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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.