Police throughout California have begun to aggressively crack down on massage parlors that engage in prostitution.

These crackdowns typically take the form of “sting” operations. In a prostitution sting, police will first pose as customers to observe the business. Then, they return in force to arrest patrons, business owners and the employees who are engaging in sexual acts in exchange for money. 

Massage parlor prostitution stings are typically done in an effort to reduce organized crime, drug trafficking and the trafficking of minors. However, many times, innocent and well meaning people can get caught up in these efforts.

If you or someone you love has been accused of being involved in massage parlor prostitution, it’s important to speak with a skilled sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will carefully review the facts of the case with you, advise you on the best route forward and work with you to build your defense.

What happens if I get arrested for visiting an illegal massage parlor?

It’s illegal to offer sex or sexual favors in exchange for money. That is prostitution, which is a violation of California Penal Code 647(b) PC.

Under 647(b) PC, the person who performs the sexual acts for compensation can be arrested for prostitution, while the person who provides the compensation for the sexual act can be arrested for solicitation of prostitution.

In order to convict someone of solicitation of prostitution, a prosecutor must show:

  1. The defendant solicited another person to engage in sexual intercourse or a lewd act in exchange for money or some other form of compensation, and
  2. They intended to engage in the act following that solicitation.

Let’s look at three examples.

Example 1: Tom visits a massage parlor. While receiving a massage, he offers the massage therapist $500 to engage in sexual intercourse. In this case, Tom is likely guilty of solicitation of a prostitute.

Example 2: Mike knowingly visits a massage parlor known for providing illegal massages. He receives a massage that does not include any sexual intercourse or lewd acts, but is arrested during a police raid on the establishment. Even though he was arrested, Mike never solicited the massage therapist and is not guilty of solicitation.

Example 3: Pete visits a massage parlor. While receiving a massage, he jokingly offers the massage therapist $500 to engage in sexual intercourse. While his joke might have been in bad taste, it lacked the “specific intent” to show that he actually intended to follow through on the offer.

Penalties for solicitation of prostitution in California

Prostitution, soliciation of a prostitute and agreeing to prostitution are all misdemanors in California, punishable by:

  • Up to 6 months jail time
  • Fines up to $1,000

If convicted of prostitution or soliciation of a prostitute, you aren’t automatically required to register as a sex offender. However, depending on the details of your case, the judge can order that the defendant be placed on the sex offender registry.

What happens if I get arrested for operating an illegal massage parlor?

So far, we’ve covered what happens if you are arrested patronizing an illegal massage parlor. What happens if you own one?

Depending on your specific municipality, operating a massage parlor that engages in prostitution might violate city code. For example, the City of Los Angeles requires massage businesses to maintain an active permit with the city. 

Los Angeles Municipal Code 103.205 also requires businesses to:

  • Cease operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Refuse service to customers who have consumed alcohol or drugs.
  • Require that massage therapists remain fully clothed while on the job.
  • Ensure that they do not store or sell any sexually oriented material.

Aside from code violations, the proprietors of massage parlors caught in prostitution stings might also face charges for pimping and pandering violations, depending on the facts of the case.

Under California Penal Code 266h PC, it is illegal to receive revenue from someone else’s work as a prostitute. This is commonly known as “pimping.” It’s also illegal to persuade another person to become or remain a prostitute under Penal Code 266i PC, an offense known as “pandering.”

Penalties for pimping and pandering in California

The crimes of pimping and pandering are both felonies in California, punishable by up to six years in California State Prison.

Pimping carries penalties of up to eight years in California State Prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender if the defendant is found guilty of pimping a person under 18 years of age.

For pandering, a conviction can carry fines of up to $10,000 and extended sentences if the defendant was found guilty of pandering a minor. 

Defenses for those arrested for massage parlor prostitution

Massage parlor prostitution stings can be scary, and it can be even more difficult dealing with the aftermath. The police are indiscriminate, and normally law abiding people can easily get swept up in their operations.

If you have been arrested for your involvement in massage parlor prostitution, your first call should be to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will help to ease the anxiety of this time and work diligently to promptly — and effectively — resolve your case.

Depending on the facts of the case, your attorney will challenge the evidence collected by law enforcement, working to have your charges reduced or dropped entirely. Things aren’t often as they seem, particularly in the disorder of a police raid, and your attorney can use this evidence to show that you weren’t involved in any illicit activity.

Robert M. Helfend is a Los Angeles based sex crimes attorney who specializes in cases involving solicitation of prostitution, pimping and pandering. Call today for a free case evaluation – 800-834-6434.