- and entrapment.
It pays to have a lawyer familiar with the Torrance court system. It should go without saying, but don’t talk to the police or make any kind of statement. You may believe it’s a misunderstanding, but the best course of action is to seek legal representation as soon as possible. A lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and minimize the embarrassment of these socially stigmatized charges.
Prostitution and Solicitation Offenses
California Penal Code 647 covers these offenses. While these arrests may occur during massage parlor stings and other large-scale operations, individuals can also face charges as a result of actions that started with online listings like Myredbooks, Humaniplex, and Craigslist personals. A first-time conviction would be a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $100 fine plus fees, but subsequent convictions can be felonies with mandatory minimum sentences.
- (Read more about the difference between felonies and misdemeanors)
When you’re under investigation for these kinds of charges, it’s important to not speak to the police about the allegations. You need a defense attorney who can explain the relevant laws and plan an appropriate defense.
- Engaging in Prostitution: This charge involves intentionally engaging in a lewd act in exchange for money, drugs, or another form of compensation. This definition doesn’t require intercourse though it involves intent to cause sexual arousal or gratification through contact with intimate parts of the anatomy. For example, if a woman accepts money or drugs in exchange for allowing her breasts to be fondled, then this could be defined as prostitution in California.
- Solicitation: With the intent to engage in prostitution, this crime involves enticing someone else to engage in the act. Either a prostitute or a “john” (the customer) may be charged with this offense. To support a conviction, there must be more than a simple conversation or gesture. Physical action such as payment must demonstrate a specific intent to engage in prostitution.
- Agreeing to Engage in Prostitution: Whereas solicitation involves making an offer or enticement, this offense is the acceptance of the offer and demonstrating intent to commit the act. Driving to a location and payment can be used as proof of this intent.
Pimping and Pandering Charges
The past several years in California have seen an increase in the number of criminal cases involving pimping, partially related to initiatives against human trafficking. Penal Code 266 covers cases of pimping and pandering. A felony conviction can come with up to 6 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Penalties may be more severe if the circumstances involve a minor engaging in prostitution.
- Pimping: This charge deals with recruiting customers and collecting a portion of the prostitute’s payment in exchange for the service as a middleman. Under Penal Code 266h, the definition of a pimp includes someone who “knowing another person is a prostitute, lives or derives support or maintenance in whole or in part from the earnings or proceeds of the person’s prostitution . . . or who solicits or receives compensation for soliciting for the person.”
- Pandering: Recruiting or convincing someone else to engage in prostitution, pandering involves making that person available for the act of prostitution. Advertising, transportation, and phone calls can be ways of making someone available. Pandering can also mean hiring prostitutes to sexually gratify a person other than the defendant or obtaining prostitutes to work in a place of prostitution. Under Penal Code 266i, pandering includes (but is not limited to) when a person “by promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages another person to become a prostitute.” Unlike with pimping, a person accused of pandering may not have profited personally from the exchange in question.
Law enforcement agencies have developed a variety of strategies for getting arrests in these cases, whether they organize a massage parlor sting operation or investigate escort services. Agents have also been known to post or reply to listings on Craigslist personals and other websites as a part of sting operations.
Individuals charged with solicitation and related crimes may feel that they are victims of entrapment. Entrapment is a term for when a law enforcement agent entices a person to commit a crime that he or she would have been unlikely to commit without that inducement. If undercover police operations go beyond the point of presenting the opportunity for criminal behavior, and if they actively induce criminal behavior in a potential suspect, then a case can be made for entrapment.
Potential Arguments for Defense
- Insufficient Evidence: Often, a suspect will be arrested without video or audio evidence of the intent to commit a crime. This makes it harder for the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. Undercover agents of the LAPD often wear a wire or recording device in an attempt to gather evidence, but if recordings are not entered as evidence, then this can be a cause for doubt among jurors.
- Lack of Intent: The state must prove intent to commit or influence prostitution. A person who has agreed to engage in an act of prostitution must have the intent to follow through and act “in furtherance of prostitution.” Withdrawing money from an ATM or driving to a location can be seen as acts demonstrating intent.
- Falsely Accused: Personal motives including revenge and jealousy can lead individuals to falsely accuse others of criminal behavior.
It’s important to seek legal representation for any crime related to prostitution, solicitation, or pimping. Even in the case of a first-time offense for solicitation, the relatively minor offense can affect future employment opportunities and stain your record. Many people see these charges as embarrassing and seek to have their records cleared through diversion programs.
First-time offenders without priors can be eligible for the Los Angeles County Prostitution Diversion Program (PDP) which involves a one day class or “john school” for those seeking the services of a prostitute. Suspected prostitutes are eligible for a similar program at Journey Out, formerly Mary Magdalene House. The diversion program requires that you enter a guilty or no contest plea, and then your case is dismissed if you are not arrested again for a full year.
This diversion program can be problematic for professionals and immigrants, however, because some licensing boards and immigration authorities would see the guilty plea as equivalent to a conviction. Even after charges are dismissed a year later, a future arrest and conviction will bring the stricter sentences reserved for repeat offenders.
When facing charges of prostitution or solicitation, pleas can sometimes be reduced to Disturbing the Peace (PC 415) or Criminal Trespass (PC 602). As the charges of prostitution and solicitation carry a very negative social stigma, defendants may choose to negotiate through their lawyer for charges that would be less embarrassing in front of family and employers.
History of Solicitation Law in California
California Penal Code 647 was introduced in 1961, which prohibited “disorderly conduct” including prostitution. The initial legislation prohibited soliciting and engaging in acts of prostitution, but prostitutes were able to avoid the charge by “agreeing” to the exchange proposed by a “john.” In 1986, Penal Code 647(b) made it so that agreeing to prostitution was also illegal. Prior to the amendment in 1986, an undercover agent could approach a prostitute and ask if she would be willing to engage in prostitution, but she would not have been committing a crime by agreeing to the exchange. In order for it to be a crime, prior to 1986, she would have had to propose the exchange (or solicit) herself. With broader laws in place, undercover officers can pose as prostitutes or as “johns” and record the conversation for evidence of criminal behavior.
Defense Attorney for You
For a sympathetic prostitution defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Andrew Bouvier-Brown. We know the Torrance court system, and we also serve Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and the Harbor City area. While we can give some general description of how pimping and solicitation laws work in California, our website is not intended as legal advice.
Give us a call for a free consultation, and we’ll gladly discuss your individual circumstances and how best to handle the specific charges. Whether you feel that you’ve been entrapped or just want to negotiate for a lesser charge, we can only help when we understand your individual case.
Prostitution charges and entrapment both involve complex legal definitions, and it would be inadvisable to attempt to navigate the legal system without the help of an attorney. Call the Law Office of Andrew Bouvier-Brown to see how we can help.