Prostitution

Regulating Massage Parlors in San Jose (CA Penal Code 647(b))

Due in part to complaints from citizens, authorities in San Jose have began cracking down on Massage Parlors.  In 2014, authorities investigated over twenty local parlors and have issued civil citations, criminal complaints for violation of California Penal Code 647(b) as well as eviction notices.  None of the establishments investigated were found to have engaged in human trafficking.

The Massage Therapy Act passed in January allows local governments increased control over all massage therapists but it is clearly aimed at those suspected of illegal activities. Now city officials state a concern that this will create a vast demand for escort services and that a new effort is needed to curb an expected surge in illicit activities. Citizens should expect more sting operations as well as additional civil complaints and citations against the business establishment.  Finally, it is clear that San Jose is aiming to begin a large scale Human Trafficking investigation.

CA PC 647(b) prohibits prostitution and solicitation. Any person who either actually participates in prostitution, agrees to have intimate relations with a prostitute, or offers to engage in acts of prostitution may be prosecuted under this law. Usually being charged with prostitution is considered a misdemeanor, carrying with it a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and a potential $1,000 fine.

Oakland’s Sex Trafficking Stings – Politics, Grants and Waste! (CA Penal Code 647(b))

District Attorney in Alameda County, Nancy O’Malley has made sex trafficking a major campaign issue.  The recent $15 million Federal grant is meant to combat the problem of human trafficking, specifically trafficking minors.  This is a lofty and honorable goal.  Human trafficking is a felony and is severely punished, especially since the passage of proposition 35.  This opinion is not meant to address proposition 35 nor the appropriate sentences for those convicted of human trafficking.  Instead, this opinion’s focus is on the means used to combat human trafficking and the manner in which Alameda County is using Federal funds.

Over the past few months, several police agencies in Alameda have engaged in repeated sting operations meant to arrest those soliciting prostitutes (CA Penal Code 647(b)).  These stings make no distinction between those looking for mature, willing prostitutes and minors under control of pimps etc.  Instead, these costly operations have led to massive arrests of men for misdemeanor violation of solicitation (CA Penal Code section 647(b)).  This uptick in arrests is used as a political platform and the number of arrests meant to win political support.  However, arresting and prosecuting men for misdemeanor violation does very little to combat trafficking of minors.  Almost without exception, these arrests are a result of ads placed on prominent sites such as Backpage.com in which men are lured into soliciting what they believe is a consenting adult, not a minor.  Shaming and prosecuting those engaged in such behavior may win political points but does nothing for the stated goal. Using the number of arrests as a slogan without distinguishing the nature of arrest is a shameful tactic and a misuse of public funds and trust.

The war against human trafficking, like any war, must focus on those engaged in the behavior we seek to curb.  There are many consenting adults engaged in prostitution (PC 647(b)) and arresting and prosecuting these individuals does nothing to help those this witch-hunt is meant to protect.

Federal Court Sentences Man for Sex Trafficking of Minor (18 U.S. Code 2423(a))

It is a well-known and unfortunate fact that Sacramento is one of the nation’s sex trafficking hotbeds. A man from Las Vegas, as a matter of fact, has recently been convicted by a federal court of sex trafficking in Sacramento for having transported a 16-year-old girl over at least 5 states lines for the purposes of using her in the sex trade. According to court documents, the 2 travelled through, not only California, but also Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona before local law enforcement officers in the town of Weed apprehended the man. The victim in the case has testified that she was given several different illegal drugs, including intravenous methamphetamine, and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her captor. Several different law enforcement agencies were involved in his eventual capture, including the FBI, the California Highway Patrol, and various local police departments.   He was sentenced to 17 and ½ years in a federal facility.

18 U.S. Code 2423 deals with the general crime of transportation of minors. More specifically, when a person transports a minor child over state lines in order to force them to engage in sexual activity, 18 U.S. Code 2423(a) applies. The law on this matter clearly states that anyone who purposefully brings a person under the age of 18 over state lines with the intent to make them engage in sexual activities (like prostitution, for example) is in violation of federal mandates. An individual who is convicted of having committed this crime may expect to spend no less than 10 years in federal prison. The maximum sentence in these cases is life in prison.

2 Men Arrested for Solicitation of a Minor (CA Penal Code 647(b))

2 individuals have recently been arrested for allegedly having forced a young girl from Yuba County to become a prostitute. Reports claim that a couple (a 25-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman) met a 16-year-old girl at a shopping center in Sacramento County, eventually gained access to her home, stand accused of sexually assaulting the young woman and then sending her out to prostitute herself. While they were both charged with unlawful solicitation of a minor, each have also, respectively, been charged with unlawful intercourse with a minor and unlawful penetration with a foreign object.

California Penal Code 647(b) prohibits prostitution and solicitation. Any person who either actually participates in prostitution, agrees to have intimate relations with a prostitute, or offers to engage in acts of prostitution may be prosecuted under this law. Usually, a violation of this particular law is considered a misdemeanor, carrying with it a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and a potential $1,000 fine.

Additionally, there are different penalties when it comes to California’s “Pimping” and “Pandering” laws. The two offenses are different (‘pimping’ is the illegal act of receiving money from a prostitute, while ‘pandering’ involves, among other things, recruiting or procuring another individual for the purposes of prostitution. Both of these offenses are felonies in California and could mean up to 6 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Penalties for pimping or pandering a minor raise a convicted person’s prison term to 8 years and require lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Sacramento County Sheriffs Uses POP Teams for Prostitution Stings (CA Penal Code 647(b))

You may have noticed over the past few years and months that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has been working hard to crack down on illegal massage parlors and prostitution in general, mostly through the use of undercover agents.  Local law enforcement also use what are called “POP” (Problem Orientated Policing) teams who speak to local community members, get an idea as to what crimes the citizens in that geographic area are concerned about, and then act on them.  Early this year, Sacramento POP teams identified illegal prostitution as one of those issues.

Prostitution is a California sex crime about which there is still great debate.  On the one hand, there are those who work in the business, deem it their right to use their bodies any way they wish, and find the practice empowering.  On the other hand, there are those persons who argue that allowing such a practice to continue, even legally, is unequivocally immoral.  Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on ideologically, prostitution remains illegal in the state of California.

According to California Penal Code 647(b), prostitution is very simply defined, the exchange of money for goods and/or services of a sexual nature.  This law prohibits 2 things: 1) actually engaging in prostitution and 2) merely offering or agreeing to engage in prostitution.  Penalties for prostitution are not particularly harsh; it is considered a misdemeanor.  If you have been arrested on a first-offense prostitution charge, you will likely spend no more than 6 months in county jail and be subject to a fine of $1,000.  However, it is also useful to remember that it is very difficult to prove that there was either an agreement to exchange money for sexual services or that money was actually exchanged.  This is, perhaps, why the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has relied so heavily on undercover operations in the past, and will likely continue to do so.

Severe Penalties for Human Trafficking (CA Penal Code 236.1)

A woman calling herself ‘Victoria’ recently gave an interview on a local news channel concerning her experiences in an abusive relationship, one in which she considered herself enslaved.  This sort of story reminds us that human trafficking is a huge problem in the Sacramento area, especially considering that traffickers pass directly through the city on their way from San Francisco, through Tahoe and Seattle, then back to Los Angeles.  What many people do not realize about human trafficking is that this term does not simply refer to the practice of individual persons being sold into slavery against their will. Human trafficking could also include physically and psychologically abusive relationships, ones in which the bonds that hold people chained are invisible.

In California law, ‘human trafficking’ could be defined as the purposeful deprivation of an individual’s liberty.  This could mean depriving another person of their freedom in order to keep them working or providing services or, as many people know, depriving another of their freedom for any sexual purpose (CA Penal Code 236.1).

Penalties for human trafficking are severe in this state.  In the main, this is due to the 2012 Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (Prop 35), which enacted harsher penalties for anyone who violates CA PC 236.1.  Never a misdemeanor, human trafficking is always considered a California felony.  An individual convicted of human trafficking violations could end up facing up to 12 years in state prison and a $500,000 fine.

 

Human Trafficking Charges for Oakland Resident (CA Penal Code 236.1)

It is well known that California has one of the highest rates of incidence of human trafficking.  Usually, this type of criminal activity involves bringing young girls into the United States from other countries and exploiting them for sexual services.  However, in Oakland, a 32-year-old man was recently arrested on charges of human trafficking, but this case involved runaway teenage girls from within the United States.  Officials say that, for runaways like the one in this case, ending up on the streets being used by a pimp is, unfortunately, a common occurrence.

In the instance above, the San Jose branch of the Human Trafficking Task Force was tipped off by local law enforcement agents to a young girl’s photograph displayed on the Internet on a prostitution site.  Later, they discovered that the girl was allegedly working, under the tutelage of the 32-year-old man, at a Sunnyvale motel, after being picked up from her Bible study meeting.

California law defines ‘human trafficking’ as any illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of sexual ‘slavery’ through a vast variety of different pieces of legislation (the most recent of which is the 2012 California Proposition 35, which prohibits sex slavery and human trafficking (CA Penal Code 236.1).  In California, human trafficking is always considered a felony offense.  If convicted, an individual could spend anywhere from 5 to 12 years in state prison and be liable for a maximum of $500,000 in fines.  Penalties increase as the age of the victim decreases, meaning that if a minor child is involved, the maximum sentence rises to 15 years in state prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

 

Sacramento Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking (CA Penal Code 236, 237)

A 32-year-old Sacramento man has recently been found guilty of sex trafficking charges after 5 different women testified against him.  Local law enforcement officials alleged that this man (name withheld for reasons of privacy) had been purposefully recruiting very young women to work for him as prostitutes.  They also claimed that, for about 7 years, he used both coercive force and fraud in order to convince these young ladies that prostitution was the path for them.  Key witnesses say that he charmed them at first and then made use of physical force to keep them ‘in line.’

While prostitution is illegal in California, there is an entirely different set of laws that pertain to sex trafficking.  California Penal Code 236-237 clearly delineates the difference between prostitution and sex trafficking.  The main reason for this distinction is that sex trafficking, where victims are threatened with physical and psychological harm if they do not comply, amounts, not to a simple sex crime, but to a violation of an individual person’s liberty, in other words, enslavement.  Human trafficking penalties in the sex trade include up to 12 years in state prison and a maximum $500,000 fine.  If force, coercion, fraud, or threats are involved, prison sentences rise to 15 years to life.  In the above case, the individual in question was convicted of 3 counts of sex trafficking involving force, coercion, and fraud.  He was also found guilty of 1 count each of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and actual sex trafficking of a minor.  He has yet to be sentenced.

 

Two Men Accused of Sex Trafficking in Emeryville (CA Penal Code 236, 237)

What started out as a case for the California courts is now in the hands of the federal government.  2 men in their mid-to-late fifties (names withheld to protect the accused) were originally accused of sex trafficking (CA Penal Code 236.1)and running a brothel (Acucare Oriental Massage) on Adeline Street in Emeryville, for which they were arrested for 30 different felonies, including pimping, pandering, and tax fraud.  Now, they will have to face federal prosecutors on charges of conspiracy and bribery.

As part of their investigation, members of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security used confidential informants and undercover policepersons in order to further their case.  In fact, the bribery charge stems from an alleged attempt to bribe both the police captain who was, at that time, working ‘undercover’ as a crooked cop and an undercover Homeland Security agent who was undercover as a bribable immigration officer.

Certainly, operating an illegal house of prostitution will get you into some pretty deep trouble, but if you bribe a public official, the penalties are just as harsh.  California Penal Code 67 and 68 deal with the bribery of any public employee or executive officer.  This could include everyone from a district attorney to a police officer to a building inspector.  Anyone who is considered a public official or is working in a public capacity may count as a ‘public employee’ or an ‘executive officer.’  Bribery of this kind is nearly always considered a felony in the state of California and may result in up to a 4-year stint in state prison.  Additionally, there is always the possibility that a particular judge will order you to pay restitution and be barred from ever running for office yourself.

 

Massage Parlor Prostitution Fronts Found in Sacramento Suburbs

Lately, Sacramento County has been experiencing a higher rate of ‘massage parlors’ popping up around Arden Arcade and other nearby suburbs of the city.  For example, at least 17 such parlors have been identified and closed within the space of 2 years, only 3 of them outside of the northern district.  Officials say that this influx of prostitution into the area can be attributed to the fact that rent is cheap there and the retail spaces that are being rented mean that customers can find them more easily.

While it is well known that massage therapists are more akin to medical professionals, some purveyors of prostitution try to hide their illegal activities under this guise.  Though regulatory agencies are quick to say that they make routine visits to every business claiming to offer massage therapy in order to both protect clients and to prevent illegal activity, there are simply far too many new illegal ‘parlors’ opening up to keep track of, much less keep up with.  In the state of California, charges of prostitution is covered under CA Penal Code 647(b).

California is a state that is particularly aggressive when it comes to prosecuting these cases.  Usually, the crime is treated as a misdemeanor and the penalties include a $1,000 fine and, perhaps, up to 6 months in county jail.  However, the concern with massage parlors is not simply that of attempting to keep persons from engaging in sexual acts in exchange for money; the worry is that they are the perfect cover for human trafficking rings, which are particularly prevalent in the Sacramento area.