Law enforcement are often under extraordinary pressure to “clean up the streets” and run special operations to arrest prostitutes and their customers. This type of intense focus on a misdemeanor crime can open up the possibility for mistaken identities, misinterpreted intentions, and honest mistakes.

If you are facing prostitution charges in the San Diego area, contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer right away. An experienced defense lawyer like Peter Blair will listen to you, give you honest answers, and help develop a sound strategy for your defense. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact The Law Office of Peter Blair online to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.

Legal Definitions

California Penal Code 647 defines prostitution as “any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.” (This can include cash, goods, services, favors, or some other form of “consideration.”) However, California law does not require that the money or consideration be given directly to the person performing sexual acts; even the promise of providing money or consideration in the future is enough to qualify as prostitution.

The sexual acts do not necessarily have to take place to qualify as prostitution; agreeing to engage in prostitution can qualify under California prostitution law. However, there must be some other act “in furtherance of the agreement” in order to be found guilty of prostitution. This could be exchanging money, driving to another location, or something else that indicates the intent to engage in prostitution.

California Penal Code 653.22 outlaws loitering for the purpose of prostitution. The statute states that the intent to commit prostitution “is evidenced by acting in a manner and under circumstances which demonstrate the purpose of inducing, enticing, or soliciting prostitution, or procuring another to commit prostitution.” Penal Code 653.22 includes several examples of qualifying activities, including:

  • Repeatedly beckoning to, stopping, or talking to passersby
  • Repeatedly stopping (or attempting to stop) motor vehicles by hailing the drivers, waving arms, or making other bodily gestures to slow down cars
  • Circling an area in a motor vehicle and beckoning, contacting, or trying to stop pedestrians or other motorists

The statute also states that prior conviction of a prostitution-related offense (typically within the past five years), plus presence in an area known for prostitution activity, is an indicator of intent to commit prostitution.

However, it should be noted that no one activity listed above constitutes intent to commit prostitution. Penal Code 653.22 states the following: “The list of circumstances set forth [in this statute] is not exclusive. Any other relevant circumstances may be considered in determining whether a person has the requisite intent. Moreover, no one circumstance or combination of circumstances is in itself determinative of intent. Intent must be determined based on an evaluation of the particular circumstances of each case.”

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Engaging in prostitution is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 647. Engaging in prostitution is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

However, prior convictions on prostitution-related charges can increase these penalties. One prior conviction of prostitution will result in a minimum of 45 days in jail, and two prior convictions of prostitution will result in a minimum of 90 days in jail. Plus, if the act of prostitution was committed while in your car and within 1,000 feet of a residential home, the court could suspend your driver’s license for a month or issue a restricted license for up to six months.

Prostitution is not a charge that requires automatic registration as a sex offender. However, the decision whether or not you must register is left to the judge. In certain circumstances, the judge may decide to impose sex offender registration, but it tends to be rare in prostitution cases.

Legal Defenses

  • Police misconduct: Law enforcement officers have a duty to conduct investigations, interrogations, and other proceedings in accordance with the law. Police misconduct can include coercing a suspect to confess, failing to read Miranda rights, conducting an illegal search or seizure, or another unlawful activity.
  • Entrapment: Entrapment is another example of police misconduct, but it is particularly applicable for prostitution charges. Many prostitution-related arrests come from undercover “sting” operations. During these operations, undercover officers can pose as prostitutes or “johns” to try and catch prostitution suspects in the act, either out on the street or on the Internet. But even while undercover, police officers cannot try to compel an otherwise law-abiding citizen to break the law. Law enforcement officers cannot pressure, harass, threaten, or defraud a suspect in order to catch them in the act of prostitution. Essentially, police officers are not allowed to use deceptive or threatening means to convince a suspect to do something he or she would not normally do.
  • Lack of sufficient evidence: In order to be found guilty of prostitution, there must be evidence of the agreement and intent to engage in prostitution. Without an audio recording of the conversation or a witness to the agreement, an experienced defense attorney can argue there is insufficient evidence to prove solicitation took place. In addition, there must have been some act in furtherance of the agreement to constitute solicitation. In other words, it is not enough to simply make the agreement; you must have walked off with the person, gotten into a car, exchanged money, or made some other act to further the agreement. Without an “act in furtherance,” you could argue that there was no specific intent to engage in prostitution. Much of the evidence in a prostitution case is circumstantial (i.e. the suspect was on a certain street corner or wearing a certain outfit), which is easier to dispute than physical evidence.
  • Mistaken intentions: In order for prostitution to have taken place, you must have the specific intent to engage in a sex act for money or services. Standing at a particular street corner or entering a certain establishment is not necessarily enough to constitute loitering for prostitution (unless, as discussed above, the suspect has prior convictions for prostitution). If you were unaware of the nature of your actions or what you were doing (or if your actions were misinterpreted), you could argue there was no intent to commit prostitution.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

The best criminal defense is a proactive defense. The sooner you act, the better your chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether. Criminal defense lawyer Peter Blair will listen to your situation and work to develop a defense strategy for your unique circumstances. You are more than the charges facing you, and Mr. Blair will do everything in his power to fight for you and your freedom.

Don’t let these charges define you. If you are facing charges of prostitution, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.