Prostitution and solicitation are both severe offenses in the state of California. They fall under the general umbrella of sex crimes, which are some of the most punished crimes in the state. Getting a conviction of prostitution and solicitation is enough to ruin your life in many ways. Other than being sentenced to time in jail and paying hefty fines, the alleged offender’s social and professional life could be affected too.
Prostitution and solicitation are some of the cases we deal with at California Criminal Lawyer Group. Because of the severe nature of these offenses, a person can face false accusations from another who is jealous or seeking revenge. It will not only ruin your reputation but also have lasting effects on your life. For that reason, we help defend people who are facing prostitution and solicitation charges in San Jose, CA. We could use our skills and experience to compel the court to either drop or reduce your charges.
Overview of Prostitution and Solicitation Laws in California
Prostitution and solicitation are two offenses that, frequently, go hand in hand. The law against this general offense is under Section 647b of the California Legal Code. According to this law, prostitution is defined as the act of exchanging money or any other consideration, whether services or goods, for lewd acts or sex. Note that the law will still apply even when the said conduct did not take place. There are three kinds of behaviors that are prohibited under this law:
- Involvement in acts of prostitution
- Solicitation for acts of prostitution
- Agreed to take part in acts of prostitution
The specific action that the prosecutor will consider an offense, in this case, will be determined by the facts of the case. The facts are the elements of this offense, which the prosecutor must prove before the court for the offender to be found guilty of the offense. To understand them better, let us discuss the three behaviors listed above in detail:
Involvement in Acts of Prostitution
Someone can be found guilty of getting engaged in prostitution if he/she does the following:
- Willfully gets involved in lewd acts or sexual intercourse with another person
- Does so to earn some money or get any other type of compensation
As used in this context, willfully, means that the person committed either of the two acts on purpose or willingly. Note that this does not mean that he/she had the intention of breaking the law.
Lewd acts can be defined as:
- An action that might involve the touching of a person's private parts, including their buttocks, genitals or breasts of a woman
- The touching, in this case, must have a specific intent, which is to either arouse or sexually gratify the person or someone else
Solicitation for Acts of Prostitution
According to California statutes, a person can be found guilty of solicitation for prostitution if they did the following:
- If they requested another person to get involved in acts of prostitution
- If they had the intention of getting involved in prostitution with another person
Note that the defendant, in this case, could either be the alleged prostitute or their customer, depending on the person that initiated the interaction.
Evidence of Intent will be Needed
For any person to be found guilty of soliciting for prostitution, there must be proof that she/he must have had the intention of engaging in acts of prostitution. This intent could be revealed by a willingness to offer money or any other form of compensation, including drugs for sexual favors or lewd acts. However, the court will not consider whether or not that other participant has shared their intent. It means that a person can still face charges and found guilty of solicitation even when they:
- Solicited another person other than a prostitute for sex or lewd acts
- Solicited an undercover agent who was posing as a prostitute
- Solicited a prostitute who could not agree to their offer
Solicitation Intent Should be Clear
There are times some acts are misinterpreted because of how bad they look but are mere innocent actions. Such acts cannot be used as proof that the person was soliciting for prostitution. An example of a harmless act that might be misinterpreted as solicitation includes:
- Waving at a passing motorist
- Being present in an area that is well-known for prostitution
- Nodding or even smiling to a stranger
Agreeing to get Involved in Acts of Prostitution
California courts can find a person guilty of prostitution and solicitation even if they merely decided to take part in acts of prostitution. However, there must be a way to prove that the person meant to go through with it. To verify this, here are elements that the prosecutor is required to demonstrate before the court:
- That the offender agreed to get involved in prostitution with another person
- That the defendant had the intent to get involved in the acts with that person
- After deciding to get involved, the offender did another thing to add to the commission of the act of prostitution
It is the exact opposite of solicitation. One person offers to take part in prostitution with another and faces charges for solicitation. The other person accepts their offer and agrees to get involved in prostitution.
A Verbal Offer is not Enough
More is needed than a spoken offer to convict a person of prostitution or solicitation. The offenders need to have done an additional thing to the commission of either act to be found guilty. This other act must be more than accepting the solicitation. It could be:
- That the defendant further handed over the payment that was agreed upon
- That the defendant went further to withdraw the money from the bank to make the agreed payment
- That both the prostitute and the customer drove to another place where the prostitution act was to take place
- That the defendant acted further by instructing the other person who had agreed to the solicitation to get undressed
Minors Below Eighteen Cannot be Charged with Prostitution and Solicitation
California Senate Bill 1322, which was signed into law by the state Governor Jerry Brown in 2016, brought some amendments to Section 647b of California Laws. This new amendment states that children below the age of 18 are incapable of committing prostitution. If any child is arrested for prostitution, their actions will be considered as being a child who is commercially sexually exploited. In that case, the minor will not be sent to jail or a juvenile hall. Instead, he/she will be declared dependent on the court. He/she will only be taken into provisional custody.
Once the child is placed into short-term custody, the court might provide another order to have the child sent to an emergency shelter or with a close family member for fifteen days.
Penalties for California Prostitution and Solicitation Charges
Prostitution and solicitation is a misdemeanor offense in California. The kind of punishment the defendant receives depends on the following:
- Whether or not it was their first offense or a similar nature
- Whether or not the crime took place
If the defendant is only facing the first arrest for prostitution or solicitation, here are some of the penalties they are likely to get:
- A maximum of six months in jail
- A maximum of $1,000 in fines
If, on the other hand, the offender is facing a second or subsequent charge for prostitution or solicitation, the penalties will be stiffer. Section 647b of California laws is a priorable crime, which means that its penalties increase with every subsequent conviction. The sanctions the offender is likely to get in this case are:
- A mandatory jail term of at least 45 days for second offenders
- A mandatory jail term of 90 days for a third or more offenders
Penalties would be different if the offense were committed in a residential area or a vehicle. In a place of residence means the crime was committed within 1,000 feet from a residential area. In this case, there will be additional penalties on top of those listed above. If the crime was committed with a car, the court can:
- Suspend the offender’s driver’s license for a maximum of one month
- Restrict the offender’s driver’s license for a maximum of six months
With a restricted driving license, the offender will only be allowed to go to or from school or work alone if doing so is essential to their schooling or employment.
There are additional punishments by the local government for prostitution or solicitation. Local jurisdictions can, for instance, impose other penalties for anyone that is found guilty of either of the two offenses. If, for example, the prostitution took place in a vehicle, the local government of the jurisdiction where the crime happened may forfeit the offender's vehicle
The Requirement to Register as a Sex Offender
Fortunately, prostitution and solicitation are two sex-related offenses that do not require the defendant to register as a sex offender in California. However, California judges have total discretion in requiring such registrations, especially if the offense was committed as a consequence of sexual gratification or sexual compulsion. As much as this description applies to most solicitation convictions, a requirement to register is infrequent with most prostitution and solicitation cases in the state.
Possible Legal Defenses for California Prostitution and Solicitation
Prostitution and solicitation are not some of those crimes a person wants to have in their criminal record. The stigma they carry after conviction is more than the penalties you have to pay for the offense. For that reason, it is good to find yourself an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing such charges in California. A smart attorney will know the type of defense to apply in your case to either have your charges dropped or reduced. Fortunately, there are several charge reductions available for this offense that could help you escape the adverse effects of a sentence. Some of the possible legal defenses your attorney can use for your case include:
Entrapment is a situation whereby a law enforcement officer acts in a way that causes somebody to commit an offense they would otherwise not have committed. To prove that you were entrapped, the court will require more evidence and not a mere accusation that you were simply given a chance to commit the offense. Based on the conditions of the case, certain conducts could constitute entrapment. Some of these are:
- Coaxing or flattering
- Insistent and repeated requests
- Sympathy or a request to a friendship
- An offer of more than ordinary benefits
- An assurance that the act is legal and will not be reported
- Any other similar behavior
Sometimes, police officers use a decoy to entrap suspects of such offenses as prostitution and solicitation. It could happen if an officer working on an undercover operation busts the defendant in the act. In such a case, the officer may pose as a potential customer or a prostitute. He/she will then try to lure the suspected offender into making him/her a deal for prostitution. The problem is that most of these decoys cross the line, and it becomes a police entrapment. An otherwise good person is unfairly targeted with enticements and promises.
If that is what happened, your attorney can use entrapment as a strong defense to have your charges reduced. The good thing is that this is a positive defense in the state of California. Once your attorney claims that you were tricked, the burden of proof will shift to you as the offender to demonstrate it. The good thing is that the court will not require you to prove entrapment beyond reasonable doubts. If the defense works, then you will not be found guilty of prostitution or entrapment.
Lack of Reliable Evidence
It is possible to use this as a defense in cases involving prostitution or solicitation mainly because some of these agreements are made in secret, with no records. If an officer has arrested a person for prostitution or solicitation, the prosecutor will be required to prove their facts beyond a reasonable doubt. If your attorney hints that the evidence the officer has is not trustworthy, then it could raise red flags in the court.
Again, if an officer was working undercover, the court expects him/her to hand over a recorded statement as proof. If the police officer was supposed to be wired at the time, the offense was committed, but for one reason or another, they were not, the evidence gathered may seem unreliable. This defense can easily cause your charges to be dropped.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
Lack of sufficient evidence is a different defense from the lack of reliable evidence explained above. In this situation, the prosecutor might have trustworthy proof that is not enough to warrant a conviction. If the evidence is not enough to convict the defendant, the court will have no option but to drop all your charges. In cases where only a little evidence is gathered, all the elements of this offense will not be satisfied. The law requires all the facts to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the offender to be found guilty. If the prosecutor is not able to do this, the court will have no option but to drop the case.
Lack of Intent
As mentioned above, proof of purpose is a crucial element of this crime. For a person to be found guilty of either prostitution or solicitation, there must be enough proof to show that the person was interested in committing the offense. If no such evidence existed, and the offender just made an error of judgment, the court will not find him/her guilty of the crime.
Available Plea Bargains for California Prostitution and Solicitation Charges
As mentioned above, there is always a chance for the defendant to have their charges reduced to a much lower charge that may not carry much heftier penalties as prostitution or solicitation. The most popular of these charge reductions are available as a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in a criminal case, whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for a favor from the prosecutor. Some of the plea bargains available in situations as these include:
- Criminal trespass, as provided under Section 602 of California laws
- Disturbing peace, as provided under Section 415 of California laws
- Lewd acts in public as provided under Section 647a of California laws
Note that none of the first two crimes above have a thing that is related to prostitution or solicitation. However, they could tell a police officer that the person’s original offense was prostitution. The good thing with them is that they are not serious offenses, and could help the offender avoid the humiliation that comes with a solicitation or prostitution conviction.
California Prostitution and Solicitation and Related Offenses
There are a few crimes in California that are strictly related to California prostitution and solicitation. Some of these crimes can be charged together with this offense, and the court can charge others in place of the offense. They are:
These two offenses are provided under Section 266 of the state laws.
The offense of pimping is committed when a person willingly and knowingly lives their whole or part of their lives off a prostitute's earnings. It may also include taking a part of what a prostitute earns as payment for sourcing clients for him/her.
Pandering, on the other hand, may refer to the following:
- Encouraging or recruiting a person to remain or become a prostitute
- Making someone available for acts of prostitution
Both pandering and pimping are severe offenses in California and are charged as felonies. Getting a conviction for either pimping or pandering could see you getting a prison sentence of three, four, or six years.
Aiding or Supervising a Prostitute
It is a different type of crime from California prostitution and solicitation and is under Section 653.23 of California laws. The offense is committed by a person who helps another person commit the offense of solicitation or prostitution in any way. If, for instance, a person offers their house to their friend who wants to have sexual intercourse with a prostitute, that person can face charges for aiding prostitution.
Both offenses of supervising and aiding prostitution are misdemeanors in California. a conviction could carry the following penalties:
- A jail sentence of six months maximum
- A maximum fine of $1,000
Lewd Acts in Public
The law against committing lewd acts in public is under Section 647a of the California laws. The commission of this offense is when a person commits lewd acts in public or solicits another person to do so. When the police get a person in the act of prostitution or solicitation, there are chances of facing both charges for Sections 647a and 647b. In most cases, streetwalkers and their prospective customers face both charges if arrested and taken to court. Since most of them face arrest after being watched by the police from far, proving that indeed the two were committing lewd acts in public can be tough.
Lewd acts in public are, however, lesser offenses to prostitution and solicitation. It makes it an appropriate plea bargain for offenders facing charges for either prostitution or solicitation.
Section 314 of the California Penal Code makes it illegal for any person to expose their private parts in public. For a person to be found guilty of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that the person intended for their genitals to attract public attention. Some acts of prostitution and solicitation trigger this charge. However, in cases where prostitution is happening in private vehicles, secluded areas, and hotel rooms, these charges may not suffice.
If you are facing charges for indecent exposure alongside the crime of prostitution or solicitation, you will serve an additional six months to your original jail term.
Find a California Criminal Lawyer Law Firm Near Me
Prostitution and solicitation are two sex offenses you would not like to appear in your criminal record. That is why if you are facing similar charges, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight them. A good defense will compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are here to help residents of San Jose, CA, get the justice they deserve. Call us at 408-622-0204, and let us help you plan a strong defense against your charges.