Raising Reasonable Doubt to Defend Against a Charge of Prostitution

Perhaps more than other criminal charge, prostitution showcases the difficulty of proving the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard of proof is difficult to meet for most criminal charges – much more so than lesser “by a preponderance of the evidence” – and especially for prostitution. If you have been charged with the crime of prostitution in the San Diego area, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney who is skilled in countering efforts by the state to meet the standard of proof.

The California Penal Code Criminalizes Both Prostitution and Solicitation

California Penal Code Section 653.20-653.28 prohibits prostitution in the state of California. Under the law, the prostitute, customer (sometimes referred to as a “john”), and, if there is one, middleman (“pimp”) may be arrested and prosecuted. In terms of the act or acts prohibited, the law applies both to sex act itself and the offering or agreeing to engage in the act of prostitution. The latter half of the law’s applicability – the mere offering or agreeing – criminalizes even the solicitation of prostitution. In the other words, the act itself need not be consummated – it is enough that an offer or agreement be made.

Furthermore, the prostitution act or solicitation need not rise to the level of sexual intercourse. Other sex acts, so long as they are conditioned on payment, may result in prostitution charges.  Finally, payment for a sex act need not be in the form of money to justify a prostitution charge; a sex-for-drugs exchange is grounds for a charge of prostitution, as well.

Penalties for Prostitution Include Jail Time and Fines

The California Penal Code classifies prostitution as a misdemeanor. First-time offenders convicted of the prostitution or solicitation face penalties of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of as much as $1,000.  Repeat offenders face increased penalties.

Areas for Introducing Reasonable Doubt to Defeat the State’s Charges

As stated at the outset of this article, the state can only convict a prostitute, customer, or middleman for the crime of prostitution or solicitation by proving the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.  This can be difficult because of the secretive, behind-closed-doors nature of both crimes. In other words, if the state cannot prove the existence of an offer or agreement with evidence, it will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime of solicitation was committed. Similarly, if the state cannot prove the sex act for which payment was conditioned on occurred, it will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime of prostitution was committed. In both cases, the defense is that proof of the alleged crime does not exist. In other cases, a defense of entrapment may be available if the alleged customer was actually a police officer working on a vice squad as a decoy. Whatever your unique circumstances, contact an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney about bringing the strongest possible defense against the charges against you.