California Penal Code 647(b) makes it illegal for an individual to engage in prostitution and solicitation, which means encouraging, offering, or requesting sex in exchange for money. In other terms, California law prohibits offering to pay, accepting cash, or valuable items in exchange for a sexual act. It is important to note that both the prostitute and the customer can be charged with prostitution and solicitation. You also do not have to complete the sexual acts for you to be convicted under PC 647(b).

If you have been charged with prostitution or solicitation, you are likely to face probation, jail/state imprisonment, or fines. That’s why you should work with a criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges. Our skilled and dedicated attorneys at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can help fight for your rights to possibly get you the most favorable outcome from your case. We serve throughout Riverside, CA.

How California Law Defines Prostitution & Solicitation

There are three significant acts prohibited under PC 647(b). They include:

  • Soliciting a prostitution act
  • Engaging in a prostitution act
  • Agreeing to engage in a prostitution act

The law defines prostitution as an act that occurs when someone engages in lewd or sexual intercourse with another person for money or other valuables.

Lewd conduct or lewd act is defined as touching the female breast, buttocks, or genitals of the customer or the prostitute with the other person’s body parts with the intent of sexual gratification or sexual arousal.

Below is the legal definition of the terms used above:

  1. Soliciting a prostitution act

A person is said to solicit prostitution in California when they:

  • Request someone else to engage in a prostitution act, and
  • Does it intend to engage in a prostitution act with the other person

For a person to be convicted for solicitation, their actions must have indicated that they intended to engage in prostitution acts.

The major element is clear intent to engage in prostitution. Below are acts that DO NOT show a clear intent to engage in prostitution acts:

  • Nodding to a stranger
  • Waving at a passing vehicle
  • Being an area commonly known for prostitution
  • Standing on a street with a short skirt/dress

For instance, Cate, who is new to the city, decides to go out at night to explore the new town. She puts on a provocative dress and stands on a street where most prostitutes gather to look for the best spot for her to chill. Mike drives by her severally, then pulls over. He shows her $300 and offers to give her if she accepts to have sex with him. Mike’s actions indicate that he was initiating a prostitution act.

However, if Mike’s friends had dared him to do that, he couldn't be convicted for solicitation. This is because it was only a dare, and he did not act in furtherance of trading the money with sex.

  1. Engaging in a prostitution act

Under California law, someone engages in prostitution when they:

  • Intentionally engage in lewd conduct or sexual intercourse with another person, and
  • They do so in exchange for money or other valuables
  1. Agreeing to engage in prostitution

Under California penal code 647(b), agreeing to engage in prostitution is defined as:

  • Accepting to engage in prostitution acts with another person
  • Intending to engage in a prostitution act with another person, and
  • Doing something to further the commission of the prostitution act

Doing something to further the commission of the prostitution act is more than agreeing to a solicitation. It could be either of the following:

  • Requesting a person who has accepted solicitation to undress
  • Driving to the location that the prostitute and the customer had agreed to have the sexual intercourse
  • Withdrawing money from the bank to pay the other person as agreed
  • Making the payment as agreed

Penalties For Pc 647(b) Prostitution and Solicitation

In California, prostitution and solicitation are charged as a misdemeanor and does not require the defendant to register as a sex offender. However, it is considered a priorable crime, meaning its penalties increase with subsequent offenses as per the statutory law.

A first time offender of either solicitation or prostitution is likely to face the following penalties:

  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Detention in county jail for six months

Note that the maximum penalty in county jail time remains the same even if you are convicted for a subsequent violation. However, California has compulsory minimum jail penalties. Below are some of the penalties a defendant is likely to face for a subsequent violation of penal code 647(b):

  • Second time offender — a mandatory sentence in the county jail of not less than 45 days
  • Third time or more — A mandatory jail sentence of not less than 90 days

If you committed the offense while you were in a vehicle and within proximity of a residential property. In that case, you could face an additional penalty of driving license suspension for thirty days or restriction of your driving license for six months.

Possible Legal Defenses to PC 647(b) Charges

There are several legal defenses that defendants charged with prostitution and solicitation can use to challenge the allegations. The common defense includes:

  • Lack of sufficient evidence — As stated above, there are elements that a prosecutor needs to prove for the accused to be convicted for prostitution and solicitation. If the prosecutor only has part of the required evidence, it means that there is still reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. This means that the jury cannot convict the defendant under pc 647b. For instance, an accused can not be charged with this crime if the prosecutor shows that the defendant requested someone else to engage in prostitution. Still, they cannot prove that the accused intended to engage in prostitution.
  • Falsely accused — It is not uncommon that a person gets accused falsely under this statute. People who want to get back at someone else can accuse them of payback or jealousy. Regardless of their motive, a defendant can always argue that they were blamed unjustly.
  • Entrapment — Most defendants use the defense of entrapment following an undercover sting. Being entrapped means that the police used overbearing conduct to trick an individual into committing a crime. However, this defense will only work if the accused can prove they committed the offense because the undercover officers entrapped them.
  • Mistake of fact — This defense is applicable if you can prove that the factors surrounding the event that caused your charges do not show any particular intention of engaging in prostitution. For example, Mike saw an advert for an escort service on the internet and responded to it. The role of the job was to accompany a lady to a particular event as her date. The event turns out to be prostitution-related. Can Mie be convicted for prostitution? The answer is NO since he did not have or express any intention of engaging in lewd conduct or sexual intercourse with his date.

If Mike is accused of prostitution, he can use the defense of mistake of fact to show that his reasons for attending the event and his intentions were different.

Police Sting Operations Targeting Prostitution

The most common scenarios of penal code 647(b) include an accused approaching another person at a place where prostitution is common and beginning a conversation. The person approached will elicit the conversation carefully to check if the other party is seeking to engage in sexual intercourse in exchange for money.

After agreeing, police officers are given a signal, and several officers arrive at the scene and arrest the alleged suspect. After the case is taken to court, it is confirmed that the alleged customer was undercover police who were on a sting operation.

While interacting, the undercover officer may have confirmed two essential elements that are crucial when prosecuting a person under PC 647(b). These elements include:

  • Proposing to engage in sexual activities
  • Offering to make payment for these acts

The sting operation puts away any defense the defendant may use to argue their intent. But there are cases where the defendant's intent can be argued even during a sting operation. Note that the defendant, in this case, can only be convicted if they paid the agreed amount of money to the undercover police.

Charge Reductions

If your defense is solid and relevant, you can have your prostitution and solicitation charges reduced to an offense that is not related to prostitution. This may help you avoid the professional and personal damage that a prostitution conviction could have caused. In most cases, a prostitution conviction is often reduced to penal code 602 (criminal trespass) and penal code 415 (disturbing the peace). Although most people may not understand the connection between these offenses, authorities are aware of the relationship between prostitution offenses and these offenses and often use them to reduce prostitution charges.

Are There Efforts to Legalize Prostitution in California?

Yes, there have been ongoing efforts to legalize prostitution in California. For instance, the Senate recently passed Senate Bill 357, which proposes to punish people found loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. If this bill is passed, it would be against Peal code 653.22, which prohibits loitering intending to practice prostitution.

The legislature is looking to legalize prostitution to combat human trafficking. The reason is that by legalizing prostitution, there would be more minor cases of pimps using fear of arrest to help trafficking victims of sexual acts. Other states like Oregon ad Maine are also thinking about legalizing prostitution.

How Senate Bill 233 Will Protect Sex Workers in California

Before, if the police found an individual carrying condoms, they would use that as a probable cause that the individual is a sex worker and put them under arrest for public nuisance, loitering, and solicitation. Still, as of 2020, this law was banned. Since then, the police cannot use condoms as probable cause or evidence of prostitution; there has been a decrease in prostitution arrests. Prostitutes are not also afraid of carrying condoms around.

Additionally, Senate Bill 233 protects people (including prostitutes) from various low-level criminal charges when they report to the police about severe offenses. Before, if a sex worker witnessed or became a victim of a serious offense, they feared reporting to the police since they also risked being prosecuted for either of the following:

  • Engaging in prostitution and solicitation
  • Misdemeanor drug offense
  • Engaging in lewd conduct
  • Creating a public nuisance
  • Loitering with the intent to practice solicitation and prostitution

But now, sex workers are protected from facing the above charges if they report either of the following crimes:

  • Extortion (PC 518)
  • Stalking (PC 649.9)
  • Sexual battery (PC243.4)
  • Human trafficking (PC 236.1)
  • Assault likely to cause great bodily harm (PC 245(a)(4)
  • Assault with a firearm (PC345(A)(2)
  • Assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245(a)(1)
  • Any serious felony offense

Sex workers now have a greater incentive from the new law to report anyone that might hurt/abuse them or other people.

Offenses Related to Prostitution and Solicitation

Certain crimes under the California law are charged with or alongside prostitution and solicitation. They include:

Human Trafficking

PC 236.1 defines human trafficking as:

  • Denying a person their liberty with the intention to acquire forced services or labor from them,
  • Denying a person their liberty with the intention to violate laws like California law against blackmail and extortion, California law against child pornography, California laws agist pimping and pandering, or other laws against sexual exploitation and commercial sexual activity with children,
  • Trying to persuade or persuade an underage to get involved in commercial sex with the intention to violate the above laws.

Unlike penal code 647 b, human trafficking is convicted as a felony in California. If a defendant is charged with human trafficking with the intent to acquire forced services or labor, they are likely to face:

  • Up to twelve years in state prison
  • Fines of up to $500,000
  • Formal probation

If you are charged with human trafficking with the intent to commit a crime related to extortion, child pornography, or commercial sex, you are likely to face the following:

  • Up to 20 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $500,000
  • Registration as a sex offender

Lastly, if you persuade an underage to get involved in commercial sex, you are likely to face:

  • 15 years to a life sentence if the court determines that you used the threat of injury, violence, fear, or force to get the victim to commit the act
  • Fines of up to $500,000
  • Registration as a sex offender

Pimping

Under PC 266(h), pimping is defined as deriving money or support from a person’s prostitution work. For instance, providing services or protection to prostitutes in exchange for a share of their earnings or operating a brothel.

However, for a defendant to be convicted for pimping, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant was aware that the other person was a prostitute,
  • Either of the following was correct:
  1. The money earned by the sex worker supported the defendant
  2. The defendant requested or received payment from the sex worker for soliciting prostitute clients

According to penal code 647 b, a prostitute is someone who engages in lewd conduct or sexual acts in exchange for money or other valuables.

Pimping is charged as a felony, and the penalties include:

  • A felony probation
  • Imprisonment in state prison for six years

If the alleged victim was a minor below eighteen years, the defendant could face:

  • Registration as a sex offender for life
  • Detainment in state prison for up to eight years

Like in prostitution and solicitation charges, a defendant can use entrapment as a defense.

Pandering

Pandering is defined under PC 366i as an attempt to influence another person to become or remain a prostitute.

However, for you to be convicted for pandering, the prosecutor must beyond reasonable doubt prove that while trying to influence another person to become or remain a sex worker, the defendant:

  • Persuaded another person to be a sex worker
  • Used violence, threats, or promises to encourage or persuade another person to become a sex worker
  • Made arrangements for someone to be a sex worker in a brothel
  • Used violence, threats, or promises to persuade or encourage someone to remain as a sex worker
  • Used trickery or fraud to encourage another person to become a prostitute, enter a prostitution area, leave, or enter CA with the intent of being a prostitute
  • Give or receive cash in exchange for someone to become a prostitute

Note that you can still be convicted for pandering even if you did not succeed in convincing the other person to become a sex worker. The crucial element to having you charged for pandering is encouraging another person to become a prostitute.

Pandering is charged as a felony in California, and the penalties include:

  • Detainment in state prison for six years
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • Formal probation

At times, the jury may award the defendant formal probation in place of imprisonment. However, if the alleged victim was a minor below eighteen years, the defendant is likely to face:

  • Registration as a sex offender for life
  • Detainment is a state prison for eight years

Pandering is treated as a more serious crime in California than prostitution and solicitation.

Loitering for Prostitution

PC 653.22 prohibits loitering in a public area with the intent to engage in prostitution. Note that you can still be arrested even if you do not engage in prostitution. Intending to solicit or commit prostitution is enough to have you arrested.

However, there are elements that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to have you convicted under this statute. They include:

  • You were loitering in a public area
  • Your intentions were specifically to engage in prostitution

There are various ways that the state can prove that you intended to engage in prostitution. For instance:

  • You can demonstrate the intent to engage in prostitution by acting in a way that openly shows that your main aim was to solicit prostitution or convince another person to engage in prostitution
  • You could have behaved in a way that showed you committed prostitution and solicitation in the past, even though the acts happened six months before your arrest.

The penalties for this offense are similar to those of Penal code 647b (prostitution ad solicitation). They include:

  • Detainment in county jail for six months
  • Fines of up to $1,000, or
  • An informal probation

However, in most cases, the judge presiding over the case determines the exact sentence. Additionally, if you were arrested loitering with the intent of prostitution in San Francisco Bay, Fresno, or Sacramento, you could be banned from using certain public transportation facilities for some time.

Aiding or Supervising Prostitution

PC 653.23 prohibits direct aiding, recruiting, or supervising a prostitute. However, for you to be convicted under this statute, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • Recruited, helped, supervised, and directed another person to engage in solicitation or prostitution
  • Helped, recruited, supervised, or directed another person in loitering with the inter to engage in prostitution
  • Received or collected money earned from prostitution

In this case, the terms solicitation and prostitution have the same meaning as in penal code 647b.

Aiding or supervising a prostitute is charged as a misdemeanor in California, and the penalties include:

  • Detainment in county jail for six months
  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Informal probation

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one has been arrested or charged with prostitution and solicitation under penal code 647 b, it is essential to seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight these charges. If arrested in Riverside, immediately contact our skilled and dedicated lawyers at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. We could use a pre-filing intervention to help avoid filing your charges formally before the court or obtain a diversionary program that could help your charges be dismissed. Call us today at 951-946-6366 for a free and confidential consultation.