Prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are two of the most common sex crimes in the world. The good news is that because these crimes involve two or more willing adults, they are considered two of the least serious sex offenses and do not result in mandatory sex offender registration in California. Even so, if you have been charged with prostitution or solicitation in San Diego, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Is Prostitution Legal in San Diego or the state of California?
No. While the state has recently decriminalized the act of “loitering with the intent to commit prostitution” and has prohibited police from using possession of condoms as evidence that someone is a sex worker, prostitution itself is still against the law under California Penal Code 647(b) (PC).
Laws decriminalizing loitering are not intended as a step towards legalizing prostitution. Instead, they are designed to prohibit discriminatory policing against LGBT and minorities who were disproportionately arrested for this offense based on evidence such as their location, clothing, and their possession of a cell phone, condoms, or cash.
What are the Elements of 647(b) (PC)?
Both those who intend to sell their bodies and those who intend to purchase sexual favors can be charged under 647(b) (PC). Under this law, the following conditions must be met to show that someone was going to participate in an act of prostitution:
- They intended to engage in a sex act for money
- They requested someone else engage in the act with them
- The other individual received their request
Some examples of prostitution under the law include:
- A woman approaches a man’s stopped vehicle and offers to give him oral sex for drugs
- A man posts an ad online offering “companionship” and then arranges via text message to have anal sex with someone for money
Examples of someone soliciting services with a prostitute include:
- A man emailing someone from an escort service online promising to pay “big bucks” for sex
- A couple offers a homeless woman shelter if she agrees to participate in a threesome
Prostitution and Solicitation Stings
Sadly, while efforts are being made to stop discriminatory arrests of suspected sex workers, prostitution and solicitation charges are becoming increasingly common as police forces around San Diego County have actively joined to stop these crimes. Since loitering is no longer a crime, these arrests increasingly rely on prostitution and solicitation police sting operations, which are now commonplace throughout the county.
Typically these cases are proven by text messages and suspect interviews after arrest. It is important to see all the evidence in these cases because sometimes people try to back out of the offense, which is the defense of abandonment.
What is the Penalty for Prostitution Under 647(b) (PC)?
Prostitution is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines for a first-time offense. Those convicted for a second offense must serve a minimum of 45 days in jail, and penalties for a third or subsequent offense involve a minimum 90-day jail sentence. A conviction can also result in someone losing their driver’s license for up to 30 days if the offense involved a vehicle and took place within 1,000 feet of a house.
Additionally, those who engage in a sex act performed in a public place such as a park may also be arrested and charged with lewd conduct in public.
Minors acting as prostitutes will not be arrested or charged for the crime as they are considered victims. However, anyone accused of pimping or pandering a minor can be charged with human trafficking, will be required to register as a sex offender, and can face up to eight years in prison if the minor was under 16.
What is the Punishment for Those Who Hire Prostitutes in California?
The penalty for soliciting prostitution is usually the same as selling sexual services. However, if the prostitute was a minor, the defendant will likely also be charged with soliciting sex with a minor, which carries a lengthy prison term and mandatory registration as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.
How to Beat a Solicitation or Prostitution Charge in California
Fortunately, just being charged with either of these crimes does not mean there is enough evidence to prove your guilt. To secure a conviction of solicitation or prostitution, the law states that the prosecution can prove the suspect 1) agreed to engage in sexual activity and 2) that there was some sort of act that moved towards the furtherance of such an agreement, such as the exchange of money. In other words, just negotiating the terms of a sexual encounter isn’t enough, one person must take an additional action towards paying or receiving money for a sexual activity.
One of the things that makes prostitution and solicitation charges so unique is that they often teeter between legal and criminal sex acts. For example, while prostitution is against the law, pornography and escort services are both legal, and the line between these activities is often very thin. What you say to the police during an arrest can play a critical role in your case, so never talk to officers without your San Diego prostitution lawyer present.
Your criminal lawyer can help you fight the charges by coming up with the right defense for your specific case, whether it means showing there is a lack of evidence, arguing that you were wrongly identified as a past offender by police, that you were innocent, that the sting operation where you were arrested violated the law, or another defense.
The best defense in many cases is to secure participate in a misdemeanor diversion program, which will allow you to avoid a conviction after a period of 6 months to 2 years.
If you have been accused of any crime involving an underage prostitute, do not speak with investigators without your attorney present, as anything you say could hurt your defense later.
If you have been accused of solicitation or prostitution, remember that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can be used against you. As soon as you have been placed under arrest, immediately request to speak to your criminal defense attorney and refuse to answer any questions about the crime you have been charged with. Please contact Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.