Although prostitution is a “victimless” crime and now can only be committed by adults over the age of 18 in California, vice officers in Long Beach and surrounding jurisdictions troll the pages of websites and newspapers where men and women advertise, usually using code terms, sexual services for money. Massage parlors are also targeted by police.
On April 6, 2018, the federal government seized the website “Backpage” which the justice department claimed was “the Internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads...” The following week, the “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” and the “Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act” were signed into federal law. These laws punish “the owner of any web site that promotes or facilitates” “the prostitution of another person.” Violators can serve up to ten years in federal prison.
Sex workers have complained that the bans on internet advertising have forced them into riskier situations to practice the sex trade. Sex workers that used to screen clients and arrange safer contacts complain they may now have to resort to street walking again. Massage parlors may now receive greater scrutiny as vice officers look to fulfil their requirements as vice officers.
The crime of “prostitution” in California is, in reality, the crime of “solicitation.” Undercover cops are generally prohibited by department policy from engaging in physical contact with suspected prostitutes. The main crime for which arrests and prosecutions are made is the crime of solicitation or agreement to engage in any act of prostitution in violation of California Penal Code section 647(b).
California Jury Instructions [CALCRIM 1155] define the crime of solicitation as:
- When a person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution, namely the offer to exchange money or other thing of value to touch the genitals, buttocks or breast of one person with a body part of the other person;
- The person intended to engage in an act of prostitution; and
- In addition to agreeing, the solicitor did something to further the commission of an act of prostitution before after or at the same time as the agreement.
Vice officers not only target citizens online, but will attempt to be “solicited” by massage therapists as well as people on the street, at public restrooms or bars. Sometimes vice officers’ are overzealous in their efforts to make an arrest prior to an actual solicitation. An experienced defense attorney can derail unsubstantiated prosecutions in their tracks.
Although solicitation is a misdemeanor offense [carries no more than 1 year in custody], a conviction of a criminal charge of this sort can result in deportation of non-citizens, loss of employment, revocation of a business license and a criminal record. If you or a loved one has been accused of solicitation, you need expert legal advice.
Long Beach criminal attorney, Matthew Kaestner, has substantial experience defending persons charged with solicitation including the outright dismissal of the wrongfully accused. He will personally take your call for a confidential consultation. He can be reached directly at 562-437-0200.