California prostitution laws are strict because the crime causes a stain in societies where it occurs. The law allows police officers to arrest people who appear to be looking for prostitutes or those who dress or look like prostitutes in public places.  When arrested under such circumstances, you will face loitering to commit prostitution charges. Even innocent people get accused of this offense, which is why you need to retain the services of the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm.

Legal Definition of Loitering to Commit Prostitution

As per California PC 653.22, any behavior that involves delaying or staying for long in a public place without a legal reason or with the intent to commit or solicit prostitution is a crime that can result in an arrest and criminal charges. Under the Code Section, law enforcement officers are allowed to arrest a person if they notice the individual has plans or intentions of soliciting or participating in prostitution, even if they don’t find the person transacting or engaging in the act of prostitution.

Many individuals end up in jail, whereas they are innocent just because police officers don’t need to find a person in the act of prostitution to make an arrest. So, whenever you find yourself facing these charges, hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best move because he or she will provide facts of the case to show you were not violating PC 653.22.

Elements of Loitering to Commit Prostitution

For you to end up with a conviction for PC 653.22 violation, the prosecution must prove the following facts of the case:

  1. Loitering

PC 653.22 outlines loitering as lingering in a public place without any justifiable reasons, waiting to break the law if an opportunity avails itself. The prosecutor must demonstrate that you had no other reason to delay or linger at a particular point unless it was for prostitution purposes.

Besides, if you cannot explain the legal reason why you were at the joint where you were arrested and charged with PC 653.22 violation, you could still end up with a sentence.

  1. Public Place    

It is a crime to linger in a public place for purposes of participating in prostitution. A public place under this section is any place that is open to the public or where there is an unrestricted entry. It could be a park, alley, driveway, or parking lot. A movie theater, bar, restaurant, or a building that is open to the general public is a public place. Entrances of these public places and the grounds around them are public places.         

You should understand that if you engage in the behavior in a private place or one that is not open to the general public, you are innocent of this sex crime.

  1. Intent to Commit Prostitution

Any sexual behavior that occurs in exchange for money or any form of payment is prostitution. As such, the prosecutor must prove that when you were lingering in a public place, you had plans or purpose to engage in prostitution. Your actions at the time of arrest must openly show you were soliciting or getting somebody to engage in prostitution.

Keep in mind that any sexual conduct in a play or stage performance that occurs in a public place like a strip club doesn’t amount to prostitution.

Police officers have no standard way of knowing you intend to engage in prostitution. They just make an assumption, which means that even an innocent person whose actions are legal might be interpreted as illegal only because of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Because it’s usually difficult to prove intent, your defense attorney can take advantage of this element and demonstrate that you lacked the intent to engage in prostitution.

Acts that are Interpreted as Intent to Commit Prostitution

As per PC 653.22, several actions could show that a person intended to engage in or solicit prostitution. These acts include:

  • When you continuously signal to, stop, or take part in a conversation or attempts to stop or participate in a chat with a passerby, suggestive of beseeching prostitution.
  • When you repetitively stop or try to stop vehicles by waving or greeting drivers, make bodily gestures or attempt to chat with drivers in a manner indicative of soliciting prostitution.
  • If you circle an area in a car and repeatedly signal, attempt to stop or contact pedestrians or drivers, in a way suggestive of soliciting prostitution, you may be subject to PC 653.22 charges.
  • If a half a year before the current arrest, you had been engaged in the behaviors mentioned above or conduct that suggests soliciting sex.
  • If you have been sentenced for PC 647(a) or PC 647(b) violation or any other offense relating to or involving prostitution in the last five years, you will be charged with this crime.

Note that any of the above conducts can demonstrate intent to participate in prostitution if the place you are lingering around is known for prostitution. You can end up with a sentence, even if no prostitutes were present. What is critical to demonstrate is that you believed prostitutes were present and that you delayed in that location to commit prostitution.

Also, it is critical to note that the conducts described above are not exclusive, meaning you don’t have to take part in any of the above behaviors to earn a conviction. Several other aspects are put into consideration by the judge or jury other than the actions stated above. They can look back at your criminal history, involving committing or soliciting prostitution in the past six months.

Giving a fake name or ID to an officer when questioned, being around an individual with a record of prostitution crimes, or carrying condoms are some of the other behaviors that are indicative of intent or purpose to commit prostitution.

By reviewing the above behaviors, you get to learn how much discretion police officers, juries, or judges have when apprehending and sentencing suspects of PC 6543.22 violation. This opens a lot of loopholes for police to target specific groups of people wrongfully. Fortunately, not all those that are arrested end up with a conviction because the prosecution must demonstrate intent to have you sentenced. If they cannot, you will walk free.

Penalties for a Loitering to Commit Prostitution Charge

PC 653.22 charges in California are a misdemeanor whose conviction will subject you to the following punitive measures:

  • No more than a half a year in jail
  • Up to one thousand dollars court fines

The judge might also sentence you to probation but under particular conditions. They might require you to serve half of the jail sentence, but you won’t have to register as a sex offender because this sex crime is not outlined under PC 653.22. For a particular period, the court will prohibit you from using specific means of transport as part of the punishment. The transit authority is the one that issues this prohibition order, but fortunately, when you receive a notice of the order, you can always contest it before it’s enforcement.

As part of the punishment, a judge might also order you to undergo an HIV testing and AIDS education program. Once the program is completed, it is filed, and a copy of the file is submitted to the court. Besides, if the area you often visit is famous for prostitution and police officers usually conduct sting operations there, the court might prohibit you from revisiting the place. Unfortunately, if it is your place of work, you might end up losing your job since going there will be a violation of a court order. In case it’s your home, you will be forced to look for an alternative apartment until the ban is lifted.

Legal Defenses for Lingering for Purposes of Committing Prostitution

As seen above, a conviction for PC 6543.22 violations can have severe consequences on your life. Luckily, you can fight back. Several legal defense strategies can be applied to contest the charges. Some of these strategies include:

Insufficient Evidence to Demonstrate Intent to Commit Prostitution

Most times, the offense of PC 653.22 violation is deemed as an offense of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. You can find yourself in a situation where you don’t intend to solicit prostitution or were not aware the area is known for prostitution and still be charged with this offense.  Under such circumstances, the prosecution will need to demonstrate that you had the intent to commit prostitution. 

Several behaviors can be indicative of committing prostitution.  Even if you engaged in the practices, the court should review the circumstances of your case before arriving at a decision. This presents you with the opportunity to demonstrate that you were at a public place known for prostitution not to engage in the offense but for lawful reasons like drinking or business.

Your attorney could argue on your behalf that you were dressed provocatively to make a conversation with a guy to get drinks. You could also say that you were engaging in flirtation because you enjoyed it but had no intent to solicit prostitution.

If the prosecutor is using circumstantial evidence to demonstrate intent, your attorney could argue that the evidence by the prosecution is insufficient to prove intent.

Keep in mind that in these cases, it is usually your word against that of the officer. So, if the jury decides to believe the arresting officer’s side of the story, you could end up with a conviction even if the behavior you engaged in was harmless. It is up to your attorney to convince the jury you lacked intent. He or she will need facts that can show you were at the place for lawful purposes, or you were flirting or engaging in legal conduct.

Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when police coerce you by way threats, pressure, flattery, harassment, or fraud to encourage crime. The majority of these cases involve undercover police conducting sting operations. So, if the concept to loiter for purposes of prostitution was from the undercover officers conducting a sting operation, it is possible to assert that you were entrapped.

If, for instance, an undercover police officer is posing as a prostitute and tells you the price of his or her services and you agree to the conduct, you cannot argue entrapment because it is clear you went to the place to commit prostitution. The original idea came from your mind even before you talked to the officer.

However, if your car broke down at a place known for prostitution and an officer posing as a prostitute approaches and entices you to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for money, even if you are arrested for PC 653.22 violation, claiming entrapment will hold in court. The reason being you were at the location not because you intended to be there but because your car broke down. Therefore, the idea of committing prostitution didn’t come from you; instead, it came from the officer.

Violation of Your Rights

Violation of your constitutional rights can happen in various ways. One of them is when an arrest occurs on suspicion of PC 653.22 violation during an illegal search or seizure or when an officer fails to read you the Miranda Warning. This type of evidence is considered as technical because it is not intended to prove you are not guilty. Instead, its purpose is to show that the evidence in the case was obtained illegally thus should be inadmissible in court.

If, after an arrest, police begin to interrogate you without first informing you that you have the right to remain silent, any statement that you made will be inadmissible because it was acquired through a violation of your rights. However, note that if you made the statement while not being interrogated or outside police custody, the failure by the arresting officer to recite Miranda rights will not help you.

Another way police can violate your rights when facing charges of violating PC 653.22 is by a coerced confession. Offices might corner you in an interrogation room and use threats or other ways of intimidation to make you confess to loitering with intent to commit prostitution. This is referred to as coerced confession because whatever you said is not the truth but what the officers wanted to hear. These cases are common in sex crime cases, but fortunately, proving that your rights were violated can help you challenge the charges.

Other defenses you could use to contest the charges include asserting that the allegations are a result of a mistake of fact or you are a victim of false claims.

The question of whether these defense strategies will hold in court depends on the experience and knowledge of your criminal defense attorney. If you are looking for a proficient attorney to help you defend against the charges, then you should consider Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm.

Related Offenses

Several offenses can be charged alongside loitering to commit prostitution. These offenses include:

  1. Prostitution

California PC 647(b) prohibits people from engaging in any lewd act, undertaken in exchange for money or any other type of repayment. A lewd act, in this case, refers to any physical contact that is sexual in nature, sexual behavior, or sexual intercourse between two individuals. Both parties involved in this transaction are all criminally liable.

Usually, when you are arrested for loitering to commit prostitution, the prosecutor might charge you with prostitution at the same time. In case it becomes difficult to prove you committed prostitution, they can drop the charges and pursue PC 653.22 charges, which are easier to prove.

To demonstrate that you engaged in prostitution, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You, as the offender, willfully or intentionally engaged in a lewd act or sexual intercourse with another person in exchange for compensation in monetary or any other form.
  • You did so with the specific intent to engage in prostitution.

When proving the solicitation of prostitution, the prosecutor must demonstrate that:

  • You requested another party or individual to engage in the act of prostitution.
  • You had intentions of engaging in the act of prostitution with the other party.
  • The other party received the communication of the request.

Note that the law is clear that both the prostitute and the customer commit this crime when they engage in sexual intercourse or lewd act.

When it comes to registering charges, prostitution is registered as a misdemeanor. Upon sentencing, you will be subject to a half a year jail custody and court fines for a first time offender. On top of these punitive measures, a conviction can affect your reputation, career, and marriage.

Take note that during sentencing, instead of having to spend up to six months in jail, the judge could impose probation, but if only it’s your first offense. If you have a prior, the judge will impose a mandatory 45-day jail sentence without the possibility of probation or early release. A third conviction will result in sentence enhancement, where incarceration will be less than three months or 90 days in jail. Where the act of prostitution took place in a car or 1,000 feet from home, the defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended for thirty days.

  1. Lewd Act in Public

As per PC 647(a), it is a crime to touch your or someone else’s privates for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification while knowing or ought to have reasonably known that someone nearby would have been offended.  If you have a prior conviction for PC 647(a) violation, you are likely to end up with a sentence for loitering to commit prostitution.

To demonstrate that you engaged in a lewd act in public, the prosecutor must show the following elements:

  • You engaged in the act of touching your or someone else’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts.
  • You did so for your or another person’s sexual gratification or arousal or to offend another person.
  • The lewd act took place in public or a place open to public view.
  • During the act, somebody who could have been offended or annoyed was present.
  • And you knew or should have known that another person would have been annoyed by the conduct.

If you were arrested for soliciting a lewd act, the prosecutor would need to demonstrate the following facts:

  • You requested somebody else to participate in the touching of private parts.
  • You requested the other party to engage in the act in a public place.
  • When you made the request, you were in a public place.
  • You requested for purposes of your or another party’s sexual gratification or to offend somebody else.
  • You should have been aware or ought to have known that someone who could have been offended by the conduct was present.
  • The other party received the communication.

The offense is a misdemeanor, and if you are sentenced, you will face no more than six months in jail custody and fine and penalty assessment fees. The judge might also impose a stay-away order or sex offender counseling and compulsory HIV testing and AIDS education.

  1. Local Ordinances

Once the legislature enacted PC 653.22, it allowed local and state government to enact their ordinances for loitering with intent to commit prostitution. It means that on top of these charges, Orange County government agencies can impose additional penalties and stricter restrictions.

  1. Loitering to Solicit Purchase of Alcohol

California PC 303(a) makes it a crime to loiter outside a restaurant, bar, or any other establishment that serves alcohol to persuade someone else to buy you a drink.

Many prostitutes hang out around bars and restaurants and begin to solicit patrons into engaging in prostitution by requesting free drinks. If you are apprehended in such a situation and charged with pc 653.22 violation, you could negotiate with the prosecutor to lower the charges to PC 303(a). This offense carries less social stigma and penalties, hence suitable for a plea bargain.

Find a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

Loitering to commit prostitution is a severe offense, and sometimes it arises from police errors or faulty assumptions. At the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have profound criminal attorneys. Our legal experts are ready to evaluate the facts of your case and present all the relevant defenses to contest the charges. Reach out to us today at 714-740-7848 for a no-obligation consultation.