Yes, loitering to commit prostitution is most certainly a criminal offense in California, and it is a tricky one because it enables police officers to arrest a suspect who has not actually solicited or engaged in prostitution!

If you’ve been charged with loitering to commit prostitution, it is important that you consult with a local sex crimes lawyer as soon as possible about your legal options. My Rights Law Group – Criminal & DUI Attorneys defends clients against all types of prostitution-related criminal charges throughout Southern California and would be pleased help explorer defenses towards your charge/accusations. Fill out their online contact form today.

What is “Loitering to Commit Prostitution”?

In a nutshell, section 653.22 of the California Penal Code makes it illegal to loiter in public with the intent to commit prostitution. Here, an individual’s intent is evidenced by them acting in a manner that, given the circumstances, “openly demonstrates the purpose of inducing, enticing, or soliciting prostitution, or procuring another to commit prostitution.”

It must be noted that only adults can be convicted of loitering to commit prostitution in California. If a minor (i.e. anyone under the age of 18) is caught engaging in the behavior prohibited by section 653.22 the government will assess whether or not the minor at issue qualifies as a commercially exploited child and, if appropriate, will place the minor under the court’s care for the minor’s wellbeing.

Circumstances that Tend to Indicate an Intent to Commit Prostitution

As you may have guessed, most of these cases center on whether the defendant intended to commit prostitution. But the court can’t read a person’s mind, so how can a defendant’s true intent be determined? In intent to commit prostitution cases, the court determines whether or not the defendant intended to commit prostitution by considering the totality of the circumstances (i.e. all relevant factors are considered and no one factor is automatically determinative of intent).

When prosecuting an individual for loitering to commit prostitution the government often attempts to show that the defendant engaged in one or more of the following activities as proof of his or her intent:

  • Repeatedly beckoning to, stopping, or engaging in conversations with passersby,
  • Repeatedly stopping (or attempting to stop) drivers passing by, and/or
  • Repeatedly circling a certain area in a vehicle while attempting to engage others.

Additionally, prosecutors may also demonstrate a defendant’s intent to commit prostitution by showing that he or she was (a) convicted for a prostitution-related crime within the last five years, and/or (b) engaged in one the activities listed above (or any other behavior indicative of prostitution-related activity) within the last six months.

The government may use other circumstances as well to prove the element of intent in an intent to commit prostitution case, but keep in mind that the law considers the various circumstances mentioned above to be particularly salient if they took place in an area where prostitution-related activities are known to take place.

Possible Penalties

Loitering to commit prostitution is a misdemeanor offense in California that is generally punished by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail.

Commonly Asserted Defenses

While each case is unique, some of the most commonly asserted defenses in loitering to commit prostitution cases include the following:

  1. I am under 18 years old. As noted above, minors can not be convicted of loitering to commit prostitution in California.
  2. Insufficient evidence. Arguing that the prosecution has presented insufficient evidence to prove that you intended to commit prostitution is often a very effective defense, especially if this argument is combined with compelling evidence indicating an alternate explanation for the suspicious behavior.
  3. Entrapment. If the arresting officer induced the normally law-abiding defendant to loiter with the intent to commit prostitution by behaving in an overbearing manner (usually via flattery, applying pressure, harassment, or threat) then the defendant may assert entrapment as a defense.

These are a few of the most commonly asserted defenses in loitering to commit prostitution charges, but this list is far from exhaustive. For example, a defendant may also be able to argue that they were not “loitering” or were not in a “public place”. An experienced sex crimes lawyer will be able to evaluate the specifics of your case and craft a tailormade defense for you.

FAQs

Q: Can men commit the crime of loitering to commit prostitution? 

A: Yes, definitely. Although most people who are charged with loitering to commit prostitution happen to be women, both men and women can be charged with this crime in California because both men and women can commit prostitution.

Q: I was driving around in my car when I was arrested for loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, can I argue that I wasn’t in a public place?

A: Unfortunately, no. A “public place” is any area that is open to the public and case law has established that, in this context, both moving and parked vehicles are considered public places.

Q: I was convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution in California, is there any way that I can get this offense expunged from my record?

A: Yes, potentially. As loitering with the intent to commit prostitution is a misdemeanor offense you will likely be able eligible to apply for an expungement if you (1) completed your sentence, paid any ordered fines, and completed all conditions of your probation, (2) are no longer on probation, (3) are not currently serving another offense, (4) have not been charged with another crime, and (5) have waited at least one year since the court entered its judgment in your loitering with intent to commit prostitution case.

Need a Lawyer? Contact My Rights Law Group – Criminal & DUI Attorneys Today

At My Rights Law Group – Criminal & DUI Attorneys in San Bernardino they employ a team of exceptional criminal defense lawyers who are standing by ready to mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. They are fully dedicated to securing the best possible outcome to your case. To move forward and explorer what they can do for you call their San Bernardino office today at (909) 361-6767 and schedule a free no-obligation case evaluation.