether the crime was engaging in prostitution, solicitation to prostitution, or agreeing to engage in prostitution.
Likely sentencing elements include:
- A maximum of 6 months in jail.
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
But if your charge is reduced to attempting to solicit for prostitution, the penalty would be halved: a $500 maximum fine and up to 3 months in county jail.
And for repeat offenses, there are relatively high minimum actual jail time: 45 days for a second offense, 90 days for third offense.
Prostitution While in a Motor Vehicle
There are additional punishments if a violation of PC 647b takes place while the defendant was in a motor vehicle. This can lead to 30-day license suspension or to driving on a restricted license for up to 6 months. A restricted license allows you to legally drive to/from work (or school) but virtually nowhere else.
It is also possible that your vehicle could be seized by the state under "asset forfeiture" policies if you committed a prostitution crime while in your car.
Sex Offender Registration
Unlike many other California sex crimes, sex offender registration under PC 290 is NOT required automatically for a PC 647b violation.
But it is possible that the presiding judge will include sex offender registration as part of the sentence. This is hardly ever done, but it is still possible. And sex offender registration is for life, and failure to register and keep updated is a felony crime with severe penalties.
Common Defense Strategies
At Leah Legal, we understand the gravity of a PC 647b charge. We realize the impacts it can have on your reputation, career, and relationships, besides the direct legal consequences of a conviction.
Our team of legal experts will work "hard and smart" from day one in building you a solid defense. And the years of experience and numerous prostitution defense cases of every sort we have handled in the past mean that we will know exactly how to defend your case.
Here are some of the most common defense strategies we use at Leah Legal to win an acquittal or a dismissal to a PC 647b charge:
- Mistake of Fact
In order to be guilty of prostitution, solicitation, or agreement to a solicitation, you must have intended to commit these specific acts.
If someone responds to an "escort service" ad, but only is looking for a date, for example, that would not be solicitation for prostitution (even if the service turned out to be a front for a prostitution ring.)
Or, if you were arrested due to your location, attire, gestures, or other factors but did not intend to engage in prostitution, you are not guilty.
- Police Entrapment
This is a very common defense because many people are brought up on charges of prostitution crimes due to police sting operations.
While undercover police can catch people in the act and gain a conviction as a result, there are limits on what police are allowed to do. They cannot apply "high pressure," threats, sexual flattery, and other "overbearing" methods without it counting as entrapment, which could get your case dismissed.
In most cases, the undercover agent will be posing as a prostitute, but they can also pose as "customers" in order to nail a suspected prostitute. It is frequently the case that the methods used go too far and may merit an entrapment argument by the defense.
- Insufficient or Untrustworthy Evidence
As in all other criminal cases, the bar is high: "beyond all reasonable doubt." And that bar is often too hard for prosecutors to reach.
In many cases, there is no tape recording or video or the alleged prostitution agreement being made. And the Los Angeles Police Department will often have decoy cops wired but yet not record the conversations. This obviously makes one wonder why the conversations was not recorded if it was so convicting. Perhaps, there is something the officer is trying to hide.
In other cases, real evidence is indeed presented by the prosecution, but it doesn't come across as unambiguous and clearly incriminating. There may be question as to whether a genuine intent to engage in sex for compensation really existed on the part of the defendant.
In some cases, when a conviction cannot be totally avoided, it may still be possible to secure a reduced charge that will have a much less severe sentence.
Most commonly, a prostitution crime (PC 647b) will get reduced to either PC 415, disturbing the peace, or to PC 602, criminal trespassing. Neither of these charge reductions is much related to the original charge; they are simply related to why the police officer suspected you of prostitution or solicitation to begin with.
Needless to say, having a disturbing the peace or trespassing charge on your record will be much less embarrassing than a prostitution crime conviction. Most people will have no idea there is any connection between your criminal record and the reason you were originally arrested.
A Word on the History of PC 647b in California
Today, with the changing cultural mores, one might think that (especially in a state like California) prostitution and solicitation would not be against the law or at least not be commonly prosecuted. But that simply is not the case.
Prostitution has been around for as long as anyone can remember, and it has always been a problem in the United States. Even during the War for Independence, many sexually transmitted diseases were spread among soldiers because of prostitution.
For a long time, there wasn't a lot of enforcement of anti-prostitution laws. And it wasn't uncommon for police to be bought off to look the other way.
But in California, in 1961, PC 647 was introduced. This cracked down on prostitution and solicitation of prostitutes, and a new crime of agreement to prostitution was added in 1986. It's not as if prostitution and related acts weren't illegal in California earlier, but there was a new emphasis and the number of arrests quickly rose.
And the reason the addition of the agreement to prostitution section was added was because prostitutes were evading arrest by simply agreeing to whatever their "customers" asked for, knowing that that could not get them convicted or in trouble even with an undercover cop.
But many arrested for prostitution crimes due to police decoys began to argue the police entrapment defense, which led to the legal system ultimately requiring an "act in furtherance" of any agreement to commit prostitution before a conviction could be had.
Today, police will sting massage parlors, strip clubs, and other areas where the word on the street is that prostitution is going on. Undercover police will also respond to online or telephone directory ads that seem to be a front for possible prostitution. They will pose as "Johns" as easily as prostitutes these days.
Despite these efforts, prostitution in California and throughout the United States remains common. And false arrests or exaggerated charges of prostitution related crimes are also common in California. And with prosecutors as zealous as ever, it is crucial to avail yourself of a criminal defense attorney with experience in this practice area before stepping foot into the courtroom.
Contact Us Today For Immediate Help
At Leah Legal, we stand ready to stand up and fight for you against any prostitution, solicitation, or other related crime you may be charged with. We have deep knowledge of the California Penal Code and of local L.A. Area court processes regarding these types of cases, and that gives us the edge in the courtroom.