Have You Been Arrested for Prostitution?

Are you facing a prostitution charge in the greater San Diego area? Engaging in (or agreeing to engage in) prostitution is a misdemeanor (disorderly conduct) under California law. A conviction can lead to a sentence of up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. Prostitution is priorable, meaning that sentencing enhancements may apply in the event this is not your first conviction for this offense.

Ryan J. Tegnelia is an experienced criminal attorney who knows the prostitution laws, and who understands that innocent people do get arrested for prostitution, sometimes because they get caught up in police stings, other times because they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Tegnelia will work hard to have the charge against you dismissed or reduced. Contact him today for a free consultation.

What is Prostitution?

Prostitution may appear to be a simple charge, but it still requires proof by the prosecutor of specific elements, and each one of those elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of engaging in prostitution, the state must prove that you (a) purposely engaged in sexual intercourse or committed a lewd act with another person (b) in exchange for money or some other thing of value.

Agreeing to engage in prostitution is also a crime under PC 647(b). It consists of the agreement itself, but also requires intent to engage in prostitution, and proof that the defendant did something (in addition to the agreement itself) to further the commission of the offense. The conduct in furtherance of prostitution need not come at the same time as the agreement, rather, it can take place before, during or after the agreement to engage in prostitution is reached.

Note that neither sexual intercourse, nor oral copulation, nor any other specific sex act is required in order to be charged. If the act (or the agreement) involves any lewd act, it could lead to a charge of prostitution. A lewd act, within the meaning of the prostitution law, means touching the private parts of either the prostitute or the “john” with a part of the other’s body, for purposes of sexual gratification or sexual arousal.

Defenses to a Prostitution Charge

As always, being charged with an offense is not the end of the story by any means. As noted above, the state must prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. There are also a number of different defenses that may be applicable in a prostitution case.  Those defenses include:

Lack of credible evidence

In many cases, there is no physical record of the events. Even when the witness is a police officer who is wearing a wire, the conversation leading to the charge may not have been recorded. This will call into question the truthfulness of the officer when testifying about the conversation.

Lack of sufficient evidence

The issue of the sufficiency of the evidence may also involve the clarity – or not – of the supposed agreement, and this also raises the issue of intent. If the agreement was ambiguous, or did not specifically include sex in exchange for money, the evidence may be too weak for a conviction.

Lack of intent

You could find yourself charged with engaging in or agreeing to engage in prostitution based primarily on being in a place that is a known hangout for prostitutes. That is simply not enough to sustain a prostitution charge.


Prostitution cases that are based upon a cop luring someone into agreeing to perform a sex act for money may involve entrapment. While many of the “sex stings” involve police officers posing as prostitutes, some also involve them pretending to be “johns.” Entrapment is a potential defense in many of these cases.

San Diego Prostitution Defense Attorney

While it is true that prostitution is generally a misdemeanor, a conviction could have a serious effect on your reputation and your future. Moreover, although a prostitution conviction does not automatically require registration in California as a sex offender, it is at least theoretically possible that registration could be ordered as part of your sentence.

If you are facing a prostitution charge, whether the case involves engaging in prostitution, or agreeing to do so, you want an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact San Diego criminal attorney Ryan J. Tegnelia at RJT Criminal Defense. Your initial consultation is free.