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Loitering to Commit Prostitution

Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution – Penal Code 653.22

California Penal Code 653.22 PC makes it a crime for someone to linger in a public place with intent to commit prostitution.

Put simply; you could be arrested, charged, and convicted under this statute for just the intent to solicit another person for prostitution, even before a deal has been reached to exchange sex for money.

Further, no actual sexual activity is required; instead, hanging around and looking like you are trying to commit prostitution could lead to misdemeanor criminal charges.

PC 653.22 loitering with intent to commit prostitution is closely related to the separate crime of solicitation of prostitution defined under California Penal Code 647(b), and both are misdemeanor offenses.

This statute is commonly used by law enforcement to arrest people before they can commit prostitution. For more detailed information, our California sex crime defense lawyers are reviewing the laws below

What is Circumstantial Evidence?

The primary factor under a Penal Code 653.22 case is proving the suspect was actually “loitering” at a location with the intent to commit an act of prostitution.

Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution – Penal Code 653.22

While there is no complex legal definition of “loitering,” it's essentially decided on a case-by-case basis using circumstantial evidence and a dose of common sense.

For example, prostitutes are not going to verbally make a prominent announcement on the street corner regarding their intent to break the law and find new businesses with the infamous name of “johns.”

Therefore, law enforcement and prosecutors rely on evidence suggesting by implication, inference, or appearance at the scene they violate this statute.

In the legal field, this is called “circumstantial evidence,” and prosecutors will often rely on it heavily that:

  • the circumstances of the loitering openly demonstrated that;
  • defendant's purpose was to induce, entice, or solicit prosecution.

Readers should note PC 653.22 PC does not include minors (under 18) for conduct that would be considered loitering to commit prostitution by an adult. They could be detained, removed from the street, and dealt with in the California juvenile court system.

What is the Definition of Loitering to Commit Prostitution?

As noted above, Penal Code 653.22 PC defines the sex crime of loitering with intent to commit prostitution as follows:

  • “It is illegal for somebody to loiter in a public place with intent to commit an act of prostitution. The “intent” is proven by someone behaving in a manner and under circumstances that demonstrate their purpose to induce, entice, or solicit prostitution, or procure another to commit prostitution.”

Examples of proving “intent.” 

The language within the statue gives some examples of behavior that could be considered by law enforcement and prosecutors to determine whether a suspect had actual intent to commit the crime of prostitution, including the following:

  • repeatedly beckoning to drivers or people walking by to engage in conservation, 
  • initiating contact with nearby pedestrians that appears they are soliciting prostitution,
  • constant hailing or gesturing of motorist driving by the location,
  • stopping or attempting to stop a vehicle,
  • circling an area in a car and repeatedly flagging others in a manner that appears to be soliciting prostitution,
  • the suspect is known to law enforcement for prostituting due to prior related sex crime convictions within the past years.

Any or all these factors are commonly known to indicate that someone is soliciting prostitution.

Prior convictions for prostitution

As noted, police can use the fact that a suspect did have the intent to engage in prostitution if:

  • suspect had been convicted of a prostitution-related crime, such as lewd conduct in public, within the past five years, or
  • suspect did engage in any other the above-described acts within the last six months as police are often familiar with repeat offenders on their beat.

Penal Code 653.22 PC states that these circumstances are especially relevant to indicate prostitution activity.

What Must Be Proven for a Conviction?  

To be convicted of violating California Penal Code 653.22 PC, loitering to commit prostitution, a prosecutor must prove all the “elements of the crime” listed under CALCRIM 1156 Criminal Jury Instructions, including:

  • defendant was loitering,
  • while they were in a public place, and
  • with the specific intent to commit act prostitution.

The term “loitering” in the context of this statute is generally described as lingering around a public place without a lawful purpose to be there but instead looking for a chance to commit a crime.

A “public place” can be best described with common sense, and typically any area accessible to anyone, such as a street, sidewalk, parking lot, shopping mall, city park, movie theaters, among other places.

The term “intent to commit prostitution” means to attempt to engage in prostitution, which is sexual activity in exchange for money or other types of compensation.

What are the Penalties for PC 653.22?

Loitering to commit prostitution under Penal Code 653.22 PC is a misdemeanor offense punishable by the following:

  • up to six months in county jail,
  • a fine of up to $1,000 plus penalty assessments, or both,
  • summary probation.

First-offenders will not face any jail time, but repeat offenders could be sentenced to some time in jail, but nothing significant.

The judge considers all the factors for sentencing, such as their criminal record and their current probation or parole status, if any.

What Are the Related California Crimes?

Some specific offenses could be charged by the prosecutor in addition to PC 653.22 loitering for prostitution, such as:

What is the Definition of Loitering to Commit Prostitution?

Penal Code 653.23(a)(1) PC – supervising or aiding a prostitute,

Penal Code 647(a) PC – lewd conduct in public,

Penal Code 647(b) PC – solicitation for prostitution,

Penal Code 266h and 266i PC – pimping and pandering,

Penal Code 314 PC – indecent exposure,

Penal Code 236.1 PC – human trafficking,

Penal Code 415 PC – disturbing the peace,

Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing.

What Should I Expect If Charged with Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution?

This is a serious crime, no matter how you slice it. It's typically charged against people who are engaged in prostitution-type activity. 

Usually, the police will see an individual who is dressed scantily. Many times now, in Los Angeles, you'll know the person on Figueroa, for example, or Sepulveda in the San Fernando Valley. 

They'll be waiving down cars, and a lot of times, they might even come into contact with an undercover police officer, or the police will observe them they engaged in prostitution-type activities. 

So, that charge of PC 653.22 loitering for purposes of prostitution is usually saved for somebody that doesn't engage in prostitution. Still, the police know that they are trying to, and they simply can't catch them for prostitution, so they're going to get them for loitering for purposes of prostitution.

This is a severe charge because having that on your record brings about a horrible stigma.

Often, I'm able to convince prosecutors to give people a chance who are looking at this type of offense because they are perceived as a victim, just as much as other individuals who might be perceived as victims.

This is because a lot of times, the reason they're engaged in prostitution activities is:

  • because they're young;
  • they may be homeless;
  • they may be the victim of domestic violence.

Criminal Defense for Solicitation of Prostitution Cases

The bottom line is, prostitution activities and explicitly loitering for prostitution is not viewed in such a harsh manner as it once was. 

I've been doing this now for a long time, so I have a pretty good idea of how this charge is dealt with.

I'm telling you right now; you have a much better chance of working out some diversionary program or dismissal, depending on what your criminal record looks like, of course.

Criminal Defense for California Solicitation of Prostitution Cases

If you've got multiple convictions for prostitution-type activities, it will be more challenging to convince the prosecutors to dismiss the case. 

But they will listen to reason. I have seen them dismiss these types of cases. I have seen them set up resolutions to allow the person to protect their criminal record.

This is because if you fast-forward ahead in the future and you're trying to get a job, a career, a family, and people are running your criminal record and seeing this prostitution-related offense. That puts you in a terrible position. 

You're not viewed in a favorable light, and it's going to make your life much more difficult. 

The prosecutors and judge realize that, and that's why I have been able to work out incredible resolutions for my clients many times.

Pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and has two office locations. We offer a free case evaluation by calling (213) 542-0979, or you can fill out our contact form.

Related:

How Prosecutors Prove Loitering for Prostitution Cases

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