According to California law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with an intent to commit prostitution. The California PEN 653.22PC outlines this crime. Under this statute, the police have a legal right to arrest any person intending to engage in prostitution. The police can arrest the person even if they don't engage in prostitution. The police only need to know that the person has the intent to commit prostitution. A violation under PEN 653.22 PC is a misdemeanor offense whose penalties might include fines and jail time. Get in touch with us at the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer if you are facing charges for loitering to commit prostitution or related charges.
What Loitering to Commit Prostitution Entails
A prosecutor must prove several elements of the crime of loitering to commit prostitution for them to bring charges against you. It must be evident that:
- You were loitering
- You loitered in a public place
- You had the intent to commit or engage in prostitution
According to the law, loitering entails lingering or delaying in a place when you don't have a lawful purpose. It means lingering or delaying in a certain place with the intent to commit a crime when you get the opportunity. If you are just passing through a place, it doesn't mean that you are loitering. You have to stay at a place for a considerable period to be loitering.
You can't face charges for loitering to commit prostitution if you had another purpose to be in the said location. For instance, if you were waiting for your friends so that you can share a drink, the prosecutor shouldn't accuse you of loitering to commit prostitution. However, it's not always easy to prove that you had another reason to be in a particular location. Therefore, if the police arrest you for violating PC653.22, you should contact your criminal defense lawyer.
Places that Qualify as Public Places
You can only be guilty of violating PC653.22 if you loiter or linger in a public place. The police can't arrest you if you weren't in a public place. What is a public place according to the law? A public place refers to any area that is open to the public. A public place may include a plaza, alley, park, parking lot, or driveway. Both a parked or a moving vehicle is considered a public place. Other areas like bars, movie theaters, strip clubs, restaurants, or other buildings qualify as public places as long as they are open to the public.
The doorways to public buildings' entrance are also public places, including the grounds surrounding such buildings. Therefore, the drive-through of a restaurant or fast food joint is a public place, and so is a sidewalk. You could be guilty of violating PC653.22P if you drive around in your vehicle intending to commit prostitution. The prosecutor cannot accuse you of loitering to commit prostitution if you are in a private house or any other area, not open to the public.
Proof of Intent
For the prosecutor to accuse you of loitering to commit prostitution, they must prove that you had the intent to commit prostitution. If the prosecutor can't show or prove that you had this intent, you can't face charges under PC653.22. The law defines prostitution as engaging in a sexual act or conduct for money or another type of payment. Prostitution doesn't include sexual conduct, which is part of a play, a stage performance, or any other performance open to the public. Therefore, a strip club performance doesn't qualify as loitering to commit prostitution.
The trickiest part involves proving a person's intent to commit prostitution. How can the police, prosecutor, judge, or jury know that you had the intent to engage in prostitution? It is common for the police to misinterpret the actions of people. The police might accuse you of loitering to commit prostitution, yet you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the help of a qualified criminal defense lawyer, you can identify weaknesses in the prosecutor's testimony against you. You can convince the court that even if you were in a specific place at a particular period, you didn't plan to engage in prostitution.
How can you demonstrate the intent to commit prostitution? You can portray this intent if you behave in a manner that shows that you aim to engage in prostitution. You will also face charges under PC653.22 if it's evident that you intended to get another person to commit prostitution.
Behavior or Conduct that may Portray Intent
Particular behavior or conduct may portray your intent to engage in prostitution. According to PC653.22, some of the action that may show your intent to commit prostitution include:
- You repeatedly stop, beckon, engage in conversation, or attempt to engage in a conversation with passersby in a manner that suggests that you are soliciting or planning to engage in prostitution.
- You stop or attempt to stop vehicles repeatedly by waving, hailing, or making any other gesture likely to suggest an intent to commit prostitution. If you engage vehicle drivers in a manner that shows you are soliciting prostitution, you may face criminal charges.
- You circle a particular area in a motor vehicle, repeatedly attempting to contact or beckon at pedestrians, passersby, or other drivers in a way that shows you intend to commit prostitution.
- If you engage in any other behaviors outlined above, yet you had been arrested for similar conduct within the last six months.
- You have been convicted for violating PC653.22 for loitering to commit prostitution, or soliciting prostitution, or engaging in lewd conduct in public.
If you engage in any of the outlined conduct, it is likely to show that you had the intent to commit prostitution.
No Exclusive or Determinative Conduct
It is worth noting that sometimes, you don't need to engage in any of the conducts outlined above to face charges for loitering to commit prostitution. The circumstances or the behavior outlined above are not determinative or exclusive. The judge may also consider other factors to determine your intent to commit prostitution. Judges can consider the fact that you committed or solicited prostitution in the past, even if you did so more than six months before your arrest. Other conduct that may indicate that you intended to commit prostitution include:
- Providing false information including your age and name to the police after an arrest
- Being together with a person who has a history of prostitution conduct
- Carrying condoms while loitering in public
The police, prosecutors, judges, and juries have extensive discretion while arresting and charging people with a violation of PC 653.22. Due to this discretion, it's common for the police to target specific people unfairly.
Just because you engaged in behavior that indicated your intent to commit prostitution doesn't mean that you will be convicted of the crime. The court or judge will consider your case's unique circumstances before concluding that you indeed intended to engage in prostitution.
Penalties for Violation of PC 653.22
The crime of loitering to commit prostitution is a misdemeanor offense according to California law. The penalties for a conviction under PC653.22 include a fine not exceeding $1,000. You may also be subject to a jail time not exceeding 6months. The exact sentencing for your crime will depend on the judge's discretion. If you face a conviction for loitering to commit prostitution in certain regions like San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, or Tresno, you might be banned from using public transportation for some period. However, before the ban on public transportation takes effect, the transit authority must issue you with notice and an opportunity to dispute this order.
Common Legal Defenses to Charges under PC 653.22
A conviction of loitering to commit prostitution could have adverse effects on you. Therefore, it's essential to avoid conviction by all means. A conviction under PC 653.22 will have negative repercussions on your career and your social life. The good news is that you can fight back. You don't have to accept all the charges that the prosecutor brings against you. With the help of your lawyer, you can rely on several legal defenses to fight the charges brought against you. Some of the defenses that you can use to fight charges under PC653.22 are:
No Sufficient Evidence
You can't be convicted under PC653.22 if there isn't enough evidence to show that you intended to commit prostitution. There are so many factors that can indicate your intent to commit prostitution. Before convicting you of the crime, the court must consider all the facts and circumstances of your case. The prosecutor must provide adequate evidence to prove your intention. You may have been in an innocent situation, only for the police to accuse you of loitering with intent to commit prostitution. For instance, you might have been talking with people of the opposite sex or making eye contact with them, only for the police to accuse you of loitering to commit prostitution. It is common for the police in Los Angeles to arrest people for innocent behavior and accuse them of violating PC 653.22. Innocent arrests are widespread in neighborhoods where prostitution is common. The court may believe the police story more than yours leading to a conviction even when you are innocent. You need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer since the law gives so much discretion to the police and prosecutors. A lawyer will help you gather all the essential facts to create a strong defense. A lawyer will convincingly tell your story to ensure that you don't face wrongful charges when you are innocent.
Entrapment by the Police
You may fight the loitering to commit prostitution charges if you feel that the police entrapped you. Entrapment occurs when the police induce a law-abiding person and makes them commit a crime that they would otherwise not have committed. Entrapments typically involve the police who operate undercover. If you feel that the police behaved in an overbearing way during the arrest, you could use this defense. If the police pose as clients and try to woe ladies and later arrest them for loitering to commit prostitution, this defense would apply. You need to seek the help of a competent criminal defense lawyer who understands everything about entrapment and entrapment defense. With a lawyer fighting on your behalf, you can be able to avoid a conviction.
Several crimes are closely related to the crime of loitering to commit prostitution and are often charged alongside the crime. Some of the related offenses include:
PC 647(b) Prostitution and Solicitation
The California 647(b) outlines the crime of prostitution and solicitation to commit prostitution. This statute makes it a crime throughout California to engage in prostitution or soliciting prostitution. This statute implies that you should not pay or accept something of value or money in exchange for a sexual act. This law applies to both prostitutes and their clients. When a prostitute and their customer engage in sexual activity, they are both involved in prostitution. The crime of engaging in prostitution and soliciting prostitution is a misdemeanor crime. The penalties for the offense will vary depending on whether you have committed the first offense or a subsequent crime. For the first violation of PC 647(b), the penalties include a jail time of up to six months in county jail. You may also have to pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000. The crime of prostitution or solicitation is a priorable offense, meaning that the penalties will increase with every subsequent violation. If you commit a second offense, you must serve a mandatory jail time of 45 days in a county jail in California. If you commit a third or subsequent offense, you have to do a minimum of 90 days in county jail.
If the defendant was in the vehicle when committing the offense, an additional penalty also applies for both the prostitute and their customer. A further penalty also applies if the defendant was within 1000 feet of a residence when committing the crime.
Some of the common defenses that defendants use to fight charges under PC647(b) include:
- Lack of reliable evidence
- Police entrapment
- Insufficient evidence
- Lack of intent to prostitute or mistake of fact
PC 647(a) Lewd Conduct in Public
The California statute PC647(a) outlines the crime of lewd conduct in public. If you have a prior conviction under PC 647(a), you are more likely to be convicted of loitering to commit prostitution. Lewd conduct in public entails touching your genitals or the genitals of another person in public. Other areas that you should not touch in public include buttocks or female breasts. This statute makes it a crime to touch these areas while you are in public despite knowing that other people would be offended by your conduct. According to PC 647(a), the aim of touching your private parts or the private parts of another person may be:
- For sexual gratification
- To offend another person
Lewd conduct arises when you are aware that someone is watching or present who would be offended by your actions. The crime of lewd conduct in public is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties include:
- A jail time of up to 6 months in a county jail
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
However, with a competent lawyer, your case may be reduced to a lesser offense and probably be solved through misdemeanor probation instead of jail time. You don't have to register as a sex offender after committing the crime of lewd conduct in public. Most prosecutors charge a violation under PC 647(a) alongside PC 314 (indecent exposure). Some of the common defenses for charges under PC 647(a) are:
- You did not touch yourself or the private parts of another person in public
- You touched the private parts, but it was not for sexual gratification
- When touching your private parts or another person's, you did not know that there was someone who would be offended by your actions
- You were not in a public place or a place open to public view
- You are a victim of police entrapment or misconduct
Loitering to Solicit the Purchase of Alcohol
According to the California PC 303a, it is a crime to loiter around places that serve alcohol, including bars and restaurants, and persuading other patrons to buy you alcohol. Most prostitutes find their customers in bars and usually initiate the conversation by urging them to buy them alcohol. If you are arrested in such a situation, you may face additional charges under PC 303a on top of the charges of loitering to commit prostitution. However, charges under PC 303a carry less stigma than the charges of loitering to commit prostitution. Crimes under PC 303a are less known and often charged alongside other crimes. The crime of loitering to solicit the purchase of alcohol is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties include:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- A jail time not exceeding six months in a California county jail
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
Some of the legal defenses that you can use to fight charges under PC 303a are:
- You did not loiter to solicit the purchase of alcohol
- You were at the place of arrest for another reason but not to solicit the purchase of alcohol
Find a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me
After an arrest for loitering to commit prostitution, you might feel confused and wonder about what to do. You should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can evaluate your case and defend you if charges are brought against you. Contact us at 310-502-1314 to talk to one of our attorneys.