Solicitation for Prostitution

In the State of California, local police and prosecutors are firmly enforcing the criminal laws to cut down on the level of prostitution and solicitation for prostitution in order to appease business owners and residents in areas where sex workers and “Johns” are engaging in solicitation for prostitution in public.  As explained below, California Penal Code 647(b) defines solicitation for prostitution and prostitution, and sets out the criminal penalties for convictions of these offenses. 

Of course, when ever our government is “cracking down” on crime or a particular criminal offense that has spiked in a Los Angeles city, there will be instances of over-zealous police officers who arrest innocent civilians or ones for whom the evidence was insufficient to arrest.  Similarly, some prosecutors will feel political pressure to file criminal charges and pursue convictions in cases where it is not legally or ethically justified. 

The good news is that many prosecutors in Los Angeles cities (such as Pasadena, where I am located), the prosecutors are fairly reasonable after being presented with the facts of a particular case.  Often-times, a case can be dismissed through various legal vehicles such as informal or formal diversion, reduced to an infraction, or in some cases, dismissed out right if the prosecutor believes the charges were not justified to begin with. Of course, such outcomes are not possible in ALL cases, as each case consists of different facts, varying strengths of evidence, and involve individual defendants who possess a variety of personal backgrounds. 

If you have been arrested and charged with solicitation for prostitution, you want an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney on your side to fight these charges. I, Attorney Ann Gottesman, am ready to help you attack these charges, analyze possible defenses and achieve the best possible result in your case.

Solicitation for Prostitution in California

Soliciting a prostitute means that you have asked another person to engage in a lewd act or sexual intercourse in exchange for compensation. You can be charged and arrested for soliciting prostitution if are a person 18 years or older and…

  • You solicited another person to perform sexual intercourse or engage in a lewd act in exchange for any compensation, including money, or
  • You intended to engage in prostitution after the solicitation

For the prosecution to secure a conviction of solicitation, it must be proven there was a specific intent to engage in prostitution. There must be evidence that proves the intent that an offer was made to exchange money or another form of compensation for a lewd act or sexual intercourse. A person cannot be charged or convicted of solicitation for prostitution for simply wearing certain clothing or if they were standing at a specific location that has a reputation for prostitutes. However, no sexual act must be proven in order to be charged or found guilty of solicitation, since the prosecutor only needs to show the defendant solicited to engage in the act of prostitution.

A prostitute or a ‘john’ can be charged with solicitation for prostitution (or agreeing to engage in prostitution).  It makes no difference who proposed the engagement.

  • Lewd Act Definition With Respect to the Crime of Prostitution:

    A lewd act as defined for the crime of Prostitution, includes any form of conduct which involves the touching of the buttocks, genitals, or female breast of either the “John” or the prostitute with a part of the other individual’s body for the purpose of sexually gratifying or sexually arousing either individual involved.  (See Calcrim Jury Instruction 1153.)

    Although many people have heard the term “lewd acts” as associated with child sex crimes, such as sexually touching a child or child molestation, the term and definition is also used in the statutory elements or descriptions of other crimes, such as prostitution.

    Under California Penal Code 647(a), a lewd act is not limited to children; you can also be in violation if you masturbate in a strip club or at an adult movie if there are other persons in the area.

  • “John”-Defined with Respect to the Crime of Prostitution:

    A ‘john’ is a person who offers to pay, or actually does pay money or other compensation, to a prostitute and engages in a lewd act or sexual intercourse with him or her (or asks to engage in the act, if charge is for solicitation).

    Definitions of words and an understanding of exactly what is legal and illegal is helpful when you are facing charges of solicitation for prostitution. When the term 'sexual act' is used, it refers to sexual intercourse or a lewd act. 'Willfully' is used to mean you did something deliberately (on purpose), but not necessarily with the knowledge that the action you were engaged in was illegal. 

California Prostitution and Solicitation Laws

A prostitute under the law is someone who engages in lewd acts with another person or sexual intercourse in exchange for any form of compensation, including money. This charge falls under California Penal Code 647(b) and is based on three basic violations:

  • You are caught engaging in prostitution:
    • Engaging in prostitution means you are guilty of willfully or deliberately engaged in sexual intercourse or a lewd act in exchange for any form of compensation, including money
  • You have agreed to engage in prostitution
    • Agreeing to engage in prostitution is an amendment to Penal Code 647(b). This charge is slightly different from soliciting prostitution since it is for 'agreeing' to participate in the act

      An example would be if person ‘one’ proposes to engage in prostitution, then he or she can be charged with solicitation for prostitution. If person ‘two’ accepts the offer of person one, then he or she can be charged with agreeing to engage in prostitution.

      If you are charged with agreeing to engage in prostitution, the prosecution must prove:

      • You agreed to engage in lewd conduct or sexual intercourse with another person in exchange for any form of compensation, including money
      • You had a specific intent to do so, AND
      • You performed an act of furtherance of prostitution, such as you gave, received, or procured money as payment, or you traveled to an agreed-upon location to engage in prostitution. Having, or being in possession of items such as a 'client book' or condoms can further a case against you. These are not, however, sufficient evidence on their own to prove you are guilty of a prostitution offense.
      .
  • You have solicited prostitution:
    • Soliciting a prostitute means to request someone to engage in intercourse or a lewd act with you in exchange for any form of compensation, including money. (The accused in this case is the person making the request.)

      The prosecution must prove:

      • You requested another person to engage in prostitution with you,
      • You intended to engage in the act, and
      • the other party received your request or solicitation. (See CALCRIM 1154)

Penalties for Solicitation for Prostitution

Solicitation for prostitution and the act of prostitution is illegal in California and is charged as a misdemeanor. Possible penalties if convicted of these charges can include:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • A fine up to $1,000
  • If you are a repeat offender, jail time can be increased

There are other penalties you could face with this charge, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. If you were caught committing prostitution while you were in a vehicle, you could face forfeiture of that vehicle due to it being legally labeled as a “nuisance”. There could be restrictions placed on your driver's license as well, if the act of prostitution occurred within 1,000 feet of a residence.

If convicted under penal code 647(b), it will not automatically require you to register as a sex offender. There are, however, situations where the judge can order this registration as part of your penalty, depending on the evidence presented with your case. You will want an experienced criminal defense attorney working with you should this attempt be made. Having to register as a sex offender has life-long consequences, and you will want an attorney who can fight this charge. The Law Office of Ann Gottesman understands California law and will be there with you to defend your rights and future.

The legal punishments you could face for solicitation for prostitution is not as harsh as the social stigma you can face. With a charge of solicitation for prostitution on your criminal record, you can face employment consequences, and in some cases, residency ramifications. These are outside of the possibility of the police taking your car and filing a petition for forfeiture if the offense is committed in your vehicle.

As a first-time offender, your punishment should be very minimal (see section on “Diversion” below); on a second offense, the penalty will be relatively moderate, and a third offense is relatively severe. As a first-time offender, the maximum jail time imposed is six months with up to $1,000 in fines, plus penalties and assessments. The judge does not always impose this sentencing; in fact, most of the time, maximum penalties on a first or even second offense are not imposed.

If diversion is not offered or is not available, the most common plea bargain in a first-time offense is to amend the charges to an infraction for trespassing or disturbing the peace to avoid a misdemeanor conviction on your criminal history. This plea and amendment will help you in the future if a potential employer or landlord is looking into your background. Of course, getting a dismissal through diversion or an acquittal from a court or jury trial is the best possible outcome.

If you are arrested and convicted a second time for solicitation for prostitution, the judge can order that you serve a mandatory minimum of forty-five days in jail. A third offense carries a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.  Clearly, a good attorney will try his or her best to avoid such consequences, as they can severely impact one’s life in numerous negative ways.

Depending upon the facts of the case, the law does give a judge power to suspend a defendant’s driver's license for up to thirty days if the vehicle was used in the crime and it was committed within a thousand feet of a home. The Judge could agree to allow the accused to possess a restricted license (i.e., for work purposes) instead of issuing a full suspension on the defendant’s driver’s license  However, while the judge has the power to impose a full 30 day suspension on an accused’s DL, he or she does not have to do so.  Your attorney can present an argument as to why the court should exercise its discretion and not impose any DL suspension at all. 

Another rather draconian measure, involves the statute that allows a judge to actually seize and impound your vehicle for up to thirty days if your vehicle is deemed a “nuisance” due to it being used in a prior case for the same or similar crime within the past three years of the current offense.  (See VC 22659.5 of the California Vehicle Code.)

DIVERSION (Formal and Informal): Successful Completion Results in DISMISSAL of the Case

In some courts, “Prostitution Diversion” is available.  The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has offered diversion for some defendants who are accused of prostitution or solicitation for prostitution.  In other Courts the District Attorney will agree to diversion in some cases.  This usually involves the prosecutor or district attorney allowing the accused to attend a day course or doctor-patient conversation on the dangers of prostitution as well as have an AIDS/HV test administered. The results from the test will be placed in a sealed envelope and given to you or your attorney to hand over to the judge. You will also receive a proof of completion document when you finish the “class”, which will be given to the court as well. When you’ve completed these two steps, and if you have not been arrested or convicted of any other crimes during the period, your case can be dismissed.

In this form of pretrial diversion, the accused will either have to initially plead guilty or no-contest to the charge, but that plea will later be withdrawn, a not-guilty plea entered, and the case dismissed if diversion is successfully completed.  Since you must initial plead to the charge, this is oftentimes called “formal diversion”.  If you fail to complete the requirements, the judge can sentence you and you will be convicted.  However, if successful, you will be able to state on any future job application that you were never convicted after the case is dismissed.  Just keep in mind, the admission to the offense during a guilty or no contest plea could have negative immigration consequences or affect a person’s professional career.  It is always better to try to get “informal” diversion where the accused is not required to plead to the charge.

In all diversion matters, the misdemeanor case is simply continued for a few months (or up to 18 months) for the defendant to finish the required tasks. On the final court date, the charges are completely dismissed upon presenting completion of the test, class and proof of a clean RAP sheet (you did not commit any news criminal offenses).

Diversion, when given, is often not very expensive.  But if you have to complete a more “formal” class, you could be looking at a fee of a few hundred dollars. Sometimes community service is required as part of a diversion offer.

Courts and prosecutors vary in how they handle first-time prostitution or sex related offenses, so a defense attorney who has a good rapport with the judges and prosecutors can be a real plus.

Reducing Charges of Solicitation for Prostitution

A prostitution conviction can create damage to your personal and professional life. If the prosecution is not willing to dismiss the charges or offer diversion, and if a jury trial is not the best course of action (although it often times IS in such cases where the prosecutor is being unreasonable) attorney Ann Gottesman can fight to have your charges reduced and changed to a different penal code (a non-prostitution-related charge) to prevent this personal damage to your name.

Some of the common offenses that a prostitution charge can be reduced to include criminal trespass, penal code 602, or disturbing the peace: penal code 415.  These charges can be either a misdemeanor or an infraction.  Future employers and others will most likely not understand the connection of these charges to prostitution or solicitation; however, law enforcement agencies are aware these charges are often the result of a reduced prostitution offense.

Legal Defense of Solicitation for Prostitution

A prostitution conviction has you facing jail time and possible fines, as well as other consequences. Your professional and personal life may be damaged with this charge affecting your reputation. Your best course of action, if arrested and charged with solicitation for prostitution, is to contact the Law Office of Ann Gottesman.  Ann is a compassionate and experienced criminal defense lawyer who has a reputation of fighting for her clients. 

A good criminal defense attorney knows and understands how to help a client fight these charges and achieve a positive outcome whenever possible. The details of your case will be reviewed, and a defense strategy will be put into place to ensure the best chances of having your charges reduced or dismissed. Some of the common defense strategies against these charges include:

  • There was a mistake in the facts surrounding your offense:
    • A mistake of facts can help have your charges dropped or acquitted by a jury or judge. If you are able to show that the circumstances surrounding your actions at the time of arrest do not demonstrate a specific intent of prostitution or solicitation to commit prostitution, the evidence would be insufficient to sustain a conviction.

      An example of this situation would be if you responded to an ad for an escort to accompany you to an event without the intent to engage in lewd behavior or sexual intercourse. However, unbeknownst to you, an undercover officer pretending to be a prostitute is the person you end up meeting.  You thought you were going to meet professional escort for a purely platonic evening. This situation can be considered to involve a mistake in fact as you had a reason to respond to the ad, and they were not for the purposes of solicitation for prostitution.

  • There is not enough evidence to support the charge or secure a conviction:
    • The prosecution has to present sufficient evidence in order to secure a conviction under California Penal Code 647(b). They must prove you solicited prostitution or agreed to engage in prostitution beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Even if your case involves the use of an 'undercover john,' or undercover prostitute there may not be any recorded conversation to use as proof. Without this proof, the jury can question the motives of the officer involved, or the motive of the accused and simply determine that there was not evidence to convict 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'

      Insufficient evidence covers a broad range of defense strategies. It sounds much like lack of evidence; however, insufficient evidence does not mean there is not 'enough' evidence present to prove a crime, it means the evidence they have is not reliable and strong enough to overcome the hurdle required in criminal law. It would show the jury the evidence presented by the prosecution is not clear enough or reliable for them to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.  Perhaps the evidence is not strong enough to show that the accused intended to engage in a sexual act with the prostitute. Or there was no extra act in furtherance of the alleged agreement.

  • Entrapment was used in your arrest:
    • Entrapment happens when a law official such as a police officer, or a person acting in cooperation with law officials, solicits or encourages another to commit a crime they otherwise would not have likely committed and that the officer’s acts are those that would cause even the typical law abiding person to commit the criminal offense.
    • The officer could have used harassment or threats, even flattery, to promote the engagement. Promising an irresistible amount of compensation, or claiming another person will suffer injury if the behavior is not done, or promising that the behavior is totally legal and that the undercover officer will face severely negative consequences if the individual fails to agree to the act, are examples of what could support an entrapment defense. There are a lot of arrests made with the use of undercover 'johns', and it is not uncommon for police to use unfair tactics to get people to agree to a lewd act or sexual intercourse for compensation who under different circumstances would not have engaged in the conduct.

      For example, if Darryl drives by a woman who appears in distress and stops to see if she needs help, and that woman, an undercover officer, tells Darryl she is in town to get her son who was taken by the estranged father and asks the driver to help get a motel room because she lost her job and has no money, Darryl might agree to give her money and take her to a nearby motel to purchase the room for her.  Once he gives her the key, she begs him to come in the room, since she really needs someone to talk to. Then, the undercover officer starts flirting and taking off her clothing, telling Darryl she really needs money to buy her baby food and clothing. Despite Darryl politely declining her advances, the officer continues to beg, stating she is so lonely, no one will ever know, and she needs the money for her son. She is attractive to Darryl but he has repeatedly told her he is not interested in paying for sex.  If Darryl is sufficiently pressured to engage in prostitution by this undercover officer, this could lead to an entrapment defense. The kind of situations that could lead to a normally law-abiding person engaging in a crime is numerous.  Having an experienced criminal defense determine if entrapment is a viable defense in your case is important.

      Entrapment is an affirmative defense that can be used in trial and which can be provided to the jury in their instructions.  If the jury decides that the defense showed at least a preponderance of the evidence that he was entrapped, then the jury would find the accused not-guilty.

If you have been arrested and charged with solicitation for prostitution because of aggressive action by a police officer, contact the Law Office of Ann Gottesman. Entrapment can be a very effective defense when the right facts exist. 

Related Offenses to Solicitation for Prostitution

There are other offenses related to prostitution that one can be charged with, including:

  • Supervising or aiding a prostitute
  • Lewd conduct in public
  • Pimping and pandering
  • Human trafficking

Some of these offenses will result in more serious penalties than a prostitution charge. Human trafficking is one that is considered much more serious. The others, such as the supervising of aiding a prostitute can have a much lighter sentences and can even be used as a plea-bargaining tool in the face of a more serious charge, such as pimping and pandering.

  • Lewd Act in Public:

    If charged with lewd conduct in public, the charge may appear in connection with solicitation for prostitution such as described earlier in this webpage.  However, one can also be charged with violating Penal Code section 647(a) by committing a “lewd act” without connection to any prostitution offense.

    For example, Under Penal Code section 647, subdivision (a), a person can be convicted of committing a “lewd act” if he or she touched the buttocks, genitals, or female breast of either him or herself with the intent to cause sexual arousal of either him or herself, or another person, or to “annoy or offend” another person (i.e., a person watching), AND the person was doing this in a public place, or a place where the public could see the act(s).  In addition, the prosecution would have to prove that at the time this sexual act was committed, another person was present who “might” have been offended,  AND the accused either knew or reasonably should have known that another person was present.

  • Pimping and Pandering- Penal Code Section 266h and PC section 266i

    Pimping and pandering are two different actions. In the act of pimping, one knowingly receives compensation and is in some manner living off the money or compensation earned by a prostitute. It can also be charged if the accused is taking some of the prostitute’s compensation as payment for getting clients connected with the prostitute so they can pay for the prostitute’s sexual services. 

    In the act of pandering (a felony), several acts can fall into the definition.  For example, if the accused is proven to have either procured a person for prostitution, or “[b]y promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages an inmate of a house of prostitution, or any other place in which prostitution is encouraged or allowed, to remain therein” as a prostitute, is guilty of pandering.  See PC section 266i for the full list of acts that qualify as pandering. 

    The penalty for pimping and pandering is quite serious—the law gives a sentence of three, four or six years in the state prison if convicted.

    If the pimping and/or pandering is conducted with a minor who is under the age of 16 years old, the statute punishes the crime with a three, six, or eight year prison

  • Human Trafficking

    With a human trafficking charge, it will involve pandering and pimping another person through coercion, force, or other methods of depriving them of their freedom and liberties. Pimping and pandering can also fall under human trafficking, depending on the circumstances of the case. In the State of California, human trafficking is an extremely serious offense and carries significant penalties.

    One common misconception regarding human trafficking is that people think it requires movement across borders. The truth with this offense is it involves the controlling of a person or group through fraud, coercion, or force to exploit them into sexual exploitation, forced labor, or both. It can happen entirely within a single country, or it can cross borders.

  • Supervising or Aiding a Prostitute

    Supervising or aiding a prostitute is related to prostitution and solicitation, but has different elements. If one is charged with supervising or aiding a prostitute, it means he or she is being accused of knowingly helping or assisting someone engage in prostitution. California penal code 653.23 addresses supervising or aiding a prostitute.  For example, if your friend Don is having a Bachelor’s party, and as a gift, you give him money and/ or drive him to the location where you intend to have him meet the prostitute, you could be charged with the offense. 

    Any charge for solicitation for prostitution or charges related to this crime needs an experienced defense attorney fighting for the accused. If you are facing these charges, contact the Law Office of Ann Gottesman.  Ann has defended many of these prostitution related crimes and she will fight hard for your reputation, constitutional rights, and freedom. 

Find Help for Solicitation of Prostitution Charges in Pasadena or Surrounding Los Angeles County Cities:

Solicitation for prostitution can be a serious charge that has the potential to damage your future. If you have been arrested and charged with this offense, call the Law Office of Ann Gottesman. Ann is caring, compassionate and will personally discuss your case confidentially.  She offers FREE consultations.  So, don’t be shy.  Ann is here to help you!

Call the Law Office of Ann Gottesman today at 626-710-4021.  She will provide you with a free and confidential consultation and discuss the particulars of your case.