Under California law, it’s illegal to pay someone or offer to pay them to engage in a sexual act.
This is known as “Solicitation,” and it’s charged as a misdemeanor under Penal Code 647b PC. While a misdemeanor conviction might not seem all that serious, facing solicitation charges carries a heavy social stigma, and it can lead to personal and professional consequences.
If you or someone you love has been charged for solicitation, it’s important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. Your attorney might be able to get your charges dropped or reduced.
What is ‘Solicitation’ in California?
In order to convict you of solicitation, the prosecutor will have to prove certain facts of the case. These are known as “the elements of the crime.”
Solicitation has two elements:
- You requested that another person engage in an act of prostitution. These are most commonly cases of someone offering cash or other goods (usually drugs) in exchange for sexual favors.
- You intended to engage in the act with that person. This important, because many people have been arrested simply for being in a place where prostitution is happening or waved at the wrong person. There must be clear evidence that you were seeking a sexual act.
Let’s look at two examples:
Example 1: Diane is an undercover police officer. She dresses in provocative clothes and stands out on a street corner. Ken drives by and offers her $200 for sex. He is videoing the situation and intends to post it on social media as a joke. Because Ken did not actually intend to engage in a sexual act with Diane, he is not guilty of solicitation.
Example 2: Tom and Brittany are coworkers on a work trip. Out having drinks one night, Tom produces a baggie of cocaine and offers to share it with Brittany if she allows him to fondle her breasts. Even though Brittany is not working as a prostitute, Tom has just solicited her to an act of prostitution.
Penalties for soliciting a prostitute in California
As we mentioned above, soliciting a prostitute in California is a misdemeanor. On the first offense, it is punishable by:
- Up to 6 months in county jail, and/or
- Fines of up to $1,000.
On your second offense, soliciting a prostitute carries a mandatory minimum of 45 days in county jail. On the third offense, it rises to 90 days.
Soliciting a prostitute does not carry mandatory sex offender registration. The law allows judges to impose it in cases of “sexual compulsion or sexual gratification,” which would apply to most prostitution cases. However, as a practical matter, defendants are almost never required to register.
Defenses against ‘Solicitation’ charges
“This man is a very effective criminal defense attorney. I was charged but I never had to go to court because the case was thrown out thanks to his efforts. I was very worried because I didn’t know anyone who could confirm my location, but he was able to prove that I was innocent.”
Intent is very important in solicitation cases. The prosecution has to prove that you meant to offer cash or goods in exchange for a sexual act and that you meant it.
It is on the prosecution to produce evidence showing your intent, and as these cases develop, a skilled defense attorney can expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and cause it to fall apart.
As well, as more police departments around California have gotten involved in prostitution “stings,” it has become easier to argue entrapment. Police departments sometimes cut corners, and they arrest people without sufficient evidence.
A criminal defense attorney can be your best advocate. Attorney Robert M. Helfend specializes in sex crimes cases, and he has represented people throughout the Ventura area since 1984. Call today for your free case evaluation — 805-273-5611.