The Crime of Prostitution Under California PC 647(b)
California Penal Code 647(b) PC prohibits someone from both engaging in prostitution and soliciting, which means requesting, encouraging, or offering to pay for sex.
In other words, it's a crime to make an offer to pay, accept money, or something of value in exchange for any type of sexual act.
You don't have to actually complete the proposed sexual acts in order to be charged and convicted of PC 647(b) prostitution.
It should be noted that Penal Code 647(b) PC can be filed against both the prostitute and the “John,” who are their customers.
There are many prostitutes who have “pimps” that handle all the business and financial issues, but they are normally prosecuted under pimping and pandering laws.
What Must Be Proven for a PC 647(b) Prostitution Conviction?
In order for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction against you for soliciting prostitution in violation of PC 647(b), they must prove:
- You requested that someone engage in the act of prostitution
- You had intent to actually engage in an act of prostitution
- The other person actually received the communication with the request
It should be noted there must be some form of an overt act, such as:
- Discussion of money in exchange for sexual act, or
- Making an ATM money withdraw or sex
What is considered a lewd act?
A “lewd act” includes sexual intercourse or some type of lewd conduct, including:
- Touching the genitals, or
- Buttocks, or
- Female breast, with;
- The intent to arouse or sexual gratification
PC 647(b) prostitution and soliciting are both misdemeanors crimes that do not require registration as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.
To give readers more useful information about the sex crime of prostitution, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below
What is the Definition of Solicitation and Prostitution?
California Penal Code 647(b) defines prostitution and solicitation as:
- “An individual who solicits, or who agrees to engage in, or who engages in, any act of prostitution with the intent to receive compensation, money, or anything of value from another person.”
In other words, an act of prostitution, known as a commercial sex act, criminalizes:
- Soliciting an act of prostitution
- Engaging in an act of prostitution, and
- Making some agreement to engage in prostitution
As stated above, this includes engaging in sexual intercourse or any other lewd acts with someone in exchange for money or any valuable compensation.
Solicitation of prostitution occurs when someone makes a request that another person perform as act of prostitution with the intent to engage in prostitution with them.
This is important information as it separates acts of prostitution from the more serious sex crime crimes of pimping or pandering.
What are the Penalties for PC 647(b) Prostitution Conviction?
Penal Code Section 647(b) PC prostitution and solicitation is a misdemeanor crime that doesn't require sex offender registration.
It is also a “priorable” offense which means the penalties will increase as a matter of statutory law with subsequent offenses.
A first PC 647(b) offense for either prostitution or solicitation carries a penalty of:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine up to $1,000
If you are convicted of subsequent violations, the maximum penalty in county jail time will remain the same, but California law has mandatory minimum jail punishments.
The penalties for subsequent violations of PC 647(b) include:
- Second offense - mandatory minimum 45-day county jail sentence
- Third or more offenses – mandatory minimum 90-day jail sentence
If the PC 647(b) offense occurred while you were a vehicle and within 1000 feet of a residential structure, the penalties might include an additional punishment of either 30-day driver's license suspension, or 6 months of driver's license restriction.
What are the Related California Offenses for PC 647(b)?
- Penal Code 647(a) PC – lewd conduct in public
- Penal Code 314 PC – indecent exposure
- Penal Code 266h & 266i PC – pimping and pandering
- Penal Code 653.22 PC - loitering to commit prostitution
- Penal Code 653.23 PC – supervise or aiding prostitute
- Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing
- Penal Code 415 PC – disturbing the peace
How Can I Fight PC 647(b) Prostitution Charges?
If you were charged with prostitution or solicitation under Penal Code 647(b) PC, then legal issues of actually proving “intent” is a frequent target for a challenge.
This would apply to both the prostitute and the customer. Some of the most common defense include:
- lack of intent
- insufficient evidence
- police entrapment
We might be able to make an argument you were only seeking to have a sexual encounter, but there was no intent to engage in sexual activity in exchange for some type of compensation.
On a similar note, we might also argue you didn't know they were a prostitute.
An entrapment argument could be used in the context of sting operations conducted by police.
Entrapment by undercover officers occurs when they encourage someone to engage in criminal conduct that causes you to commit a crime.
Police Sting Operations Targeting Prostitution
A common PC 647(b) scenario includes a situation where a defendant approaches a female at a location that is known for prostitution activity to start a conservation.
She will carefully elicit some statements in order to confirm he is seeking sexual activity in exchange for money.
Once an agreement has been reached, a signal is given and numerous police officers will quickly arrive and make an arrest.
Later, once discovery is exchanged in court, it's confirm the female was an undercover police officer participating in a sting operation.
During the interaction, the officer was able to get the defendant to confirm two crucial factors that are necessary for prosecuting Penal Code 647(b) PC solicitation:
- The proposition to engage in sexual acts, and
- The offer to provide payment for these acts
This means the sting operation eliminates any realistic defense argument about the defendant's intent.
However, there are prostitution cases where the defendant's intent could reasonably be challenged, even during a police sting operation.
For instance, perhaps there was a lack of understanding due to a language barrier or other factors that indicate it's wasn't clear what he was actually agreeing to.
In order to complete the crime of solicitation of prostitution under Penal Code Section 647(b) PC, it's not necessary for the defendant to actually pay the agreed price to the undercover police prostitute.
Criminal Defense for Prostitution Offenses in Los Angeles
If you or a family member was arrested and charged with either prostitution or solicitation of prostitution under Penal Code Section 647(b) PC, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers for an initial consultation.
Through a legal process known as prefiling intervention, it might be possible to avoid formal filing of criminal charges before court.
It might also be possible to obtain placement in a diversionary program which could allow a defendant to earn a dismissal of their criminal charges.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm that has a history of success defending clients who have been charged with a wide range of sexual-related cases.
Our law firm is located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for a consultation at (877) 781-1570.