Many people think that agreeing to have sex in exchange for money between consenting adults should not be a crime. However, according to California law, soliciting sexual contact for money is a misdemeanor criminal offense. A conviction for solicitation can result in fines, possible jail time, or impounding your vehicle. However, if solicitation involved an underage victim, the defendant could face much more serious sex offense charges. If you have been charged with soliciting a prostitute, talk to your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney to understand your rights.
Prostitution Charges in California
Under California Penal Code §647, it is a criminal offense to engage in prostitution, offer to engage in prostitution, or solicit prostitution. This makes it a crime for anyone involved in arranging sex for money, including the prostitute, pimp or middleman, and the customer.
Depending on the offense, a conviction for soliciting or engaging in prostitution can result in misdemeanor criminal charges. Penalties include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a suspension of your driver's license for up to 30 days. A repeat offender may face mandatory jail time for solicitation charges.
One of the most damaging aspects of an arrest for prostitution involves public shame. When police run sting operations, they often publish the mugshots and names of individuals arrested. People in the community, co-workers, and family members may learn of an individual's prostitution arrest in the newspaper. Even if the individual is eventually found innocent of any criminal charges, the damage may have already been done.
Soliciting a Prostitution
Soliciting prostitution involves a customer, or “john”, asking for or attempting to arrange lewd acts for money. This could involve driving down a road where prostitutes are known to hang out, offering money for certain acts during a massage, or arranging to meet up with an escort online.
It is a disorderly conduct misdemeanor offense for an individual to solicit or engage in any act of prostitution with another person who is 18 years of age or older in exchange for the individual providing compensation, money, or anything of value to the other person.
Prostitution increasingly involves the internet as customers, prostitutes, and pimps arrange for sex in exchange for money. In some cases, these online ads are placed by police engaging in a sting operation to arrest customers seeking sexual acts for money. When the customer arrives at the arranged meeting location, instead of the person the customer saw a picture of online, there may be a handful of police officers waiting to take the person to prison.
Having Sex for Money
Prostitution is defined as “any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.” This includes intercourse, oral sex, and other sexual acts. Lewd acts include any touching of the genitals, buttocks, or female breast by any body part of another with the intent to gratify or sexually arouse.
Prostitution is not limited to exchanging sex for money. It includes any other consideration, which could include drugs, alcohol, or jewelry.
Soliciting Underage Prostitution
It is a much more serious offense to solicit prostitution with someone under the age of 18. If the defendant was aware that the victim was under the age of 18, they may face serious fines. It may also result in additional criminal charges, including sexual assault of a child, statutory rape, or arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes. Sex crimes with underage victims could result in felony criminal charges, including requiring the defendant to register as a sex offender.
Defenses to Solicitation Charges
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of soliciting prostitution. For example, there was no intention of exchanging money or anything of value for sex, it may not be considered prostitution. In some cases, a concerned individual may see a prostitute on the street and offer them money so they can have a place to stay for the night or get a meal. The police may wrongly believe the individual was offering money for sex.
Many people claim police sting operations are a form of entrapment. It can be difficult to allege a defense of entrapment in prostitution cases because the defendant has to show that they would not have otherwise engaged in prostitution but for the other individual inducing them. Simply tricking a defendant into believing the police officer was a prostitute does not constitute entrapment. Instead, the undercover police officers are providing an opportunity for the defendant to commit a crime.
It is not a defense to prostitution if the other person involved never intended to provide sexual services. For example, if a person sees someone believed to be a prostitute and ask for sex for money, it is still solicitation if the person was not actually a prostitute. Similarly, it is not a defense to solicitation if the “prostitute” is actually an undercover police officer who never intended to engage in sex for money.
Additionally, it may not be a defense to solicitation charges simply because the individuals involved do not discuss money. An intention to pay for sexual services could be demonstrated in other ways, including slang, hand signals, or prior conduct.
If you are facing criminal charges for soliciting a prostitute in California, talk to your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney about the best defenses available to fight back in your case.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing soliciting prostitution charges She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Fremont, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.