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Top 10 Defenses to Prostitution Charges in California (PC 647(B)). Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain

Sex crimes criminal defense lawyers will typically use one or more of the following defense options when her client is facing California prostitution charges, including criminal allegations of PC 647(b)(1) [Receive Compensation for Prostitution], PC 647(b)(2) [Engage in Prostitution], and PC 647(b)(3) [Engage in Prostitution with a Minor].

This article is based on legal principles, case precedents, and effective defense strategies against California prostitution charges, including allegations of PC 647(b) & 647(b)(2). More information on any specific prostitution crime may be found at PC 647(B) [Prostitution Crimes] and PC 315 [Keeping a House of Ill Repute]

Lack of Specific Intent: Prostitution crimes typically require proof of specific intent to engage in the act of prostitution. A defense strategy may challenge whether the defendant knowingly and willfully intended to engage in prostitution. The defense attorney does this by showing a lack of “overt act” that identifies the defendant’s intent.

Note: The defendant is not required to show lack of intent to engage in prostitution. Rather, the district attorney is required to prove the defendant specifically intended to engage in an act of prostitution. To prove intent, the district attorney will be required to show that the defendant made an “over act” that proves his intent to engage in prostitution. The overt act is typically some act in furtherance of the defendant’s intent.

Example: Billy calls an escort from a social media site that advertises escort services with pictures of women in lingerie. Unknowingly to Billy, the escort he called is an undercover police officer who poses as an escort as part of a sting operation to catch “Johns.” While on the phone with Mandy, Billy asks Mandy about the cost for a “blowjob” (oral copulation). Mandy tells Billy to bring $80 dollars and two condoms to her hotel room. Thereafter, Billy arrives at Mandy’s hotel room with $80 and two condoms. Billy is immediately arrested by undercover officers at Mandy’s hotel room, and he is subsequently charged with a violation of California Penal Code Section 647(B)(2) [Agree to Engage in Prostitution].

Note: In the above example, Billy’s intent to engage in prostitution is evidenced by his overt act of bringing $80 dollars and two condoms to Mandy’s hotel room. Without the over act, it would be difficult for the district attorney to prove that Billy intended to engage in prostitution (i.e., blowjob for payment).

Of course, where the defendant confesses to the crime of prostitution, then lack of specific intent, or lack of an overt act that identifies the defendant’s intent, is not a viable defense. In this situation, the defendant might rely on a coerced confession, or lack of Mirandized confession defense (See Below).

Entrapment Defense: Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces someone to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. If the defendant can demonstrate that they were coerced or induced by law enforcement into engaging in prostitution, this defense may apply.

Example: Mandy, an undercover police officer who is working as part of a police sting operation to catch “Johns,” flags down Billy while he drives to work. Billy pulls over to inquire why Mandy is waiving him. Thereafter, Mandy offers Billy a “car date.” Billy is reluctant, but Mandy is persistent until Billy acquiesces and agrees to a “car date.” (i.e., sexual services performed by prostitutes in a “John’s” vehicle. As soon as Billy agrees to a “car date” he is surrounded by police cars and arrested for agreeing to engage in prostitution (PC 647(B)(2)).

Result: Mandy, probably entrapped Billy into agreeing to prostitution as Mandy’s conduct of flagging down unsuspecting driver’s, who are thereafter pressured to engage in sexual services, is promoting the crime of prostitution.

Note: Entrapment is an “affirmative defense.” This means that the defendant can admit the act that led to the criminal charges (affirmation of the act), but nevertheless, be exonerated because of the police officer’s promotion of crime.

Lack of Evidence: Like any criminal case, the prosecution must prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney may challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution.

For example, in the crime of solicitation of a minor for prostitution (PC 647(B)(3)), the district attorney must prove that the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that the prostitute was under the age of eighteen (18). If this “element” of the crime is not proved by the district attorney, then the criminal charge of PC 647(B)(3) must be dismissed, or at least reduced to the criminal charge of PC 647(B)(2) [Agree to Engage in Prostitution with an Adult].

Note: The elements to California prostitution crimes may be found at the following: Receive Payment for Prostitution (PC 647(B)(1)), Engage, Agree, or Solicit Prostitution (PC 647(B)(2)), Operate a House of Prostitution (PC 315). Also, the crime of Loitering for Prostitution (PC 653.22) is no longer a crime in California. To overturn, seal and destroy a prior conviction for loitering with intent to commit prostitution, see Petition to Seal & Destroy a PC 653.22 Conviction.

Mistaken Identity: In cases where multiple individuals are involved or the circumstances are unclear, a defense of mistaken identity may be raised. This defense asserts that the defendant was not the person engaging in prostitution.

Note: A related defense of Mistake of Fact might be available in a PC 647(B)(3) case [Solicitation of a Minor for Prostitution], where the defendant reasonably and honestly believes that the prostitute solicited is at least eighteen (18) years of age. This defense is not a complete defense as the defendant might still be charged with PC 647(b)(2) [Solicitation of Prostitution], but the penalties associated with PC 647(B)(3) are more severe than those related to PC 647(B)(2).

Also, where the minor solicited is under the age of sixteen (16), the defendant could be charged with much more serious crimes, including PC 664/288(c) [Attempted Lewd Act on a Child], PC 647.6 [Annoy or Molest a Minor], PC 664/288(a) [Attempted Lewd and Lascivious Act on a Child Less Than 14], and more, depending on the facts of the case.

Coercion or Duress to Prostitute: If the defendant engaged in prostitution due to threats, coercion, or fear of harm, a defense of coercion or duress may be raised. This defense argues that the defendant acted under compulsion and against their own will.

This defense applies to the prostitute defendant, where the prostitute defendant is charged with PC 647(B)(1) [Agree to Receive Payment for Prostitution]. However, if the person who threatens or coerces another person to act as a prostitute receives financial gain from the prostitute, then the criminal charges against the prostitute should be dismissed upon the filing of criminal charges against the person who receives financial gain from the prostitute (See Pimping Crimes, Pandering Crimes, & Human Sex Trafficking Crimes).

Note: Coercion or Duress defenses can also apply to the non-prostitute defendant. But this happens in the context of a coerced confession (See Undercover Police Misconduct & Violation of Constitutional Rights)

Lack of Exchange of Money or Goods: Prostitution laws typically require an exchange of money, goods, or something of value for sexual services. If there was no actual exchange or agreement on such terms, this defense may be viable. This defense relates to the Lack of Specific Intent & Lack of Overt Act Defense – See Above].

Undercover Police Misconduct: Allegations of misconduct by undercover police officers, such as entrapment or improper conduct during sting operations, can undermine the prosecution's case. This includes Entrapment (See Above at Entrapment Defense), Coerced Confession, Lack of Proper Mirandizing, Illegal Search & Seizure of Evidence, and More.

Violation of Constitutional Rights: Defense attorneys may challenge the legality of the arrest, search, or seizure that led to the prostitution charge, asserting violations of the defendant's constitutional rights. This defense related to Undercover Police Misconduct (See Above), but it also includes other procedural defenses like statute of limitations defense, coerced confession, ex post facto defense, & double jeopardy defense. For more information on these complex defenses to prostitution crimes, contact our sex crimes criminal defense lawyer today for a free consultation.

Human Trafficking Victim Defense: If the defendant was a victim of human trafficking and was coerced or forced into engaging in prostitution, this defense may apply. California law provides protections for victims of human trafficking who are charged with prostitution offenses.

Plea Negotiation: In some cases, negotiating a plea deal or diversion program may be a strategic defense option to mitigate charges and potential penalties. For example, a defendant might have his PC 647(B)(3) charges [Solicitation of Minor for Prostitution] reduced to PC 647(b)(2) charges [Agree to Engage in Prostitution] through a plea bargain with the district attorney.

Judicial Diversion: In some cases, where the defendant is charged with solicitation of an adult for prostitution (PC 647(B)(2)), or where the prostitute is charged with receiving financial gain from his or her services as a prostitute (PC 647(B)(1)), the district attorney and/or the judge, might offer a judicial diversion program to the defendant. The judicial diversion program is a way to avoid criminal prosecution where the defendant is agreeable to enter a short probation-like sentence, in exchange for the criminal charges to be dismissed.

Note: Judicial diversion is not likely to be offered in a solicitation of a minor for prostitution case (PC 647(B)(3)). In any event, the judicial diversion program is a request to be granted, if at all, by the court. It is not a right of the defendant and there are many limitations to the availability of a judicial diversion program. For more information, contact our California Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyers for a free consultation.

Each defense strategy should be tailored to the specific circumstances of the case and supported by appropriate evidence and legal arguments. For example, a defense to a PC 647(B)(1) charges [Receive Payment for Prostitution Services] is not a viable defense for a “John,” for obvious reasons.

Consulting with a knowledgeable prostitution defense attorney, who is experienced in criminal defense and prostitution crimes in California is crucial to determining the most effective defense strategy for individual cases.

It is also important that your criminal defense attorney is skilled in the defense of prostitution-related offense, which are commonly charged along with prostitution charges, such as indecent exposure (PC 314) [usually charged against streetwalker prostitutes who expose themselves to undercover officers] and engage in public lewd act PC 647(a) [usually charged against both the prostitute and "John" when sexual activity occurs in public view, such as a parked car, in a public park, or in an alleyway]

For more information on common defenses to prostitution crimes in California contact our sex crimes criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our award-winning criminal defense attorney, including winning criminal trial attorneys, have helped thousands of Inland Empire residents since 2009.

Our success rate is second to none and our consultations are free and discreet. We defend all felony and misdemeanor sex crimes allegations, including lewd and lascivious act on a child under 14 (PC 288(a)) cases (child molestation), possession of child pornography (PC 311), oral copulation (PC 287), sodomy (PC 286), sexual penetration crimes (PC 289), sexual battery (PC 243.4), statutory rape (PC 261.5), rape crimes (PC 261), & failure to register as a sex offender (PC 290). Call today!


Further Reading

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Prostitution Defense Attorneys California


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