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Massage Parlor Prostitution Crimes

Recently, California lawmakers have started to crack down on violations of prostitution laws and other illegal activity within massage parlors. For example, prostitution was classified as a minor misdemeanor but now could be charged as a felony in some cases of solicitation of prostitution.

Many unlicensed massage parlors actively conduct prostitution rings where their workers engage in illegal sexual activity. Thus, the district attorney and police are making many arrests and charging alleged perpetrators with prostitution and related offenses.

Massage Parlor Prostitution Crimes in California
Some unlicensed massage parlors are prostitution rings for pimping and pandering.

In California, massage parlor owners and workers are commonly charged with soliciting prostitution and engaging in an act of prostitution. There are many types of arrests by police directly connected to massage parlors. 

Often, police receive anonymous tips about massage parlor locations used primarily for people to engage in sexual-related activity, such as violations of California Penal Code 647(b) solicitation of prostitution.

Law enforcement normally targets massage parlor workers and visiting customers once they receive information about alleged unlawful sexual activity. Notably, in Orange County, CA, local police suspect there is a sex trafficking ring involving minors under the age of 18.

Often, California massage parlors have been known to engage in illegal activity or solicitation of prostitution, defined as the exchange of money for sexual favors. Recall that the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Craft, was arrested for alleged sexual conduct inside a massage parlor.

As noted, based on a substantial increase in tips and allegations about alleged illegal activity occurring within massage parlors involving minors in sex trafficking, police departments have increased their investigations. Still, some innocent customers have also been targeted. 

Massage Parlors and Prostitution 

It's common knowledge that it's illegal in California to operate a brothel or any similar place with the intent to permit prostitution. However, some laws are violated by businesses due to the potential of high financial profits in the sex trade business. 

Often, businesses advertise their services as massage parlors or spas when, in reality, they are in the prostitution business. Massage parlors are well-known for illegal prostitution, and many have been closed for operating large-scale illegal underground prostitution rings. 

Counties across the state of California have made the connection between the operation of local massage parlors and the significant increases in prostitution trafficking, drug crimes, and other related offenses that involve the following:

  • Massage therapists,
  • Massage parlor owners,
  • Out-call massage services,
  • Escorts and prostitutes,
  • Sex trafficking minors.

In California, massage parlor owners and workers are commonly charged with soliciting prostitution and engaging in an act of prostitution, such as the following:

  • Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution, regardless if the act was completed (Penal Code 647(b)).
  • Pimping, which is gaining income from a portion of prostitution fees (Penal Code 266h).
  • Pandering, which is encouraging or threatening with the intent of engaging in prostitution (Penal Code 266i).
  • Directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a prostitute (Penal Code 653.23)
  • Unlawful trade in human beings against their will for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor (Penal Code 236.1 PC)

What Are the County and City Ordinances?

Numerous local and state laws regulate massage services, including permit requirements for massage therapists and parlor services.  Violations of these ordinances can result in misdemeanor charges, hefty civil fines, and administrative sanctions.

Until January 1, 2022, California Business and Professions Code 4600-4620 regulated massage parlors and allowed the Massage Therapy Council to issue certificates, but this law was repealed.

Massage parlor regulations are now governed by local county and city ordinances, and certification will depend on different factors. Simply put, under California law, local municipalities now issue permits and regulate massage parlors and certification of massage therapists. 

Many cities pursue aggressive regulation of massage parlors. For example, the City of Los Angeles Code Section 103.205 requires police permits for all massage parlors, therapists, out-call services, and other requirements, such as the following:

  • Massage parlors cannot be open between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Massage parlors are prohibited from selling sexually oriented material.
  • No massage parlor employee can expose their genitals, buttocks, or female breasts.
  • Making intentional contact with the genitals or anus of another person is prohibited.
  • Massage parlors are prohibited from misrepresenting the services or therapist qualifications.
  • If complaints are received, the city can hold public hearings.
  • Massage parlors must maintain personnel lists identifying all employees who offer massage services.
  • People are not allowed to enter a massage business while possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages or drugs.

What Are the Punishments? 

The punishments for massage services without required permits or violating other provisions will depend on the local county ordinance, such as the following:

  • Los Angeles Code Section 103.205 says that operating a massage parlor or out-call service without a permit is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
  • Other violations will subject the person to administrative sanctions and civil remedies.
  • Possible legal action against illicit massage services for tax evasion, money laundering, and labor code violations.
  • Authorities might pursue permit violations against massage business owners and therapists, carrying hefty fines.  
  • Massage therapists providing sex services, such as sexual intercourse or oral copulation, could face criminal charges of soliciting prostitution.
  • Massage parlor customers could be charged with various crimes.
  • Massage parlor owners can be charged with pimping and pandering. 

What Are the Best Legal Defenses? 

Suppose you were arrested during a police sting related to a massage parlor. In that case, our California sex crime lawyers can use different strategies, such as the following:

  • Violations of constitutional rights.
  • Police entrapment.
  • No intent to engage in prostitution.

Perhaps we can argue that your constitutional rights were violated. Possibly, police persuaded you to commit a crime you would have otherwise not committed, known as “entrapment.”

Massage Parlor Sex Crimes

If you were charged with solicitation of prostitution, maybe we can argue that you had no intent to solicit sexual services in exchange for money. The district attorney has the burden of proof in all criminal cases.

Suppose your guilt is not in doubt. In that case, we can negotiate with the prosecution to minimize the impact of a conviction on your life. Maybe you don't have a criminal record, which might place you in a solid position to resolve the case favorably. 

Suppose you were accused of operating a massage service without a permit or using it for prostitution activity. Perhaps we can argue that the sexual-related charges are false and that the massage services performed were therapeutic rather than sexual.

Maybe there was no money exchanged for consensual adult activities. Contact us for more information. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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