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Prostitution, Solicitation, and What California Criminal Law Thinks of It.

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

Prostitution Is Considered Illegal In California

Prostitution charges include the act of having sex for money and the act of soliciting. If you are charged with solicitation, you must be aware of the details of the crime as well as the possible consequences. Contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal lawyer right away if you've been charged with solicitation.

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What is the difference between prostitution and solicitation?

In California, it is illegal to engage in prostitution under Penal Code 647(b). This means it's against the law to have sexual relations or commit a lewd act with another person in exchange for money or some other kind of remuneration. It's also illegal to consent to perform a prostitution act (even if it never takes place) or solicit another person to perform a prostitution act.

As a result, the rule applies to a wide range of cases, including:

  • having sex with someone for a fee;

  • supplying an individual with drugs in return for oral sex;

  • a woman agreeing to let a man fondle her bare breasts in exchange for money;

  • responding to a paid sexual activity advertising on the internet.

A conviction for this type of crime on your record will hurt your job prospects and cause immigration problems for non-citizens. You don't want a single indiscretion to have an impact on the rest of your life. An allegation of prostitution or solicitation is serious, and it can result in serious penalties; if you are facing charges, you should consult with a California Criminal Defense Attorney.

Local police and prosecutors in California are strictly implementing criminal legislation to reduce the level of prostitution and prostitution solicitation in order to satisfy business owners and residents in neighborhoods where sex workers and "Johns" are soliciting prostitution in public. California Penal Code 647(b) specifies solicitation for prostitution and prostitution, as well as the criminal penalties for these crimes, as discussed below.

Of course, while our government is "cracking down" on crime or specific criminal activity that has increased in a Los Angeles area, there will be instances of overzealous police officers arresting innocent people or arresting those for which the evidence was inadequate. Similarly, some prosecutors may be influenced by political pressure to file criminal charges and seek convictions in cases where they are not legally or ethically justified.

The good news is that after hearing the evidence of a case, many prosecutors in Los Angeles cities are reasonably objective. A prosecution may also be dismissed by different legal vehicles such as informal or formal diversion, reduction to an infraction, or, in some cases, outright dismissal if the prosecutor feels the charges were not warranted in the first place. Of course, such results are not probable in any case, as each case has its own set of facts, various strengths of proof, and individual defendants with diverse backgrounds.

Prostitution Solicitation in California

Soliciting a prostitute means you've asked someone else to perform a lewd act or engage in sexual intercourse in return for money. If you are 18 years old or older and you solicited another person to conduct sexual intercourse or participate in a lewd act in return for some reward, including money, or you intended to engage in prostitution after the solicitation, you can be convicted and arrested for soliciting prostitution.

The prosecutor must show that there was a real motive to engage in prostitution in order to obtain a conviction of solicitation. There must be proof that an offer to exchange money or some kind of compensation for a lewd act or sexual activity was made with the intent of doing so.

An individual cannot be accused or convicted of solicitation for prostitution merely because they were wearing such clothing or standing in a place known for prostitutes. To be convicted or found guilty of solicitation. However, no sexual act must be proved, as the prosecution merely has to demonstrate that the defendant was solicited to participate in the act of prostitution.

Prostitution solicitation may be levied against a prostitute or a "john" (or agreeing to engage in prostitution). It doesn't matter who suggested the marriage. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

Definition of the Lewd Act in Relation to Prostitution

Any type of behavior that involves touching 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 any individual involved is considered a lewd act as specified for the crime of prostitution.

  • While many people associate the word "lewd acts" with child sex crimes like sexually assaulting a child or child molestation, it is often used in the legislative elements or definitions of other crimes like prostitution.

  • A lewd act, according to California Penal Code 647(a), is not restricted to children; if you masturbate in a strip club or at an adult movie with other people present, you might be in violation.

With regard to the crime of prostitution, "John" is described as follows:

A 'john' is a person who agrees to pay a prostitute money or other reward in exchange for engaging in a lewd act or sexual intercourse with her (or asks to engage in the act, if the charge is for solicitation). If you're facing allegations of solicitation for sex, having a good understanding of what's legal and what's not may help. The word "sexual act" may refer to either sexual intercourse or a lewd act. The term 'willfully' refers to doing something knowingly (on purpose) but not actually knowing that what you were doing was illegal.

Prostitution and Solicitation Laws in California

A prostitute is described as anyone who engages in lewd acts or sexual intercourse with another person in exchange for some sort of remuneration, including money. This charge is focused on three basic violations under California Penal Code 647(b):

  • You've been busted for prostitution.

    • Prostitution is described as willfully or purposely engaging in sexual intercourse or committing a lewd act in exchange for any kind of remuneration, including property.

  • You've decided to become a prostitute.

    • The amendment to Penal Code 647 agrees to indulge in prostitution (b). Since this penalty is for 'agreeing' to engage in the act, it differs somewhat from soliciting prostitution.

    • The court must prove the following if you are charged with agreeing to engage in prostitution:

      • In return for some kind of compensation, including money, you agreed to engage in lewd conduct or sexual intercourse with another person.

      • You had a particular goal in mind when you did it.

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  • You committed a prostitution-related act.

    • Such as giving, receiving, or procuring money as payment, or you traveled to a pre-arranged location to engage in prostitution.

    • Having, or being in possession of, things like a "client book" or condoms will help your case. However, these are insufficient proof to convict you of a prostitution crime on their own.


Soliciting a prostitute entails asking someone to engage in sexual activity or a lewd act with you in return for some kind of payment, including money. (In this case, the defendant is the one who makes the request.)

The prosecution must establish the following:

  • You asked for another individual to join you in prostitution.

  • You decided to take part in the activity.

  • your appeal or solicitation was answered by the other party.

Penalties for Prostitution Solicitation

In California, soliciting for sex and engaging in prostitution are both illegal and punishable as misdemeanors. If convicted of these charges, you can face the following penalties:

  1. Jail time of up to six months

  2. A fine is possible

  3. If you are a repeat offender, your sentence could be lengthened.

Depending on the circumstances of your detention, you can face additional penalties as a result of this charge. If you were found in prostitution in a truck, you might lose your vehicle because it was legally branded as a "nuisance." If the act of prostitution occurs within 1,000 feet of a home, the driver's license could be restricted as well.

If you are convicted under Penal Code 647(b), you are not required to register as a sex offender. However, depending on the evidence presented in your case, the judge can order this registration as part of your punishment. If this is attempted, you will need the assistance of an experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney. The repercussions of having to register as a sex offender will last a lifetime, so you'll want to hire an California Criminal Law Attorney who will help you fight this charge.

The legal consequences of soliciting for prostitution are not nearly as severe as the social consequences. You could face job repercussions and, in some situations, citizenship repercussions if you have a charge of solicitation for prostitution on your criminal record. Both are apart from the prospect of the police seizing your vehicle and filing a seizure motion if the crime is committed in it.

  • If you're a first-time offender, the punishment should be mild (see the section below on "Diversion"); if you're a second-time offender, the penalty will be moderate; and if you're a third-time offender, the penalty will be extreme. As a first-time offender, the maximum sentence is six months in prison, with fines of up to $1,000, plus penalties and assessments. The judge does not often impose this sentence; in fact, for a first or even second offense, the full penalty is rarely enforced.

  • If diversion is not provided or accessible, the most popular first-time offender plea deal is to change the charges to an infraction for trespassing or to disturb the peace in order to escape a misdemeanor conviction on your record. This plea and amendment will aid you in the future if a prospective employer or landlord conducts a background check on you. Of course, the best possible result is a diversionary dismissal or an acquittal after a court or jury trial.

  • If you're arrested and convicted for soliciting sex a second time, the judge will order you to spend a mandatory minimum of 45 days in prison. A third conviction is punishable by a minimum of 90 days in prison. Obviously, a successful Los Angeles Criminal Law Attorney would do everything possible to prevent such effects since they can have a significant negative effect on one's life in a variety of ways.

  • If the car was involved in the crime and it was committed within a thousand feet of a residence, the statute allows a judge to revoke a defendant's driver's license for up to thirty days, depending on the facts of the case. Instead of granting a complete revocation of the defendant's driver's license, the judge could consent to grant the offender a limited license (i.e., for work purposes). Although the judge has the authority to suspend an accused's driver's license for a full 30 days, he or she is not required to do so. Your California Criminal Lawyer will make a case to the court that the court can use its discretion and not enforce any DL suspension at all.

Another harsh measure is a law that allows a judge to seize and imprison the car for up to thirty days if it is considered a "nuisance" because it was used in a previous case for the same or similar crime during the previous three years of the present offense.

Formal And Informal Diversion

Prostitution Diversion is available in some courts. Some suspects convicted of prostitution or solicitation for prostitution have been given probation by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. For certain cases, the District Attorney in other courts will consent to a diversion. This normally entails the prosecutor or district attorney allowing the accused to take a day course or have a doctor-patient discussion about the risks of prostitution, as well as having an AIDS/HIV test administered.

The test results will be enclosed in an envelope and given to you or your counsel to present to the court. When you complete the "class," you will be given a proof of completion paper, which will be given to the court as well. Your case could be dismissed after you've completed these two measures and haven't been arrested or convicted of any other crimes during that period.

In this type of pretrial diversion, the victim must initially plead guilty or no contest to the charge, but that conviction will be removed, a not-guilty plea entered, and the case dismissed if diversion is completed successfully. This is known as "formal diversion" since you must first plead guilty to the crime. If you do not meet the conditions, the judge has the authority to sentence you, and you will be found guilty.

If you are successful, you will be able to claim that you were never convicted on any potential work applications after the case is dismissed. Bear in mind that admitting to the crime as part of a guilty or no contest plea could result in negative immigration implications or have an impact on a person's professional career. It is always preferable to seek "informal" diversion, in which the defendant is not expected to enter a plea to the crime.

The misdemeanor case is merely extended for a few months (or up to 18 months) for the defendant to complete the necessary tasks in all diversion cases. On the final court date, the charges are absolutely dismissed if the examination, class, and evidence of a clean RAP sheet are presented (you did not commit any news criminal offenses).

When provided, diversion is often inexpensive. However, if you need to take a more "formal" lesson, you will have to pay a few hundred dollars. As part of a diversion program, community service may be needed.

Since judges and prosecutors treat first-time trafficking or sex-related crimes differently, a Criminal Defense Attorney with a strong working relationship with the judges and prosecutors can be a real asset.

Reducing Prostitution Solicitation Charges

A conviction for prostitution can have serious consequences in both your personal and professional life. A good California Criminal Attorney will fight to get the charges reduced and transferred to a different criminal code (a non-prostitution-related charge) to avoid this personal harm to your reputation if the prosecution refuses to drop the charges or give diversion, and if a jury trial is not the best course of action (although it often is in those cases where the prosecutor is unreasonable).

Criminal trespass, penal code 602, and disturbing the peace, penal code 415, are two common charges that a prostitution charge can be reduced to. There are either misdemeanor or infraction proceedings. The relation between these charges and prostitution or solicitation would most likely be lost on future employers and others; however, law enforcement officers are aware that these charges are often the result of a reduced prostitution crime.

Solicitation for Prostitution Legal Defense

If you are convicted of prostitution, you can face prison time, fines, and other penalties. With this charge affecting your reputation, it can damage both your professional and personal life. If you've been arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution, a seasoned California Criminal Defense Attorney who is known for standing up for her clients.

A successful California Criminal Defense Lawyer knows how to assist a client in fighting these charges and achieving a favorable result wherever possible. Your case will be thoroughly examined, and a legal plan will be devised to maximize your odds of getting your charges reduced or dismissed. The following are some of the most common defensive tactics used to combat these charges:

The details underlying your offense is incorrect:

A factual error could lead to your charges being dismissed or you being convicted by a jury or judge. The facts will be inadequate to warrant a conviction if you can prove that the circumstances surrounding your conduct at the time of arrest did not indicate a real motive of prostitution or solicitation to commit prostitution.

If you replied to an ad for an escort to accompany you to an event without the intention of engaging in lewd acts or sexual intercourse, this is an example of this circumstance. Unbeknownst to you, the person you end up meeting is an undercover officer posing as a prostitute. You expected to meet a competent escort for a strictly platonic evening. Since you had a reason to react to the ad, and it was not for the intent of soliciting prostitution, this situation can be considered a mistake, in fact.

There is insufficient proof to prove the charge or to obtain a conviction:

To obtain a conviction under California Penal Code 647, the prosecutor must provide ample evidence (b). They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you solicited prostitution or decided to engage in prostitution.

And if an 'undercover john,' or undercover prostitute, is used in your case, there will be no documented communication to use as evidence. Without this proof, the jury will challenge the officer's or the accused's motives and simply conclude that there was insufficient evidence to convict 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'

A wide variety of defensive techniques are covered by insufficient data.

It sounds a lot like a lack of proof; however, insufficient evidence does not suggest that there isn't 'enough evidence to support a crime; rather, it means that the evidence they have isn't credible or solid enough to clear the legal barrier. It will show the jury that the prosecution's testimony isn't consistent or credible enough for them to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps the evidence is insufficient to prove that the accused wanted to have a sexual relationship with the prostitute. Alternatively, there were no additional activities in support of the supposed arrangement.

Your arrest was based on entrapment:

Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement official, such as a police officer, or a person acting in concert with law enforcement officials, solicits or induces someone to commit a crime that they would not have possibly committed otherwise, and that the officer's actions would cause even the most law-abiding person to commit the crime.

To foster the relationship, the officer may have used harassment, threats, or even flattery. Promises of an enticing sum of money, or claims that another person will be injured if the conduct is not performed, or promises that the behavior is completely legitimate and that the undercover officer will face serious consequences if the individual refuses, are all examples of what may justify an entrapment defense.

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Many arrests are made with the help of undercover 'johns,' and it is not unusual for police to use unfair methods to persuade people to consent to a lewd act or sexual contact in exchange for money that would not have done so under different circumstances.

Entrapment is an affirmative argument that can be used in court and provided to the jury as part of their instructions. If the jury determines that the defense proved he was entrapped by a preponderance of the facts, the accused will be found not guilty.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer if you have been convicted and charged with solicitation for sex as a result of a police officer's offensive behavior. When the right facts are present, entrapment can be a very successful defense.

Offenses Related to Prostitution Solicitation

Some of these offenses have harsher consequences than a prostitution charge. Human trafficking, on the other hand, is a much more serious crime. Others, like supervising or assisting a prostitute, can carry far lighter sentences and even be used as a plea bargaining tactic in the face of more severe charges like pimping and pandering.

Acting Lewdly in Public.

If you're charged with lewd behavior in public, the accusation may be related to prostitution solicitation, as discussed earlier in this article. However, committing a "lewd act" unrelated to any prostitution offense will result in the charge of violating Penal Code section 647(a).

For example, under Penal Code section 647, subdivision (a), a person may be convicted of committing a "lewd act" if he or she touched the buttocks, genitals, or female breast of either himself or herself with the intent to cause sexual arousal in either himself or another person, or to "annoy or offend" another person (i.e., a person watching), and the person did so in a public place (s). Furthermore, the prosecutor will have to show that another person was present at the time of the sexual act, which "might" have been offended, and that the accused either knew or should have known that another person was present.

Sections 266h and 266i of the Penal Code prohibit pimping and pandering.

Pimping and pandering are not the same things. Pimping is described as knowingly receiving compensation and living off of the money or compensation received by a prostitute. It may also be paid if the accused accepts a portion of the prostitute's remuneration in exchange for connecting the prostitute with customers who would pay for the prostitute's sexual services.

Several actions can be included in the concept of pandering (a felony). For example, if the accused procures a prostitute or "[b]y promises, threats, abuse, or any other device or scheme, triggers, induces, persuades, or encourages an inmate of a house of prostitution, or any other place in which prostitution is encouraged or permitted, to remain therein" as a prostitute, the accused is guilty of pandering. The full list of actions that count as pandering can be found in PC section 266i.

  • The punishment for pimping and pandering is severe: if convicted, you may face a sentence of three, four, or six years in state prison.

  • If the pimping and/or pandering is done with a minor under the age of 16, the offense is punishable by a three, six, or eight-year prison sentence.

Human trafficking is a serious problem.

It will entail pandering and pimping another person through intimidation, force, or other methods of depriving them of their freedom and liberties if you are charged with human trafficking. Sex trafficking may also include pimping and pandering, depending on the circumstances. Sex trafficking is a very serious crime in California, with severe consequences.

One common misunderstanding about human trafficking is that it necessitates cross-border travel. The truth about this crime is that it involves manipulating an individual or a group of people by deception, intimidation, or force in order to use them for sexual abuse, forced labor, or both. It may occur entirely within a single country or across international borders.

Assisting or supervising a prostitute.

The act of supervising or assisting a prostitute is similar to prostitution and solicitation, although there are some differences. When someone is accused of supervising or supporting a prostitute, it suggests that they are being accused of intentionally facilitating or assisting someone in prostitution. Supervising or assisting a prostitute is prohibited under California Penal Code 653.23. For example, if you give your friend money and/or drive him to the location where you wish to make him meet the prostitute as a gift for his Bachelor's party, you may be charged with the crime.

Is it possible for me to resolve this without going to court?

Yes, you and your Criminal Law Attorney might be able to resolve the case without going to court. What the California Criminal Defense Lawyer can do for you depends on where the case is in the process and the specific nature of the charges leveled against you – but whatever the case, the intention is to get all charges against you dismissed completely.

However, it is important to try to resolve any dispute as soon as possible, preferably before charges are filed. You'll have the best chance of succeeding if you work with a California Criminal Defense Lawyer who has handled similar cases before. And even though the evidence against the client is strong or the prosecutor is unable to drop the case entirely, there is normally space for lesser charges to be brought or for a resolution that does not result in a permanent conviction.

When it comes to trafficking and solicitation charges, how do people normally get caught?

An undercover police officer is the most common way that someone is caught committing one of these crimes – either online or when police perform operations in places where sex workers are known to congregate.

Service through the internet

There are a number of well-known websites that are common with those who engage in sex work. The police will frequently respond to existing advertisements or position ads and correspond with people who respond to them in order to catch people who are using such sites to either advertise their services as prostitutes or to locate prostitutes.

For example, the police could place an ad in a local hotel stating that a woman is available to provide certain sexual services. A man responds to the ad and decides to meet her at a hotel and pay her $200 for sex with him after exchanging emails. The man is arrested by the police and charged with solicitation when he arrives at the hotel room at the pre-arranged time.

Sting operations are conducted undercover.

Police are familiar with the streets and places where prostitutes work, and they often perform undercover sting operations there. They could have an officer dress up as a prostitute to catch people who approach them, or they could dress up as 'johns' to catch people who act as prostitutes. They can also perform monitoring of certain areas at other times in order to apprehend people. They might have knowledge that a specific company, such as a massage parlor, is being used as a brothel in some cases. In such situations, they would impersonate clients of the company and detain someone who is engaging in criminal activity while on the premises.

A female police officer, for example, dresses provocatively and stands on the street. Her husband is in an unmarked car across the street, capturing all of her conversations, and she is wearing a wire. A man approaches her and pulls up alongside her, winding down the window and motioning her over. They strike up a conversation in which the man offers her money in exchange for her joining him in his car and giving him a 'blow job.' The man is arrested for solicitation after the conversation is registered.

What do I tell the cops?

Nothing – all you have to do is give them your name and address, and if necessary, show them identification. Aside from that, it's best not to say anything to the cops; your California Criminal Defense Lawyer will do so on your behalf.

The police are expected to inform you of your rights if you are arrested. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to counsel. These are valuable privileges, and you should use them to the fullest extent possible.

Being charged and going through the arrest process can be frightening and threatening, so you can feel compelled to defend or justify yourself. However, keep in mind that nothing you say at that point would possibly prevent the cops from prosecuting you. The best way to provide a strong defense is to stay quiet and seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Find A Criminal Defense Lawyer in California is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a California Criminal Defense Attorney best suited to handle your case. You may contact us through our 24/7 Live Chat (or fulfill our submission form) for a free initial case review.


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