Introduction

Prostitution and Solicitation crimes run the gamut of the entire spectrum of sex offenses -- from simple misdemeanors up to serious felonies that can result in decades of prison time, such as:

Engaging in/Solicitation of Prostitution (California Penal Code section 647(b));

“Pimping” (California Penal Code section 266h);

“Pandering” (California Penal Code section 266i);

Loitering to Commit Prostitution (California Penal Code section 653.22);

Supervising or Aiding Prostitution (California Penal Code section 653.23(a)(1)); and

Human Trafficking (“Sex Trafficking”) (California Penal Code section 236.1).

All but the last of these seven crimes will be discussed below (while the last -- Sex Trafficking/Human Trafficking – is discussed in another article on this website).

One of the most relatively benign of these offenses is codified at Penal Code section 647(b), which criminalizes – as a misdemeanor -- you (allegedly) engaging in or soliciting prostitution. In the former scenario, you offered your sexual services for money or other financial consideration. In the latter, you acted as the customer for the same service(s).

If you – again, allegedly – acted as a procurer of sex workers (“prostitutes” is now considered to be an unenlightened term) in exchange for financial remuneration, then you can be charged with “Pimping” and/or “Pandering” under California Penal Code section 266(h) and California Penal Code section 266(i), respectively.

Alternatively, or in conjunction therewith, you might be charged with Supervising or Aiding Prostitution under California Penal Code section 653.23.

Finally, unless the prostitution conviction involves a minor, it will not be considered a registerable sex offense. See Sex Offender Registration (California Penal Code section 290).

Minors and Prostitution

Keep in mind that if you are a juvenile, you can no longer be charged with engaging in prostitution in this state (since you will be considered a victim of Sex Trafficking/Human Trafficking). See California Penal Code section 647(b)(5).

This has been the case (and for good reason, we think) since late Sept. 2016 when then-Gov. Jerry Brown enacted state Senate Bill SB-1322 (“Commercial sex acts: minors”). 

Sex Crimes – Prostitution & Solicitation -- Pre-Files/Early Dismissals

The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF) has enjoyed great success in disposing of Prostitution and Solicitation cases at the earliest stages. This occurs either while the assigned sex crimes detective (either from LAPD or LASD) is still investigating you – and, therefore, before he/she refers the case to the DA’s Office or the City Attorney’s Office for prosecution – or after he/she does so.

In the latter scenario, we would try to get the case dismissed either before the prosecutor files charges, or shortly after he/she does so (i.e., before he/she invests too much time and effort into prosecuting you). If we are unable to get the case (or potential case) dismissed (or declined), then we might be able to plead you down to an infraction for something as innocuous as:

Disturbing the Peace (California Penal Code section 415);

Trespassing (California Penal Code section 602); or

Disorderly Conduct (California Penal Code section 647).

California Statutes – Sex Crimes -- Prostitution & Solicitation

California Penal Code section 647(b) -- Engaging in or Soliciting Prostitution

To be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove that you, as an adult, expressly conveyed your offer of sexual services to another adult, or acceptance of that offer, and that you had the specific intent to do so. Penal Code section 647(b)(1).

This expression of an offer or acceptance must take the form of some substantive, direct step towards that end, such as handing over the agreed-upon amount of cash. Penal Code § 647(b)(4).

There are several variations of this specific crime that involve minors, but those will typically be charged as other offenses, such as:

Contacting a Minor with the Intent to Commit a Lewd Act (California Penal Code section 288.3): https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-288-3.html

Use of a Minor Under 18 to Assist or Perform Sexual Conduct (California Penal Code section 311.4(d)(1)): http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=311.4.&lawCode=PEN

Unlawful Consensual Sex with a Minor (“Statutory Rape”) (California Penal Code section 261.5);

Arranging Meeting with Minor for Lewd Purpose (California Penal Code section 288.4(a)(1));

Going to Meeting with Minor for Lewd Purpose (California Penal Code section 288.4(b));

Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18 (California Penal Code section 647.6); and

“Pimping” (California Penal Code section 266h).

If you know someone is a “prostitute” (sex worker), and you somehow make money or other financial consideration from his or her prostitution – such as connecting him or her to customers, or allowing him or her to ply their trade in your business establishment – then you’ll be charged with a felony hereunder.

California Penal Code section 266i -- “Pandering”

If you supply, recruit, or otherwise convince someone to commit an act or acts of prostitution – through force, threats, fraud, promises of compensation, or via any other means, then you will be charged with this felony, regardless of whether or not you profited in any way from doing so.

California Penal Code section 653.22 -- Loitering to Commit Prostitution

If while in a public area, you act in such a manner that obviously demonstrates your intent in engaging in or soliciting prostitution, then you will be charged with violating this criminal code – specifically, as a misdemeanor.

California Penal Code section 653.23(a)(1) -- Supervising or Aiding Prostitution

If you make money from a prostitute/sex worker from his or her prostitution in a manner that does not constitute pimping or pandering as described above, then you can be charged with misdemeanor.

For example, you’re a bouncer at a strip club who moonlights as a bodyguard for exotic dancers who perform “special favors” for their favorite customers, and you take tips from the dancers (and perhaps from the customers as well) for doing so.

Sex Crimes Convictions – Prostitution & Solicitation

California Penal Code section 647(b) -- Engaging in or Soliciting Prostitution

If this is your first conviction for this same or a similar offense, then you’ll face a maximum of six months in jail. But if you otherwise have a clean record, you’ll probably get no jail time.

The punishments increase gradually with subsequent convictions, which will nevertheless still be for misdemeanors. More specifically, a second and third conviction will get you the same maximum jail sentence but with a minimum of six weeks and three months in jail, respectively.

In addition, if the crime occurred in a vehicle, and you were within a thousand feet of someone’s residence, then you might also have your driver’s license suspended for one or even six months. Penal Code section 647(b). See also California Vehicle Code section 13201.5(c).

California Penal Code section 266h – “Pimping”

If you’re convicted of this felony, then the low, mid, and high prison terms will be 3, 4, or 6 yrs., respectively. Notably, this range remains the same if the person engaged in prostitution is 16 or 17 years old. If he or she is younger, the range is 3, 6, or 8 yrs.

California Penal Code section 266i -- “Pandering”

Just as with pimping, this felony conviction will get you 3, 4, or 6 yrs. in a state penitentiary. Similarly, this range remains the same if the person engaged in prostitution is 16 or 17 years old. If he or she is younger, the range is 3, 6, or 8 yrs.

California Penal Code section 653.22 -- Loitering to Commit Prostitution

Maximum sentence for this misdemeanor conviction is six months in jail.

California Penal Code section 653.23(a)(1) -- Supervising or Aiding Prostitution

Maximum sentence for this misdemeanor conviction is six months in jail.

Defenses to Sex Crimes Charges -- Prostitution & Solicitation

These are absolute or “incomplete” defenses to the foregoing defenses – in other words, the former would result in an acquittal at trial and the latter would result in a lesser offense:

  1. The so-called “prostitute” was actually an undercover police officer who entrapped you (i.e., but for the police, you wouldn’t have committed the crime);

  2. The sex worker was at least 18 years old (mitigation);

  3. He/she was a minor but you were less than five years older than him/her (same);

  4. The minor never actually received your written solicitation;

  5. You didn’t know that he/she was a prostitute (nor should you reasonably have known);

  6. You didn’t derive any part of your income or livelihood from prostitution;

  7. You didn’t request or demand money from the prostitute for putting him/her together with customers;

  8. You never successfully attempted to convince someone to become a prostitute or the latter’s customer;

  9. You did successfully do so, but did not use force, threats, deceit, or duress in doing so (mitigation);

  10. You didn’t transport a minor for the purpose of sexual or lewd conduct, nor did you make any such offer to do so;

  11. You did do so but the minor was 16 or 17 years old (mitigation);

  12. You didn’t intentionally engage in a sexual or lewd act for money or other financial consideration;

  13. You did intentionally do so, but the prospective customer never received your request;

  14. You did intentionally do so, and the prospective customer did receive your request and even agreed to it, but you never took any substantial step towards completing the act;

  15. The alleged crime didn’t occur in a public place (mitigation).

See the following applicable Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”):

CALCRIM number 442 (“Solicitation of a Minor -- Pen. Code § 653j);

CALCRIM number 1150 (“Pimping”);

CALCRIM number 1151 (“Pandering”);

CALCRIM number 1152 (“Child Procurement -- Pen. Code § 266j”);

CALCRIM number 1153 (“Prostitution: Engaging in Act -- Pen. Code § 647(b)”);

CALCRIM number 1154 (“Prostitution: Soliciting Another -- Pen. Code § 647(b)”);

CALCRIM number 1155 (“Prostitution: Agreeing to Engage in Act -- Pen. Code § 647(b)”);

CALCRIM number 1156 (“Loitering: For Prostitution -- Pen. Code § 653.22(a)”); and

CALCRIM number 1244 (“Causing Minor to Engage in Commercial Sex Act -- Pen. Code § 236.1(c)”).

Sex Crimes – Prostitution & Solicitation -- Examples of Celebrity Cases

Heidi Fleiss (alleged Hollywood madam)

Without a doubt, the most notorious prostitution case in the history of Hollywood involved the notorious Heidi Fleiss, a high-school dropout. In 1991, Fleiss (then age 25) allegedly stopped working as an “escort” for a much older woman known as “Madam Alex”, who up until then had allegedly been the top “pimp” for high-priced call girls in Hollywood.

Fleiss allegedly took over that title, and for the next two years, Fleiss – who was as subtle as a hurricane – allegedly supplied her own stable of young, beautiful sex workers to the wealthy, powerful, and famous in LA (e.g., one of her clients was reportedly Charlie Sheen).

By all accounts, she reveled in her VIP role as the queen bee of the Sunset Strip club scene. It lasted for a glorious 24 months (give or take). Her high point was allegedly supplying her “girls” (as she reportedly called them) for Mick Jagger’s birthday party.

In 1993, the beginning of the end for Fleiss’s notorious ride emerged when the LAPD launched a major multi-agency task force to bring her down. This included tapping her phones, putting a roving surveillance tail on her, and introducing undercover male vice squad cops posing as customers.

On June 8th, the lead undercover detective – while posing as a wealthy Japanese businessman -- allegedly convinced Fleiss to provide him one of her sex workers to him at a Beverly Hills hotel suite. (It remains unclear what sexual activity, if any, this detective engaged in with this woman.)

The following night, June 9th, the detective allegedly had Fleiss provide him four young women plus one ounce of cocaine. The moment Fleiss allegedly handed it over – apparently in exchange for cash – almost two dozen vice squad cops raided the suite and arrested everyone. Fleiss promptly posted bail and was released.

Three months later (Sept. 1993), a grand jury indicted Fleiss on the following charges after reviewing the voluminous evidence against her, including video footage from hidden cameras in the hotel suite:

Solicitation of Prostitution (California Penal Code section 647(b));

“Pimping” (California Penal Code section 266h);

“Pandering” (California Penal Code section 266i);

Human Trafficking (“Sex Trafficking”) (California Penal Code section 236.1); and

Sale or Transportation of a Controlled Substance (California Health and Safety Code section 11352).

If convicted of all charges, she faced almost a decade in a state penitentiary.

On December 2, 1994, following a six-day trial and four days of deliberations, a Los Angeles jury announced its verdict: guilty on three counts of Pandering; not guilty on all other counts. Apparently, Fleiss’ defense counsel’s entrapment arguments resonated (or perhaps not – see below). In any event, however, Fleiss faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 36 months.

See: latimes.com.

But Fleiss’ attorney, the late Anthony Brooklier (who was the son of Los Angeles Mafia godfather Dominick Brooklier) appealed the verdict after shrewdly polling the jury and learning that jurors had made a trade-off with each other: they would all agree on convicting Fleiss on the pandering charges in exchange for acquitting her of the others to avoid a hung jury.

(Not coincidentally, Brooklier had defended Madam Alex in a similar trial against the very same Deputy DA who prosecuted Fleiss. She, too, had been duped by an undercover officer, and, she, too was convicted of pimping and pandering charges. However, before sentencing was handed down, LAPD officers stepped forward to inform the judge that Madam Alex was a longtime informant for them. As a result, she received probation and no jail.)

Anyways, incredibly, at the end of May 1996, the Court of Appeal agreed with Brooklier’s arguments, overturned the verdict based on the ground of jury misconduct, and ordered a new trial. However, apparently the DA’s Office declined to try her a second time and let the charges go.

See: nytimes.com.

Fleiss’ victory was short-lived however. In August 1994, both she and her father, a Beverly Hills doctor, were indicted by a federal grand jury in LA on money laundering, bank fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy charges.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, her father had helped her launder the illegal proceeds of her pandering activities. She was eventually convicted of money laundering and tax evasion, and served 37 months in federal prison.

Hugh Grant

In late June 1995, Hollywood superstar Hugh Grant was arrested by LAPD vice cops and charged with a single misdemeanor count of Lewd Conduct in Public (California Penal Code section 647(a)).

After he was spotted picking up a known prostitute (called a “street walker” back then) with the nickname of “Divine Brown”, but whose real name was Stella Thompson. She was also arrested and charged, but with Engaging in Prostitution (California Penal Code section 647(b)).

On July 11, 1995, Grant pled nolo contendre to the misdemeanor lewd conduct charge, and was sentenced to 24 months of informal probation, a fine of less than $1,200, and eight hours of AIDS awareness training.

Shortly thereafter, Grant embarked on a major media tour to promote his new movie Nine Months, during which he wisely poked fun at himself over the escapade. This included appearances on various high-profile talk shoes. And, of course, his career was none the worse for doing so, but it was certainly a major embarrassment for him and his then-girlfriend, actress Elizabeth Hurley.

See: latimes.com.

The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)

Since virtually her first day working as a Deputy Public Defender for the LA County PD’s Office sixteen years ago, Los Angeles criminal attorney visionary Ninaz Saffari has defended hundreds of clients against almost every type of Prostitution and Solicitation charge on the books – from misdemeanors to felonies, and typically with outstanding results