Living with a Prostitute Can Be Illegal and Lead to Prison
The criminal complaint alleged that Grant “did unlawfully and knowing a person to be a prostitute, live and derive support and maintenance in whole or in part from the earnings and proceeds of said person’s prostitution.” The prostitute was his girlfriend and housemate, Burgundi Selvin.The Reader’s Digest Version: A conviction for pimping (Penal Code § 266h(a)) is not barred by the Constitutional right of association, especially when, as in the case summarized herein, defendant takes pictures of his girlfriend, posts them on the Internet in an ad for prostitution and sets up a separate telephone line for her calls from the advertisement.
Grant challenged the conviction as unconstitutional because the statute criminalizes a person’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive right to association by prohibiting cohabitation with a known prostitute. The real challenge was to Penal Code § 266 (“Pimping”) because, Grant argued, it prohibited association regardless of whether the person knew the source of the funds or chose to perpetuate the prostitution.
Grant set up a special telephone line for Selvin’s customers and would stay in the apartment where Selvin would perform services. He would then take the money customers left on a counter in the apartment and divide it with Selvin. He used some of the money to buy a laptop computer, which he limited Selvin’s access to over time.
The First Appellate District, Division Three, in People v. Grant (2011 DJDAR 6458), quickly distinguished the Fourteenth Amendment right to association from the right Grant seemed to define very broadly. The Court pointed out that the substantive rights guaranteed under the Constitution concerned “marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing and education,” but not a right to exploit commercial prostitution practiced by others.
The Court even pointed out that Penal Code § 266h(a) was rather limited in its scope as compared to other statutes designed to protect the public interest, some of which extend to destruction of a property interest of an accused, which 266h(a) does not do.
Consequently, the Court found that the “Pimping Statute” was an undeniably proper use of legislative power.
As almost an aside, seemingly just to put Grant’s appeal completely to rest, the Court pointed out that the defenses to pimping were not present here to help Grant. Grant did not show lack of knowledge that Selvin was a prostitute, as he said, “she hos herself out.” He did not show that the money they had came from another source, as neither he nor Selvin worked. And he failed to show Selvin’s earnings were not being used to pay for his maintenance and support.
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