Most people are aware that pimping and prostitution is illegal in Los Angeles. However, some people may not realize that simply associating with a prostitute is a criminal offense that can be met with strict legal penalties.
In addition to criminal punishments, being charged with a sexually-based offense can have other penalties as well. A person who is charged with this crime can face public scorn and potentially the loss of employment. A strong legal defense is required to fight these charges in a court of law.
Defining the Crime
According to Section 653.23 of the California Penal Code, a person commits an offense is they:
As you can see, it is a criminal offense to offer assistance or support to a person who is engaging in or attempting to engage in prostitution. Clearly, it’s against the law to engage in pimping or collecting money from a prostitute. However, you can also get arrested merely for helping a prostitute engage in their trade in any way.
Examples of the Crime
It may seem that this law is purposefully broad. Law enforcement has a good reason for this. The law is written in this way so that law enforcement does not actually have to witness money changing hands between a prostitute and a pimp. Merely watching or helping a prostitute can constitute probable cause for an arrest.
Imagine the following scenario. Andrew is friends with a woman named Deborah. Deborah makes a living by having sex with men for money and Andrew knows this. Suppose that Deborah is nervous about working on a new street corner so she asks Andrew to watch her from across the street from his car. Andrew watches Deborah work all day and then gives her a ride back to her apartment when she is done working.
Under California Penal Code Section 653.23, Andrew may have committed the crime of aiding or supervising a prostitute. Even though he did not pay for sex with Deborah or collect any of her earnings, he has helped her break the law. This is because he watched her commit acts of prostitution and then assisted her with a ride home.
Under California law, supervising or aiding a prostitute is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction on this charge may be punished with:
In addition to these penalties, a licensed healthcare worker may have their professional license revoked if they are convicted of a prostitution-related offense.
Of course, the broadness of this law can lead to the arrest of people who are not intending to commit an illegal act. Suppose you are simply helping out a friend and suddenly you are charged with aiding a prostitute. How will you fight these charges?
Our law firm can help in the following ways:
We’ll fight to have the charges against you dropped. If you have been charged with aiding or supervising a prostitute in Los Angeles, contact our law firm right away to begin building your defense.
Human trafficking has been a focus of law enforcement efforts during recent years. It is commonly believed that the prohibitions in this area of law only apply to “pimps” or brothel owners. However, the laws addressing the facilitation of prostitution actually cast a much wider net. Under California Penal Code (PC) 653.23 a person can be charged with a crime for merely assisting or supervising prostitution activities. Like other sex crimes, PC 653.23 is a serious offense that can result in jail time and costly fines.
Several different activities are covered by this code section. First, the statute makes it illegal to “direct, supervise, recruit, or otherwise aid” another to solicit prostitution, or to engage in the act. It is also a crime to assist or supervise a person who is loitering with the intent of carrying out prostitution. Furthermore, the statute makes it illegal to receive money generated through prostitution-related activities.
The statute itself provides non-exclusive list of how a violation of PC 653.23 might occur. For example, constant communication with a person who is loitering with the intent to prostitute will constitute a violation. Similarly, a person who is continuously observing a suspected prostitute can be charged.
Other situations which fall under the purview of this section include repeated attempts to contact pedestrians or drivers to offer prostitution services. Even the perceived receipt of money from a sex worker is chargeable as an offense.
PC 653.23 is distinguishable from the act of “pimping” as defined in PC 266(h). To be found guilty of pimping the prosecution must show one helped locate clients, or received consistent financial support for subsistence. Yet, you can be convicted under PC 653.23 for much less. For one, this section does not require a defendant’s participation in finding clients. Second, the crime applies whenever you receive money from a sex worker regardless of the amount or frequency. Finally, PC 653.23 does not require that a sex transaction actually take place. Therefore one can be charged or convicted for assisting in unsuccessful attempts at prostitution.
PC 653.23 is also distinct from the crime of pandering as found in PC 266(i). The latter section only applies to the recruiting of prostitutes. The crime is complete once another person agrees to sell sexual services. In contrast, PC 653.23 requires that the recruit start working as a prostitute. This section also prohibits recruiting clients for a sex worker. Although these two sections are separate crimes, a person can be charged with both if the circumstances warrant.
PC 653.23 is classified as a misdemeanor offense. As such, the court may sentence a defendant to a maximum of six months in the county jail. The court can also impose a base fine of up to $1,000.
Misdemeanor convictions also have other negative implications. Under California Civil Code Section 1785.13, a misdemeanor conviction can be reported by a commercial background check agency for seven years. Misdemeanors may also prevent you from obtaining employment-related licensing, such as a real estate broker license. A convicted defendant may also have to register as a sex offender, or submit to a mandatory HIV test.
A proper defense is crucial when fighting a PC 653.23 case. In some scenarios it may be appropriate to argue that there was no intent to commit the crime.
Another possible defense is mistake of fact. Under this defense the defendant would assert that he or she did not know how the money was earned. To be successful, it would require factual support proving that the defendant did not know prostitution was occurring.
A defendant may also use the defense of entrapment. This defense alleges that police coerced or unreasonably persuaded the defendant to engage in criminal activity. For the defense to be viable police must do something more than just offer an opportunity to break the law. They must use overbearing tactics such as harassment or threats to convince the defendant.
If you have been charged with a PC 653.23 offense in Los Angeles, it is important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Get started on your defense as soon as possible to have the best chance at defeating the charges.