California has stringent laws regarding sex crimes. These are some of the offenses that are highly punishable under state laws. Prostitution is among these offenses, and loitering to solicit or commit prostitution is a separate offense that is punishable with time behind bars and hefty penalties. However, the law does not require the prosecutor to catch the offender in the act for them to be charged with loitering to engage in prostitution. Thus, it is possible for innocent persons to face charges for such a severe offense.
If this is happening to you or your loved one, all you need is the help and guidance of an experienced criminal attorney. He/she will prove before the court that you did not intend to solicit or engage in prostitution or entrapped. If you are in San Jose, we at California Criminal Lawyer Group could help you develop your charges' best defense.
Legal Definition of Loitering To Take Part in Prostitution
Prostitution is illegal in California and many other states. It is defined as offering to accept or pay money or something valuable in exchange for sexual acts. If a person is convicted of prostitution in the state, they could spend up to six months behind bars and pay a fine of up to $1000. Loitering to take part in prostitution is a similar offense to prostitution, though both are defined and penalized differently. This offense requires a person to be found in a public or communal place, loitering, and to engage in prostitution.
It means that the police can arrest a person who intends to solicit prostitution and is planning to offer themselves up for prostitution. Note that the person will still be found guilty even if they did not commit the underlying offense of prostitution or soliciting for prostitution. Not that when a prostitute and a customer engage in sexual acts, both are guilty of engaging in prostitution acts. Thus, it is possible for a person found out in the streets to be arrested and charged with loitering to engage in prostitution even if they had other valid reasons to be out there.
Loitering to engage in prostitution is provided under Section 653.22 of California laws. Under this law, specific facts or elements of the offense help define the offense clearly. They are also the facts that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court for the offender to be found guilty. These are:
- That the offender was found loitering
- That the place he/she was loitering was a public space
- That the offender's main reason to be there was to engage in prostitution
To understand this offense even more, let us look at some of these facts in detail.
As used in this context, loitering means lingering or delaying in one place without any legal purpose and/or to commit an offense if an opportunity comes up. It means that a person cannot be loitering if they only passed through a specific place. However, if you have stayed in the same place for a certain length of time, with no apparent purpose why you are there, you may be found guilty of loitering.
If, however, a person is arrested for loitering in a public space, they show proof that they had a different reason to be in that place, they will not be found guilty of loitering for the purpose of prostitution. This argument could work if a person has been arrested in such a place as a bar where they were drinking with friends.
Note that Section 653.22 requires a person to be loitering in public to be found guilty. In this context, a public area means any place that is open for members of the public. This place could be a park, alley, plaza, parking lot, or driveway. Note that parked and moving cars are also taken as public places in California. Restaurants, bars, strip clubs, and other structures that are open to public members are considered public spaces as well. Their entrances and doorways will be regarded as public areas and the grounds surrounding them. Again, driving from place to place in your vehicle can also be considered loitering in public places.
However, a person cannot be charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution if they were idling in a party held in a person's private property. The charges will not hold as long as the place of arrest was not a public area.
This is the prosecutor's intent to prove to the court for a person found loitering in a public area to face conviction under Section 653.22. It is also the most challenging bit for the prosecutor since proving a person's intent is not always easy. There is no way to know that a person indeed intended to take part in prostitution unless you try to catch them to solicit or offer themselves up for prostitution. That is why most of these offenses involve in-depth investigation, whereby undercover officers could be used to entrap criminals.
The main proof of this intent would be that the offender was willing to offer or accept money or something valuable in exchange for sexual acts. Note that the offender does not have to be caught up in prostitution to be found guilty. Again, the offender could either be male or female.
Proof of Intent in Section 653.22 of California Laws
As mentioned above, this will be the trickiest bit of investigations involving most sexual offenses. There is no way for the prosecutor, the judge, or even the jury to be 100% of what a person intended. It is also common for the police to misinterpret a person's actions, especially if they were caught in the wrong area at the wrong moment. This is when a smart criminal defense attorney will weaken the prosecutor's case against his/her client.
The fact that a person cannot be convicted under Section 653.22 until there is proof of their intent makes this an almost impossible case to win by the prosecutor. However, tell-tale behaviors could quickly sell-out the person's intention to solicit or offer themselves for prostitution when portrayed in certain situations. Some of these actions include:
- A person that is seen beckoning, stopping or engaging another in a conversation repeatedly in a way to indicate that they are asking for or offering prostitution
- A person who is seen repeatedly stopping or attempting to stop vehicles by waving or hailing the motorists or using other gestures could indicate that they are asking for prostitution.
- A person who drives in the same place in circles, beckoning, contacting or trying to stop or contact other drivers, or pedestrians in a manner that indicates that they are offering prostitution
- A person who has been portraying any of those behaviors mentioned above or similar behavior indicates that they are asking for prostitution for at least six months before their arrest.
- A person who has been previously convicted for loitering for the commission of prostitution, soliciting lewd conduct, or displaying lewd behavior in public or similar offenses in the past five years
The court will accept any of these arguments as proof that the person indeed intended to participate in prostitution, especially if the person was arrested in an area famous for prostitution. However, note that a person can be in such a place for other reasons other than prostitution.
However, there is no guarantee that the court will accept any of the above-listed conduct as proof of intent to participate in prostitution. Thus, the prosecutor must be ready with other tell-tale signs if, indeed, they want their case to end up with a conviction. If this offense's legal definition is anything to go by, using circumstantial evidence is not enough to get a conviction. Again, not all people who are loitering to participate in prostitution portray such conduct as ones listed above.
In that case, the prosecutor and the court will consider other factors as tell-tale indications that the offender indeed intended to participate in prostitution. For instance, such behavior could be that you once engaged in prostitution even if the offense was committed more than 6 months ago. Other conducts that could be used as proof of your intent include:
- That you gave a false name or birth date to the police the moment you were questioned
- That you were with a person who has a criminal account of prostitution at the time of your arrest
- That you were found in possession of condoms
It shows that California prosecutors, juries, and judges have considerable discretion in arresting and sentencing offenders under Section 653.22. However, what is unknown is that the law now makes way for police officers to target specific types of people, groups, or even neighborhoods. The good news is that a person can still not face conviction under this law even if they portrayed any of the mentioned behavior. Remember that all the offense elements must be fully satisfied for a person to be found guilty.
Penalties for Those Convicted Under California Law Section 653.22
Loitering with intent to engage in prostitution is a misdemeanor in California. If a person is convicted, the sentences they are likely to receive include:
- A fine of not more than $1000
- A maximum of six months behind bars
The judge has complete discretion in determining the kind of punishment the offender will get.
Possible Legal Defenses against Charges of Loitering For The Commission of Prostitution
A charge for loitering to engage in prostitution may not seem dangerous, but a conviction is life-changing, especially if it will appear on your criminal record. Again, you may lose valuable time if you are sent to jail for a few months. Thus, it is advisable to try and fight the charges and ensure that you are not getting a conviction. That is why you need the help of an experienced criminal attorney. With the right legal advice, your charges could either be dropped or reduced. Your attorney will use specific legal defense strategies to achieve a desirable outcome out of your case. Some of these strategies are:
Loitering to take part in prostitution is among the criminal charges that should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the offender to be found guilty. In that case, a defense such as insufficient evidence could compel the court to drop your charges. Several factors should be considered as evidence that the offender planned to engage in prostitution. The judge will consider all these and the facts of your case in announcing his/her verdict.
As mentioned above, it will be challenging for the prosecutor to prove your intent. Remember that an innocent scenario can always be misinterpreted as intent to commit an offense. Your attorney can take advantage of such facts to weaken the prosecutor's evidence and prove that your actions did not necessarily mean that you planned to engage in prostitution.
However, note that this may not be as simple as it seems, especially if the arrest happened in an area popular with prostitution. Again, if the police's account of the day's events is more reliable, you may face a conviction. A criminal attorney who has worked on similar cases will know the police and prosecutors' strategies to get a conviction. Thus, he/she will be better positioned to argue your case out and give you the outcome you deserve.
As mentioned earlier, sexual offenses are, in most cases, secretly committed, with little or no evidence left behind by the perpetrators. The same goes for the crime of loitering to engage in prostitution. There is no straightforward way to know that a person is loitering with intent to engage in prostitution. To gather enough evidence, the police are forced to use tricks and baits to catch the act's perpetrators.
While entrapment is a good strategy that could work in such a case, it can weaken the evidence collected by the police against the alleged offender. If a person has been entrapped, it could mean that he/she was made to do something they would otherwise not have done in a different circumstance. If that is the case, he/she will not be found guilty under Section 653.22. The case will also be ruled in your favor if the police used to pressure, fraud, harassment, threats, or flattery to cause you to commit the offense.
Loitering For Commission of Prostitution and Related Offenses
Certain crimes in California are related to the offense of loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. Some of these crimes are charged in place of this offense while others are accused of the offense. The most common of these offenses include:
Prostitution and Soliciting for Prostitution
The law against prostitution and soliciting for prostitution in California is provided under Section 647(b) of the state laws. This law makes it a criminal offense for anyone to offer money or themselves up for prostitution. The similarity between Sections 653.22 and 647(b) is that in both cases, the court will not need proof that, indeed, the criminal act of prostitution happened.
Section 647b makes it illegal for a person to engage in prostitution, solicit any prostitution, or even to agree to any acts of prostitution. A person is said to engage in acts of prostitution if they engage in sexual acts in exchange for money or valuable items. Soliciting for prostitution happens when a person offers money or something valuable to another in exchange for sexual acts.
In both cases, the intent of engaging in acts of prostitution must be proven for the offender to be found guilty. The intention in prostitution or solicitation for prostitution is easy to show, as in most cases, it involves the exchange of money or something valuable.
These are two offenses that could be charged interchangeably, based on what the prosecutor finds easy to prove. Sometimes proving that a person was loitering with the intent of committing prostitution is not easy. For that reason, he/she could charge the offender with prostitution or soliciting for the same.
Lewd Acts in Public
This, too, is an offense that is closely related to California Section 653.22. The law against the display of lewd acts in public is provided under Section 647a of the state laws. In most cases, a person who has been convicted of lewd acts in public is likely to face loitering charges with the intent of committing prostitution the next time they are arrested. The same applies to a person that has been previously convicted of soliciting for lewd acts in public.
Lewd acts in public, as explained under this law, could mean touching oneself or another individual’s private part for sexual gratification or arousal. A person will be found guilty of the offense if they did this knowing too well that there was a person or people nearby watching, and these people could take offense in their acts. If found guilty, the person will face a misdemeanor conviction, which is punishable by a maximum of six months behind bars.
Loitering for the Solicitation of Purchase of Alcohol
This law is provided under Section 303a of California laws. It is used against those arrested and found guilty of loitering in or around areas with bars and restaurants to ask customers and other patrons to purchase alcohol. The offense is also a misdemeanor in California, carrying a jail sentence of up to six months if the offender is convicted. However, just like in a case of loitering or prostitution, the prosecutor will be expected to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was indeed loitering in the area where they were arrested.
However, Section 303a is not a very popular law but will be used to caution people who are breaking laws regarding alcohol consumption or displaying public morality. This is also a law that can be used interchangeably with loitering for the commission of prostitution, mainly because most prostitutes will find their clients in drinking dens. A prostitution charge will weigh heavily on you if it appears on your criminal record. Thus, many people prefer to face charges under Section 303a, which is a less-serious offense and one that will have less stigma even if it appears on your record.
Note that a conviction under Section 303a of California laws is also a misdemeanor, attracting similar penalties as those faced by those found guilty for loitering with intent to commit prostitution. However, your attorney will always watch out for a conviction's implication before allowing you to take a guilty plea for any offense. That is why a conviction under Section 303a will be favorable in this case.
When California passed Section 653.22 into law, it was apparent that local governments were free to pass laws regarding loitering to take part in prostitution. This means that county governments are free to impose stringent restrictions and additional punishments than what has been stated by the state laws. Therefore, if you are found guilty under this law, you may face more or even fewer penalties than earlier provided, based on the county where the offense was committed. Working closely with an experienced criminal attorney will make things easier for you to understand your options.
Find a California Criminal Lawyer Law Firm Near Me
Loitering for the commission of prostitution is a severe offense whose conviction is life-changing. In addition to payment of a hefty fine and time behind bars, you may face stigma if the conviction lingers longer in your criminal record. The good thing is that California law allows people facing criminal convictions to have a legal representation that will ensure a fair hearing. All you need is an experienced criminal attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have the skills and experience you might need to skip a conviction. Therefore, if you are in San Jose, CA, call us at 408-622-0204 and let us compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges.