Hi. First of all, no lawyer can ethically tell you how to break the law without getting caught, so my answer here will be general to the charge of prostitution, not your particular conduct. Prostitution in California is governed by Penal Code section 647(b) and it can be violated three ways: 1) engaging in an act of prostitution (payment for sex); 2) agreeing to engage in act of prostitution, which also requires an affirmative act in conjunction with the agreement; or 3) solicitation for prostitution. The scenario you spelled out has elements of the two latter ways a violation can occur. Vice officers know that there is street vernacular and "secret" language used in these kinds of cases as well as drug sales cases. If you're asked: "how much for a b.j." and you state "Your donation covers my time not my services", i think you are taking a big risk. For an arrest or even to prosecute you, they only need probable cause.
As my colleague points out, attorneys are ethically prohibited from giving advice about how to safely violate the law. In theory escorting may be in the gray area of law but law enforcement and DAs view this conduct as black and white prostitution, no different from street walking. You may wish to have a gander at Eliot Spitzer or Heidi Fleiss if you doubt this. The bottom line is that you can be arrested and charged with prostitution if a police officer and DA decide they can prove a case against you. Law enforcement in different counties in California do set up sting operations against online escorts. Personally this seems like a huge waste of tax payer money but you and I are not law enforcement officers or politicians who make such decisions so be warned that you are not safe from the purview of law enforcement simply because you are conducting business online and not on the streets. Obviously if you arrested and charged this doesn't mean that you will be convicted in a jury trial but you should understand that you are operating in a gray area of law at best. There are several techniques that are used by escorts to determine if an individual is in fact a law enforcement officer which I'm sure you're well aware of. I would certainly consult a criminal lawyer that you trust right now so that you have an attorney on call if the need should arise. Also if you are questioned by law enforcement, you should not answer any questions and refer all questions to your attorney. Good luck.
My colleagues writing before me have already offered sage advice. At the risk of some repetition, here is an extract from a general overview of the applicable laws I recently put together upon request. I am not expressing any opinion on your particular situation, but merely giving you a general overview:
1. Engaging in an act of prostitution
In order to convict you of engaging in an act of prostitution, the prosecutor must prove:
(a) That you engaged in an act of prostitution, and;
(b) That you did so willfully.
"Prostitution" means engaging in sexual intercourse or any lewd act with another person in exchange for money or other consideration.
A "lewd" act is defined as any act that involves touching the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of another person with the specific intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually.
"Willfully" means deliberately or on purpose. It does not require an intent to break the law.
2. Soliciting prostitution
In order to convict you of soliciting prostitution, the prosecutor must prove:
(a) That you solicited another person to engage in an act of prostitution, and;
(b) That you did so with the specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution.
Depending on the nature of the exchange...and on who initiated the interaction...prosecutors could charge this offense against the prostitute or the customer.
"Soliciting,” means to lure, or to try to induce or elicit. However, simply soliciting another person without more is insufficient to uphold a Penal Code 647(b) PC solicitation for prostitution case.
The California Court of Appeals has noted that if that were sufficient, simply being present in a particular place (for example, being in a known area of prostitution), or waving to a passing vehicle, or nodding to a stranger, or simply standing on a street corner in a miniskirt could give rise to this charge.
Consequently, soliciting prostitution requires something more - the specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution. This intent is typically evidenced by an offer to pay money or other compensation in exchange for sexual acts and not by a mere unspoken gesture or somebody’s look or appearance.
Some courts recognize a third element to the offense – that the individual being solicited must actually receive the solicitation. However you may still be charged with attempted solicitation. This carries a maximum of three months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
3. Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution
In order to convict you of agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution, the prosecutor must prove that:
(a) You agreed to engage in an act of prostitution with another person;
(b) You did so with the specific intent of engaging in an act of prostitution; and,
(c) In addition to the agreement, you performed an act in furtherance of prostitution.
This offense is the mirror image of soliciting prostitution. The person who makes an offer or proposal to engage in a prostitution transaction will be charged with soliciting...but the person who accepts the offer or proposal will be charged with agreeing to engage in prostitution.
Prosecutors can charge you with this offense even if the person who made the offer or solicitation didn't possess the same intent. This would be the case if, for example, the "prostitute" was really an undercover decoy officer whose only intent was to lure you into agreeing to the act.
It is the third element that makes this charge unique. It isn't enough to have the specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution. You must actually perform an act in furtherance of prostitution.
An act "in furtherance of prostitution" means something more than just accepting the solicitation. This "act" could be driving to an agreed-upon location where the sexual activity will take place, handing over the agreed-upon payment, or withdrawing money from an ATM in order to pay the other person.
Re: For the record, Ive been escorting for the last 4 years, and I have not gotten in trouble at all. I think its because of the words used and because I am professional, clean, and safe. Its a business and I treat it with respect.
I think it's because you haven't run into a police or sheriff sting yet. But many would say it's only a matter of time. Here's the real problem with your relying on what you think are "safe words:" there is reason to predict and fear that, when you are stung (not "if"), the evidence offered by the cops won't match what you insist you said. Your strategy is aka "Who Do You Trust."
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Yes, yes and yes. Your luck will eventually run out and when it does, you'll be arrested for prostitution and all the clever attempts to camoflague the true nature of your business won't do you any good. Drug dealers never say they're selling meth - its usually called glass, tires or some other code word. They still get arrested for sales and trafficking. Ever think of moving to Nevada?
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As a former District Attorney and former City Attorney there is a strong likelihood that you will become the focus of the Vice unit.
The words are only part of the evidence. It is the combination of the words with acts that follow. The officer will give their interpretation of your wording based on their training and experience.
The officer will just use more crass words so there will be no mis-interpretations.
The charge is a moral turpitude crime, so it is something that needs to be taken seriously.
To answer your question even if they do not have enough evidence for reasonable doubt (at trial), they will likely arrest you if they have probable cause.
I have seen FEW occasions in my 10 years as prosecutor where under cover conducts an investigation (sting) and they walk away without an arrest (unless the person in fact was just an escort like the one that goes to dinner with lonely guys).
These cases have evidence against you long before they enter the room.
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