Houman Fakhimi

California Prostitution-Related Arrests can Carry Strict Penalties

A woman in Orange County was recently convicted for her role in recruiting a 14-year-old runaway from out-of-state to work as a prostitute.

While our Newport Beach criminal defense lawyers know that prostitution has historically been viewed as a victimless crime, attitudes have shifted in recent years. Authorities now tend to approach these crimes by default as if the prostitute is the victim and the others involved are in the business of exploitation.

That has meant generally lesser penalties for the prostitutes, but stiffer sentences for others involved, including johns, pimps and madams.

Last November, voters in California passed a measure called Proposition 35, also known as the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act. Passed by more than 80 percent of voters, the measure serves to:

  • Increase prison terms for convicted human traffickers, which now include prison sentences of 15 years-to-life and fines of up to $1.5 million;
  • Mandates that those convicted of sex trafficking register as sex offenders;
  • Requires that the criminal fines collected from convicted human traffickers be given to pay for services to aid victims;
  • Bars evidence of victim's sexual conduct from being used against him or her in criminal court;
  • Mandates that all sex offenders provide authorities with all of their online identities and keep them apprised of their online activities;
  • Requires that all of registered sex offenders close their online accounts.

That last provision has been blocked by a temporary injunction approved by a federal court judge, which is pending further appeal.

Those who opposed the measure entirely argued that it relied on a broad definition of pimping and that anyone receiving financial support related to the consensual prostitution involving two adults would be identified as a human trafficker.

In this case, however, the alleged girl was a minor while her recruiter was a 28-year-old, higher-ranking prostitute and the alleged pimp was a 33-year-old man.

According to media reports, the girl was reportedly living out-of-state in February when she ran away. Somehow, the female defendant befriended the girl and at some point introduced her to her alleged pimp.

At that point, the man reportedly instructed her that she now worked for him and allegedly forced her to post sexually explicit photographs online as advertisements. The girl also reportedly was made to walk down the street in high-prostitution areas in search of customers.

All of the girl's earnings from her sexual activities were given to the man. When she did not meet a certain quota, he reportedly did not feed her.

There was evidence that the man had been violent both toward the minor and to the older prostitutes. The older women instructed the girl on what to wear, how much to charge for various sexual acts and how to address the man.

The two were arrested after police pulled over the car the man was driving for a broken headlight. The vehicle was in a high prostitution area and the girl, in the back seat, looked "extremely young."

Ultimately, both the male and female were arrested. While the man's case is pending, the woman was tried and convicted on one felony count each of human trafficking of a minor and pandering of a minor under 16 by procuring. At her sentencing hearing later this month, she faces up to 12 years in prison.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Newport Beach.

Additional Resources

Woman convicted of recruiting 14-year-old girl to be prostitute, July 11, 2013, By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times.