How could I be charged with loitering with intent to commit prostitution?

There are some laws that are designed not necessarily to protect the public, but rather to make it easier for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction. Loitering with intent to commit prostitution is one of them. While the law may favor the state, an experienced defense attorney can successfully challenge the evidence and provide you with an effective defense. If you find yourself charged with loitering for prostitution contact RJT Criminal Defense today for a free consultation.

What is loitering with intent to commit prostitution?

Section 653.22 of the California Penal Code provides that it is a crime to

  • loiter
  • in a public place
  • with the intent to commit prostitution (including soliciting and procuring).

The words seem simple, but the statute goes on to detail a number of circumstances that can “determine” whether a person in fact intends to commit prostitution. Those circumstances include behavior such as

  • repeatedly conversing with, beckoning or stopping (or trying repeatedly to do so) passersby, including doing so in a motor vehicle.
  • repeatedly stopping (or attempting to stop) cars or other motor vehicles using hand or body movements.
  • within five years prior to the arrest being convicted of a prostitution offense.
  • within six months prior to the arrest engaging in any behavior indicating prostitution activity.

These factors are not absolute, and evidence of any one will not necessarily lead to a conviction. On the other hand, the failure of your conduct to fall within one of these or the other categories in the statute does not automatically mean you cannot be found guilty. An additional factor that often comes into play is if you were in an area frequented by prostitutes.

The essence of the law is that the issue of whether you are guilty of loitering for prostitution requires a case by case determination by a jury, based upon all the evidence presented. It is a misdemeanor offense, and if you are convicted, you face a up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Defenses to a loitering for prostitution charge

While entrapment can provide a defense in some prostitution cases, when it comes to loitering with intent to commit prostitution, the sufficiency of the evidence is frequently the primary issue. The reason for this is that the statute on its face justifies an arrest in numerous circumstances in which intent if often questionable.

Examples of loitering for prostitution charges

Here are a couple of examples of potential arrests for loitering with intent to engage in prostitution:

  • You are arrested by the police for loitering with intent. At the time, you were wearing “sexy” clothing (short skirt, etc.), and you were standing on the sidewalk in an area in which prostitution is known to take place. You had also been arrested (but not convicted) for loitering in the same area. While these facts may provide some evidence of intent, they may be insufficient for a guilty verdict. There may, for example, be legitimate reasons for you to be at that location.
  • A man is driving his car slowly around a street that is a known for prostitutes. Periodically, he stops, puts his car window down, and speaks to women on the street. He could be arrested for loitering with intent.

It is clear that (a) an arrest could be based upon conduct that in fact has nothing to do with prostitution, and (b) both a prostitute and a customer can be prosecuted under the statute. In either case, charges can be successfully defended with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Defending loitering for prostitution charges in San Diego

The laws governing loitering with intent to commit prostitution are vague, and they give the police an enormous amount of leeway for an arrest. If you are charged, don’t become a victim of the system. Contact criminal defense attorney Ryan J. Tegnelia. Call today for your free consultation.