Our client, age 28, met a female “escort” through the Internet. He thought she was a prostitute, but she was actually a police decoy, an officer posing a prostitute to arrest Johns like our client in the Downtown Los Angeles area. She was responsible to talking with several Johns at once and arranging to meet each one.
Our client discussed exchanging money for sex with her and agreed upon $60 to give her for “everything.” He was then told to meet the woman at a downtown Los Angeles hotel near U.S.C. and he went there. The hotel was on Figueroa Avenue, just north of U.S.C.
While driving to the hotel, the decoy instructed him on what room to go to find her. Our client then went to the hotel, parked his car and walked up to the room number.
It was about 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Our client had gotten off work early from his construction job. It was almost dark, as it was late March 2021, amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon knocking on the door, a man answered the door, which greatly surprised our client. The man had a dark green windbreaker on with “LAPD” written in big letters on his left breast area. The man reached up and grabbed our client by the arm and pulled him into the hotel room, where there were three more officers standing around. This was quite scarry for our client.
The officers frisked our client and found the sixty dollars in his pocket. They took it out, counted it, took a photograph of it and returned the money to our client’s pocket.
The officers then took our client into an adjoining room that the officers took our client to through a door inside the hotel room. They then shut the suite door behind him and asked for our client’s ID.
The officers quickly issued our client a ticket for violation of Penal Code § 653.22, loitering for purposes of prostitution, had him sign the ticket at the bottom promising to appear in the Clara Shortridge Foltz criminal court at 210 West Temple in about three months and let him go. The officers instructed our client to get his car and leave the hotel parking lot without coming back.
The rattled client did exactly as he was told, too scared to even consider disobeying such orders and having to meet with the police officers again. Our client had no prior criminal history and was not willing to jeopardize another arrest.
Once home and having a few nights to reflect upon the gravity of what happened, he decided to call a few attorneys.
The client called Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg Hill. The client described the facts of his case, what he told the decoy and what the officers told him when they were arresting him.
Greg commented that it was odd he was cited for just loitering for purposes of prostitution when in fact, it appeared he had really committed a violation of Penal Code § 647(b), solicitation of prostitution, because he and the decoy had agreed upon the exchange of money by our client in return for sex and our client had taken a substantial step in furtherance of the agreement by driving to the hotel, getting out of his truck and knocking on the door. Moreover, he had the $60 in his pocket, too. Such facts were enough to convict him of solicitation of prostitution, not just loitering for purposes of prostitution.
Greg commented that maybe the officers had bungled their documentation of his contact with the decoy and opted to cite him for the lesser charge instead.
Regardless, Greg advised the client not to celebrate quite yet. Greg then explained how the new District Attorney for Los Angeles County had recently, on December 7, 2020, issued a directive to his prosecutors not to file cases for many of the most common low-level offenses, including solicitation of prostitution and loitering for purposes of prostitution.
However, criminal cases filed for crimes at the location where our client was cited were filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, not the District Attorney’s office.
Nonetheless, Greg explained that there was a new law, effective January 1, 2021, allowing judicial diversion of all misdemeanors, with four exceptions that were not applicable to this case. Under this new law, the judge had power to order proceedings in the case suspended to allow defendant the opportunity to complete a program of “diversion,” meaning to perform community service, attend a class, perhaps stay away from a certain area, etc., to “earn a dismissal.”
Greg explained that since our client had no prior criminal history, he would request judicial diversion for our client to let our client earn a dismissal.
On the day of the arraignment, Greg went to the Clara Shortridge Foltz criminal courts building (CCB) for the client’s arraignment. The case was rejected for filing and therefore, nothing was filed, which Greg confirmed with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and the criminal clerk’s office. Greg explained to the client that he had been quite lucky and probably the police investigation had made some mistakes in its documentation, which was revealed by their ticketing him from the outset for a violation of Penal Code § 653.22, not Penal Code § 647(b).
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