Articles Tagged with prostitution

For many people, a prostitution offense might be one of the last crimes of which they could imagine being accused. Despite the potential embarrassment of such charges, it is important to contact an experienced prostitution attorney in California as soon as possible if you find yourself facing allegations of prostitution or solicitation, or of agreeing to engage in either.

Valid Defenses to California Prostitution Charges

Many prostitution charges are brought after so-called sting operations, but the resulting prosecutions can be complicated. There are several valid defenses to prostitution-related charges, including that the sexual or lewd acts were consensual, that no agreement to exchange a sex act for money was ever made, and that even if an agreement was made, no acts in furtherance of the agreement actually ever took place.

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.

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program started out as a pilot program in Seattle. The program was quite successful and is now being used by some counties in California. LEAD was developed as a solution to low-level drug and prostitution crimes. It is designed to rehabilitate a certain group of non-violent offenders instead of sending them straight to prison. The program started as a pilot experiment in which 203 participants were randomly selected over four years. It is offered to offenders that are arrested in possession of 3 grams of illegal drugs or less, have no history of violent criminal offenses, and are not involved in promotion of prostitution or exploiting minors for drug sales. So far the LEAD program has reduced the likelihood of repeat arrests for those that participated in the initial program.

What exactly is LEAD?

LEAD is a diversion program. Diversion programs are designed to minimize the negative effects that are connected with drug crimes, such as homelessness and the inability to obtain gainful employment. The program replaces incarceration with rehabilitation. LEAD “cuts out the criminal justice system and assigns voluntary participants to case workers who can provide immediate help – a hot meal, a warm coat, a safe place to sleep – as well as longer-term services for drug treatment, stable housing, and job training. Services are individually tailored and relapses are expected.” LEAD is a pre-booking program, which means that it occurs before you are formally charged for a drug crime. Unlike the existing diversion programs in California, LEAD operates by transferring offenders immediately to case management instead of going through the court or prison system.

Okay, California will probably not legalize prostitution, but one California nonprofit thinks it could be possible. Erotic Service Provider Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLER) is trying to legalize the profession by arguing that prostitution’s illegality violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. ESPLER argues in its complaint that laws prohibiting prostitution and solicitation violate substantive due process rights and violate one’s liberty interest in one’s private, sexual relationships. ESPLER argues in its brief that California laws criminalizing prostitution “deprive individuals of the fundamental right to engage in consensual, private sexual activity; deny individuals the right to choose for themselves how to earn a living and who to enter a contract with; limit how and with whom an individual can associate in private; discourage safe sex because the possession of condoms is used as evidence by prosecutors; California has failed to provide a legitimate rational to continue denying individuals the right of free speech, the right to earn a living, and the right to freely associate; and the Penal Code is so vaguely worded that it criminalizes the mere discussion of paying for erotic services between consenting adults.”

Veronica Monet, a former sex worker and current relationship counselor, is behind ESPLER’s fight to legalize prostitution. She says that criminalizing this behavior pulls the industry underground and sets “up antagonism between law enforcement and women who want to run their own lives, or women who are in it for survival.” Monet and ESPLER believe that decriminalizing the profession and setting up an open dialogue with sex workers can help prevent major problems with the industry, for example, underage women forced into prostitution, abusive pimps, or rapists.

There is no doubt that ESPLER has a difficult fight ahead of them, and it remains to be determined whether the court will buy their arguments. In order to prevail in court, ESPLER must demonstrate that the denial of the rights mentioned above “offends decency and fairness,” and that the rights are “deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Time will tell if this fight is successful, but until then prostitution remains illegal in the state of California. If you are accused of prostitution, you will need to consult an experienced attorney.