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Important information for ALL Sex Workers from Norma Jean Almodovar, Executive Director, COYOTE LA/SC
Because getting arrested for prostitution is a traumatic experience..... you need to know your rights, know the facts and protect yourself! Arresting men and women for prostitution is the last American Witch Hunt! While we are grateful we are not burned at the stake any longer, the process of arrest, trial and threat of incarceration, not to mention the possibility of losing custody of your children for being an unfit mother... all take on the same anti-female sexuality elements of the Salem Witch Hunts of centuries ago. Knowledge is power- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
Me, get arrested for prostitution? How could it happen to me? I'm a . . . .nude (or exotic) dancer - dominatrix - porn actress - or, I only do massage or work for an escort service . . . I'm not a prostitute! So, how could I get arrested?
NOTE : IF YOU LIVE AND WORK IN A STATE OTHER THAN CALIFORNIA, THE LAWS IN YOUR STATE MAY BE DIFFERENT. USE THIS INFORMATION AS A REFERENCE GUIDE ONLY- CHECK THE LAWS THROUGH A LAW LIBRARY OR WITH A CRIMINAL LAWYER WHERE YOU LIVE.
SENTENCES FOR PANDERING, PIMPING AND PROSTITUTION ALSO VARY STATE TO STATE. YOU CAN PURCHASE A COPY OF YOUR STATE'S PENAL CODE FROM ANY LEGAL BOOKSTORE. READ FOR ALL REFERENCES TO THE SEX WORK YOU ENGAGE IN AND MEMORIZE THE LAWS! YOUR BEST DEFENSE IS KNOWLEDGE! DON'T LET THEM GET YOU UNAWARE!
****Warning - the information in this page is the opinion of the author and is not intended to take the place of legal advice - and if you are arrested, you should seek the services of a qualified attorney in your state.****
|by Norma Jean Almodovar, Executive Director, COYOTE LA
I know what you're thinking. You only do massage therapy, domination, act in porn movies, work for a licensed escort service or do nude dancing. How could they arrest you for prostitution? Isn't a prostitute that poor ignorant drug addict who stands on the streets and sells her body for a few bucks to anyone who comes along? What you were doing was not illegal, was it? And besides, the cop who arrested you. . . he entrapped you, and that's illegal, isn't it?
If you live in California, entrapment for prostitution is legal (even though it should be unconstitutional, it has not been ruled against because no one has been able to get a case heard in a high court of appeals), thanks to liberal democrats who desire to protect us poor stupid women from being exploited. And, in California, prostitution is so vaguely defined that it probably includes behavior that you thought was acceptable and legal. You probably thought that if you didn't have sexual intercourse or give a "blow job" you were not committing prostitution. Or, you thought that if you were doing these things in front of a camera, you were protected - just exercising your first amendment rights. And if you thought that you weren't breaking the law because you didn't take money for the sex act, but you took other consideration instead, you are wrong.
Unfortunately, if you get arrested, and if you plead guilty or are convicted, you may end up with a prostitution record which will brand you as a prostitute forever. Such a record will prevent you from being able to do certain things, so it is important not to plead guilty or get a conviction if at all possible. Not to mention a conviction for prostitution carries a mandatory jail sentence on the first offense, and sometimes up to a year on the second offense.
* Know what your rights are and know the law!!!!! The police expect you to be ignorant of your rights and of the law - so they often get away with doing things to you that are illegal. By knowing what the law is and what your rights are, you can protect yourself from police abuse.
* Know a good attorney and a bail bonds person who will be there for you if you get arrested - not every bail bonds company will bail out women or men who have been arrested on prostitution charges. They will bail out men who have been accused of beating their wives, or who have committed armed robbery, but not men or women who have been charged with being exploited for money!
* Fight the law - do not plead guilty - take your case to trial - make them work to put you in jail. The law is wrong and should be fought. If we all fight our cases, instead of giving in, the courts would be more overcrowded than ever, and the police would have to stop arresting us.
* Giving the names of your friends or your clients to the police will NOT help you get a lesser sentence. The police will tell you that if you cooperate with them, they can help you with the judge- but the reality is that they can't do anything at all, so if you turn in your friends or your clients, you do so for nothing, and you have lost your friend.
* After your first arrest, the likelihood of your getting arrested again within the next few weeks or months (until your case has been resolved) increases 90 percent more than before you were arrested the first time. The reason for this is simply because the police want to keep you from pleading not guilty in court. If you have never been arrested before, and go before a judge, you may be able to convince him or her that your arrest was a mistake- but, if you get arrested again right away, before your case has been settled, you will have a more difficult time convincing a judge or city attorney that you really are not a prostitute and should not get the mandatory jail sentence.
|* Always exercise extreme caution when speaking to anyone, including those you know well. If they suddenly begin asking questions that involve money or sex - questions that they already know the answers to - bells should go off in your head. Tell him, "Why whatever do you mean?" Don't give the cops ammunition to use against you. Always talk to your clients (on the phone and in person) as though your conversation was being tape recorded and will be played in front of a jury. Don't say anything that will incriminate you.|
* IF NO MONEY CHANGES HANDS, I HAVE NOT BROKEN THE LAW. The law only requires that you "manifest an acceptance of the offer" and does not say that you take the money. All you have to do to get arrested is to agree (by smiling or nodding your head) to touch his buttocks or genitals (through massage or dominance) or to let him touch yours, and agree to take a fee for it - in cash, or other consideration.* The crime of prostitution is all a word game- based on getting a 'solicitation' rather than an actual act out of a suspect. Anything further, such as getting you to get undressed or taking the money they offer, is just 'icing' on their legal case against you.
* I ONLY DANCE NUDE AND MASTURBATE MYSELF. IS THAT PROSTITUTION? The law says prostitution is "a lewd act for money or other consideration," which is "the touching of breast, buttocks or genitals for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal." (later on we will explain this further.) Notice that it doesn't say who touches whose breast, buttocks or genitals in order for it to be lewd conduct. The vagueness of the law allows the act of masturbation to be included in the definition of prostitution if the other person (who is paying) becomes aroused or achieves sexual gratification while watching you and that is what they are paying for. So, whether you masturbate yourself, or, if you have a girl-girl show where you touch the breasts, buttocks or genitals of a third party, if the individual who is paying you gets aroused, etc. you have broken the law.
* IF I DON'T SEE ANY NEW PEOPLE, I AM OKAY. We know from many cases that the police have followed clients after they leave the house of the sex worker they see, and threaten to tell his boss or his family if he doesn't cooperate with them and help the police arrest you. So, even if the person that you see is an old friend, be careful if he starts to ask you questions about money or sex that you know he already knows. Also, if he tells you that he has a friend that would like to see you, and he has never done that before, approach the situation with extreme caution. It may be fine- but it also may be a set up. As the saying goes- it is better to be safe than sorry!
* IF I DON'T TALK ABOUT SEX, BUT HE DOES, I WON'T GET INTO TROUBLE. Wrong. The new laws in California allow the police officer to lure you with talk of sex for money or other consideration and then arrest you if you agree to do it. You don't have to say anything about sex or money to get arrested. It can be said that you "agree" to do something when you merely nod your head or even smile at him when he suggests that you perform an act of sex for money.
* IF HE ASKS ABOUT A CERTAIN SEX ACT & I SAY NO, CAN I STILL GET ARRESTED? Yes. As ridiculous as it seems, if the undercover cop asks you about a specific sex act (such as "greek") and you say "no" to that specific act, you can still be arrested because it implies that you are willing to do other acts of sex. If someone begins to ask too many specific questions, you should immediately tell him that sex for money is illegal, and he should stop trying to get you to break the law. Whenever a man needs to keep talking about what he will get for his money, it should make you think something is wrong. (more info next paragraph)
* AS LONG AS I SAY "NO" WHEN HE ASKS ME ABOUT SEX AND MONEY, I WON'T GET ARRESTED, RIGHT? You would think so, but the fact is, they can manipulate the conversation to the point that they say you are agreeing to an act of sex even if you say "no" to a specific question. Here's how it can happen. There was a woman who was arrested for prostitution about two years ago, even though she had told the undercover cop "no" when he asked her if she did "Greek" (a slang term for anal sex). The reasoning he used was as follows. . . when he arrived at her home, she was vague about what services he would receive for his money. She told him that he would have a good time. When he continued to press her for more specific information, she continued to be evasive. He then asked her if she did "Greek," to which she replied "no." She was then arrested, because it was implied that she would do other sexual things to him even if she would not do one specific thing. A good lawyer should get the case dismissed, but you can still be arrested and have to spend money to defend yourself, so insist that you do not do anything sexual, especially if he keeps asking. A real client knows what he will receive and doesn't need to play word games with you.
* THE POLICE NEED A SEARCH WARRANT TO COME INTO MY HOME AND ARREST ME IN THE FIRST PLACE, RIGHT? No, if they suspect you of breaking the law, they can set you up through a sting operation, and, if you violate the law, they can then search your place and take you into custody. In the past, the police have taken computers,video equipment, cameras and other electronic equipment, as well as bondage equipment as 'evidence.' If they take something with them for whatever reason, they are supposed to give you a property receipt listing whatever property they confiscate, but they frequently do not, which means that you can kiss whatever they took goodbye. Even if they do give you a property receipt, there is no guarantee that your property will be returned. Often they will tell you it is needed for the case against you, even if it is clear that it has no bearing on your case, and the police will continue to keep it indefinitely, or until it is "lost" in the property room. Either way, the odds are against your ever seeing it again, nevertheless, be sure to make a record of what they take and give it to your lawyer. If you have a homeowners insurance policy, you might be able to make a claim and get reimbursed for your losses.
* A POLICE OFFICER HAS TO TELL ME HE IS A COP IF I ASK HIM, RIGHT? NO, NO, NO! Cops have complete immunity to lie to you - because if that is all we had to do to protect ourselves, cops would never make any arrests! Furthermore, in some states he can legally get undressed and actually have sex with you and still arrest you! In other states where it is not legal for him to have sex with you first, but he does anyway, when he gets on the witness stand, he will lie and the judge and jury will believe him, not you! It isn't fair, but that's the way things are. So, don't think you are safe from arrest just because he has sex with you. If he does get undressed or has sex with you, be sure to write down the physical description of his private parts - the size of his penis, if his body is really hairy or smooth, or if he has any scars or tattoos, and give a copy of your notes to your attorney and hide the original somewhere safe.
*THE POLICE CAN'T LEGALLY TAPE RECORD OUR CONVERSATIONS AND USE THEM IN COURT, CAN THEY? Ask Heidi Fleiss about that! Yes, they can, and often will tape record and video tape you when they call you or when you are with them at your house or in their hotel room and then use the tapes against you in court. The only one who doesn't get to use tape recordings of conversations in court, is you. Of course, if you do make an audio or video tape recording of the event which directly conflicts with the police version of the situation, you should notify your lawyer that such a tape exists, and then make copies of it. Do not give your only copy to anyone, even a lawyer, as such copies have been known to conveniently disappear. There are unscrupulous lawyers who are willing to tamper with the evidence and help the police, so that the police will give them consideration on a "more important case." Also, there are lawyers who use drugs themselves, and the cops know about it, so they can easily "persuade" the lawyer to assist them against you. To them, you are just a 'whore,' and whatever happens to you is not really important to them. (for more information, see Book One on police entrapment and wiretapping)
* AFTER I HAVE BEEN ARRESTED- CAN THE POLICE COME INTO MY HOME WHEN I AM JUST WITH FRIENDS? No - not until you are on probation. They need probable cause to enter your home, and just being with friends is not against the law. They can't just come in and harass you. If they do, you can sue them.
*If you accept probation as your sentence - you have lost all your rights for the time being - which means that the police don't need an excuse to harass you and accuse you of violating your probation. If you even jay-walk, that constitutes a violation of your probation and you can go to jail for the entire length of your probation sentence. Let's say the maximum time for the first offense for prostitution is 45 days in jail, but if you accept probation and you get 3 years probation, then if you violate your probation - you can go to jail for three years, not 45 days. When you are on probation, the police can enter your home without a search warrant and stop you in a car for no reason. If you are visiting a friend's house, the police can enter your friend's house without a search warrant too, so if they have drugs or other illegal possessions, you can be charged with violating your probation just for being there.
So, if you decide to plead guilty and not take a jury trial, you will not get the opportunity again to tell anyone your side of the story. If you are charged with a violation of your probation, you don't get a trial - you just go to jail.
"SO, WHAT IS 'PROSTITUTION' ANYWAY?" In California, it is a misdemeanor, defined as it is 'any lewd act for money or other consideration.' "Lewd'' is defined as the touching of male genitalia and buttocks and female genitalia, breasts and buttocks for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal . That means that just touching your breasts, buttocks or genitals and he gets aroused- and he is giving you money or other consideration, you have technically broken the law. The law doesn't say that you have to touch his body or he has to touch yours in order for it to be illegal.
As for what "other consideration" is... the courts in California said that if someone "mows your lawn" that can be "other consideration."
A few years ago, California passed a law that amended the penal code to allow a police officer to legally entrap a person suspected of prostitution. We call the new law a 'use a smile, go to prison' law, because the law says, "A person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution when, with specific intent to so engage, he or she manifests an acceptance of an offer or solicitation to so engage, regardless of whether the offer or solicitation was made by a person who also possessed the specific intent to engage in prostitution." In other words, no longer are words are necessary to commit this verbal crime.....facial expressions (smiling, winking) or body gestures will do! So, if the other person says "will you do this or that (that's sexual) to me" and offers you money or other consideration, you don't have to say anything at all to get arrested. And if that wasn't bad enough, in 1996, another new law, passed by a liberal democrat (Richard Katz), allows the police to arrest you for merely possessing the intent to commit prostitution!*(see full description of this law in BAD LAWS - CALIFORNIA.)
Being arrested on a charge of prostitution carries a mandatory sentence on the first offense. Sometimes the prosecutors will allow you to plead guilty and let you take probation- but probation can be an indefinite sentence of the police being able to come into your home at any time... think carefully before you agree to probation. More about this later on.
|*"WHAT IS 'PANDERING'?" Pandering, a felony, is defined as merely 'encouraging a person.....by schemes, devices and promises.....to commit an act of prostitution.' It has a mandatory prison term of three, four or six years on the first offense, with no prior convictions.
No distinction is made between coercive, juvenile prostitution and non-coercive adult prostitution. Pandering can be the act of two prostitutes who work together, who simply exchange clients, or arrange a 'double date' with a client. Giving out the phone number of one prostitute to a potential client (or undercover vice officer) is sufficient to be charged with pandering.
So, if you help your friend find clients, even if she asks you to, and even if you don't take a cut, you are committing a felony and must go to prison for three to six years if you are convicted of the charge. If you take any money from her for arranging the date, that is another crime- also a felony, called "pimping."
"WHAT IS PIMPING'?" Living off the earnings of a prostitute, whether in full or in part. This law also carries a mandatory prison term of three to six years on the first offense. It is common practice for women who work together to take a percentage of the money for the date they arrange for their friend. The police know this and use the law against us as a way to make us cooperate with them. When we don't want to cooperate with them, the law is often applied to, or is threatened to be applied to, a prostitute's landlord, in attempts to get the landlord to evict the prostitute from his/her apartment. In some cases, it is also used against a prostitute's mother or father, brothers and sisters, when it can be proved that the prostitute contributes any money to them.
Legally, a 'pimp' need not be a man with a string of girls, who drives a 'pimpmobile' and wears gaudy, flashy clothing, the man that the public sees as forcing young women onto drugs and into a life of prostitution. A pimp can be the bank, the grocery store; anyone who takes money from a prostitute ... from her earnings as a prostitute, is legally 'guilty' of pimping.
This law was originally intended to protect the prostitute, because often the prostitute was perceived as a victim of someone who would take all of her money and leave her destitute. As with most 'protectionist' legislation, it is more often used against the 'victim' than against those who would victimize her.
HELP, I'VE BEEN ARRESTED!
Okay, so, you have been arrested. You are in a state of shock, and are angry that it happened to you. Believe me, whatever you are going through, some one else has been through it before. Here are some tips to help you get through your experience, which you need to do for your protection, as well as to have a good defense available when you go to court. (these tips are also good to keep in mind if you have not been arrested yet- so you remember what to do if it happens to you.)
* Write down all the events that led up to your arrest. When did the undercover cop call you, what did he say on the telephone, what did he say when he arrived? What was he wearing- did he get undressed and if so, what was this size of his penis, etc. Was his penis erect when he got undressed? How about when you got undressed? Did he have any tattoos, or other unusual identifying marks on his body that will prove to a jury that the cop was fully undressed before he arrested you? Did he let you give him a massage before he arrested you? For how long? Did he make you give him oral sex or have intercourse with you? How many other cops were involved in arresting you? If the first officer allowed you to get undressed, when the other cops arrived, did they see you naked before they allowed you to get dressed? Did they take pictures of you in your underwear or while you were naked? Did they take anything from your house or apartment, and if so, did they give you a property receipt for it? Was everything they took listed properly on the receipt? Did they say why they needed to take anything from your apartment or go through your purse? Be sure they correctly list the amount of money you have in your purse, or you can kiss it goodbye. If you are missing anything when you return to you home after you have been released from jail on bail, be sure to check every room incase they moved it somewhere else. If it is not anywhere, file a theft report as soon as possible, and give a copy of the report to your attorney. These are things that are important to remember if you do get to go to trial. So, write them down as soon as possible before you forget them.
* When seeking a lawyer, here are some things to think about. If you decide to go with a public defender, which you may want to do if you have no money, remember that they are being paid by the same people who are prosecuting you- and for many of them, it is just a game. Many public defenders are so over worked with cases, they just want you to plead guilty and take the mandatory jail time. To them, having you go to jail for 45 days is no big deal- after all, they might be defending someone accused of murder and the sentence for that is much more serious than a mere 45 days. So, even though it is your freedom at stake and going to jail for even one day seems like the end of the world to you, they are not necessarily going to be sympathetic, so keep that in mind. If you tell them that you want to fight your case, they will probably tell you that you haven't got a chance of winning and tell you that you should plead guilty to save them some time. You might get lucky and get a public defender who believes that the law is wrong, and decides to help you fight it, but don't count on it. You get what you pay for.
Let's say that you decide to hire an attorney that isn't a public defender. How do you know who is a good one and who is not? You need to find someone who is (a) either experienced in handling prostitution cases and knows the law and the system, or, (b) someone who is cause oriented and thinks the prostitution laws are wrong and will fight tooth and nail to defend you. Yes, this might cost you money- unfortunately, that's the price of choosing to engage in behavior that is outside the "acceptable" norm. If you haven't been arrested yet, you may want to sock away some money to pay for a lawyer incase you do get arrested. It is well worth taking the time and money to speak to an attorney before you get arrested and know that you have someone you can call on the minute you are sitting in the local police station being booked.
IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN ARRESTED YET, WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?
No matter what I tell you, you will never be prepared for it when it happens. Being arrested is a traumatic and humiliating experience that can leave you in shock. If you are arrested in your own home, you might feel much like a rape victim does and be afraid to be left alone or feel like you have to move away. You will probably not feel safe in your own place for a while. If the police have broken down your door to enter your home, you will probably experience fear of a reentry attack. There is little to do for such a feeling except to let time pass- and the feeling will eventually go away. You can seek therapy for your trauma, but it is important that you find a therapist or counselor who will not judge you for your profession and try to add guilt to the mixture of unstable emotions. You should ask some of your peers if they know of a therapist who will understand your situation and who will not try to blame your traumatized emotions on your work.
Most times when women are arrested for misdemeanor prostitution, they will be taken to the local police or sheriff's station and fingerprinted and booked. The officer who arrests you will probably tell you it won't take very long to go through the process of being booked, but, take it from those who have been there- it always takes many hours longer than they tell you it will. They want you to remain calm, so they will lie to you in order to keep you from getting more upset. Be prepared to be in custody overnight or even longer- and if you are released early, you can consider yourself lucky.
Ultimately, you will be given the opportunity to make a phone call to contact a bail bonds person or your lawyer. Be sure that you have someone you can call who can make these calls for you incase you can't remember their numbers or incase you are only given one chance to make a call. If you have a friend available to take a call from you in the middle of the night, so much the better. Give him or her all the information necessary to get you out such as your location, your booking number and the arrest charge to give the bail bonds person. If you are released on your own "recognizance," that means that you don't have to post bail to get out. You will simply have to sign the arrest 'ticket' and agree to appear at your arraignment on the date you are given.
Now, back to what it is like in jail. I can't speak for all jails- as I have only been to Los Angeles' Sybil Brand Institute. It is horribly overcrowded and an unpleasant place to be.
If you are taken to jail after you have been booked at the police or sheriff's station, you will have to go through the process all over again, unless the jail holding facility is in the same place as you were taken to begin with. If it is in a separate location as it is in LA, you will be told to remove your shoes and stockings or socks and checked for drugs. If you have any jewelry, earrings, rings, etc. they will take them from you at this time. You will be given a receipt for all your things, but be sure they have listed everything they take from you. If it isn't listed on the receipt when they give it to you, you will probably never be able to prove they took it, and you can be sure that they will have some nice new jewelry to wear to the next cop party. Sad, but all too true!
Next, you will be placed in a holding tank until it is your turn to be given a shower and checked for lice. In the holding tank, you have no privacy, so if at all possible, use the bathroom at the police station before you are taken to jail. There is usually no toilet paper in the holding tank, and the toilet is usually always overflowing. If you are on your period, you will not be able to find tampons, only pads, if you are lucky. Sometimes the women's jails are out of the basic necessities of life. Remind yourself that this is not a permanent situation, and no matter how humiliating it will be, it will be over eventually.
When the other inmates who are called trustees bring coffee, fruit and sandwiches, do not turn them down even if you aren't hungry. The other women in the tank will get angry with you, and you don't want to make any enemies here. Take the food and when the guards aren't looking you can give it away.
When it is your turn to be given a shower, it is better to know what to expect. If you are at all shy, this will be a very unpleasant experience. You have to shower and wash your hair in front of the female officers, and when you get out of the shower, you will have your head checked for lice and a body cavity search. . . meaning you have to bend over and spread your legs. . . and no, you won't get paid for this one! You will then be given a jail gown and your bedroll. Even if you think that you will be out of jail soon, you will still be given all this as they don't know when you will be released so they only go through the process once. If you are released quickly, you simply give them the property back when you leave.
After you have been showered and checked for lice, you will most likely be fingerprinted even if they did it at the police station. After that, they will have you escorted to the dorm where you will be housed until you have been released. There are usually pay phones there, so you can continue to try to contact someone to bail you out. Each jail facility has a different time that lights go out and the telephones are turned off, but regardless, you can still be bailed out any time at all. When it is your turn, the officer will call your name over the loudspeaker even if it is four o'clock in the morning (did you expect to get some sleep in here???) If you attempt to ask an officer any questions in the meantime, they usually don't answer you, so don't get frustrated. Usually another inmate will have whatever answer you need, so be friendly and ask them. Believe me, if you are in jail on a prostitution charge, but don't think you should have been arrested, this is not the place to tell anyone that the cops wrongly arrested you. You will not find any sympathy at all here! Many of the women in county jails have been arrested for prostitution at one time or another, and have no patience for women who think they are too good to be there. As I said earlier, this is not a place to make enemies. You will need to have a friend to tell you what's going on in there if nothing else- so, be cool and go along with the program. No, you don't have to become anyone's love slave here- so don't think that being friendly is going to get you there.
Remember that the county jails are filled with more and more gang members- women gang members are numerous- so don't say things that will offend one group or another. The best behavior is to keep your mouth shut, be friendly but reserved.
It is difficult to know ahead of time what your bail will be- because it varies from case to case. Sometimes it is a low bail and sometimes high- it just depends on the officers who are arresting you or in what city you were arrested. If you have prior arrests or convictions, your bail will probably be higher.
Once you have posted bail, you will be given back your property and or money that you gave to the booking officer. Check to be sure that all the property and money is there, because once you have left the building, it is too late to claim something is missing.
WHAT IF I USE A DIFFERENT NAME FOR MY BUSINESS, DO I HAVE TO TELL THEM MY REAL NAME, AND IF I DON'T, WILL THEY FIND OUT ANYWAY?
Actors and actresses often use aliases. If the police bully you because you may use a different name for work, remind them that one of their heroes also used a 'fake' name- John Wayne. You can take the chance of not giving them your real name, and if you have no fingerprints on file, the chances are you will get away with it. If you have ever been arrested in another state, it may take more time, but with technology advancing as rapidly as it is, they will undoubtedly catch up with you. It is not illegal to use a fictitious name, or else plenty of actors and actresses would be in jail for doing so. It may, however, be a crime to deliberately withhold information from a law enforcement agent. (???)
WHAT IF I DON'T SHOW UP AT MY ARRAIGNMENT?
Unless you gave them a false name when they arrested you and they have no way to find you again, it is wise to show up at your arraignment. One of the reasons that many bail bonds people have stopped posting bail for prostitution arrests is because the women they post bail for don't show up at their arraignment and the bail bonds people lose their money. When you don't show up in court as you agreed to do when you were released, you make it more difficult for the next woman who gets arrested to be able to get out on bail. Of course, if you continue in your occupation and you should ever get arrested again, it will be on your record.
IF THEY TAKE PROPERTY FROM MY APARTMENT, WILL I EVER GET IT BACK, AND IF SO, WHEN?
You should eventually get back everything they take from you, with the exception of drugs, of course, but it does take a long time sometimes for you to get it back. Sometimes you will never get it back unless you sue, and even then it is not for sure. Insist that your lawyer keep trying to recover your property, and keep track of the times you asked him or her to do it, what their response was, and if they gave you a time that you might get it back.
WHAT KIND OF LAWYER DO I NEED AND WHAT WILL HE OR SHE DO FOR ME? HOW MUCH WILL THEY CHARGE ME?
For a prostitution, pandering or pimping charge, you will need a criminal lawyer. As I said earlier, it is best to have a lawyer with experience handling these kinds of cases, or someone with enthusiasm for this cause. They will appear in court with you at your arraignment, file the necessary motions and papers that need to be filed with the court, and obtain all the information they need from the police records. HOWEVER, DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT THEY WILL KNOW EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR CASE. It is your job to make a list of the events that led to your arrest and give them possible reasons that led to your arrest, such as a jealous neighbor, a boyfriend, or a client you might be upset with you. Lawyers are not mind readers and only know what is in the police records. If you think that something is important to your case, be sure you get a clear answer from your attorney what they intend to do about it. Do not assume that just because you told your attorney about something that they will pursue that information.
You have a right to know what is going on with your case at all times. If your lawyer won't give you a straight answer, keep after them until you know exactly where you stand. If your attorney uses language to explain your case to you that you don't understand, insist that they tell you so that you do understand everything that is going on.
Lawyers charge different fees for different services, so it is important to get in writing exactly what they are going to do for the money you pay them. Some charge by the hour and others charge by the case. And they usually charge more to go to trial, so you need to know what the fees are for up to trial and what they will be if you decide to go to trial. If you are paying the lawyer by the hour, you may want to work out an arrangement to pay a flat fee for the trial. If you are paying the lawyer by the hour, be sure that he/she keeps track of the hours they spend on your case and give you a copy. . .don't take their word for how many hours they spent on it. You need to know if there are some questionable charges to your bill, such as phone calls to you or someone else that never took place, so be sure that you keep track of every phone call to your attorney or their calls to you. Keep track of how long the call is- because they will try to bill you for a whole hour even if they only talked to you for five minutes. Some lawyers want all their money upfront, and others will allow you to pay as the legal case proceeds. You will not get a refund if they lose your case, but if there is deliberate malpractice or incompetence, you can sue although it is difficult to find a lawyer who will sue another lawyer.
If you have a question about your case, you have every right to call your attorney to ask them. A word of warning- attorneys are notorious for not returning phone calls- no matter how much you are paying them. If it is an emergency, you should state that when you leave a message with their voice mail or secretary. If it is a question that can wait, it may be a while before they get back to you, so be prepared. While you are waiting to learn your fate, it can be extremely frustrating if your attorney doesn't call you back right away. Don't panic. I found it helpful to write down the questions I had as they came to me so I could remember to ask my attorney whenever he did call me.
The court must notify your attorney of anything that is important to your case, so don't worry that the police or the court can do anything to you without letting your attorney know first.
IF THEY HAVE ME ON TAPE, DO I HAVE A CHANCE TO FIGHT THE CASE OR SHOULD I JUST PLEAD GUILTY?
As we discussed earlier, pleading guilty and getting a probation sentence can be a very bad thing, so, I suggest you demand that it go to trial. If the court is overloaded with cases, the city attorney or district attorney is not going to want to waste valuable court time and will try to get you to plea bargain. If you insist on going to trial, they may just throw the case out altogether. (You can't count on this, of course, but, it often happens.)
If you have a public defender as your attorney, they will do their best to get you to take the offer that the city or district attorney offers you. Insist upon your right to go to trial. It is more work for them, but that's what they get paid for. Since you are facing a mandatory 45 days in jail, the least you can do for yourself is fight it.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A HIGH PROFILE CASE - THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
If you are unfortunate enough to get arrested at a time when there is a spotlight on prostitution (such as during television ratings periods like February, May, September and November) or if your case is unusual and would likely cause the media to be interested in your case, there are things you should know about what can happen to you and how you can fight back. If the media picks up on your case and flashes your name and perhaps even home address on the television screen, you will find your whole life will be altered- if not forever, then for some time to come. It is traumatic to have your privacy shattered for the sake of television or newspaper ratings, but the journalist who calls attention to your case to the public will not be concerned for your welfare. Even though prostitution is against the law to protect women from being exploited, you will find that there are few reporters who care about protecting your rights. They figure that if you were involved in an illegal or sexually explicit business, you have given up your rights to privacy and protection.
Most of the time, reporters do not view women in the sex industry as human beings whose lives can be destroyed by the publicity that they receive- that we can even be put in danger of being murdered when our home address is revealed to the public and to some psycho out there who figures that society is better off without the "sinful woman." It has happened in the past, unfortunately, but the media doesn't apologize and doesn't get it that it is wrong for them to put us at risk through their efforts to get ratings. It makes the media our worst enemy in some cases.
However, once the "cat is out of the bag," the most important thing you can do for yourself is to make a friend out of the media. If you have nothing to hide, it will only help you if you are friendly to the press rather than ignore them. Ignoring the press will only allow them to give the police version of the events, and, it will make it more difficult later on to get them to print your version. You do not need to tell them your whole story. Rather, if you want to wait until after you have had your arraignment in court and see if you are even going to be charged and have to go to trial, you can just tell them that you would be happy to give your side as soon as it is possible for you to do so. Appear friendly and cooperative, so that you bait them and make them want to talk to you.
Unless your attorney has had experience dealing with a high profile case, they will probably not want you to speak to the press at all. In the circumstances where someone is charged with a serious crime where there is a victim, this is probably good advice, but in the cases of prostitution and related charges, there is no good reason not to try to make friends of the press. There is every reason for you to do so, however, including getting your reputation back. Your friends and family who may not have known what profession you were in before, may want to disown you. If they see only the police version of the events, they may never know what really happened. Since the media has already exposed you to the world, it is up to you to reclaim your reputation.
If you have the opportunity to appear on a talkshow, be careful which one you do. If the talkshow has a reputation of tearing it's guests apart, you don't need to have that experience! Other shows like Oprah or Donahue are better, and will give you an opportunity to state your case without being verbally ambushed. One other side effect of appearing on a national tv show is that it tends to make your family, friends and neighbors view you differently and perhaps even think of you now as a celebrity rather than just an accused prostitute. For whatever reason, people do treat you differently if you have been on national tv than if you are just mentioned in the news.
If you decide to appear on a talkshow, you might want to wait until it has been determined if the city or district attorney is going to file charges. If they do, you need to be careful what you say on television so that you don't implicate yourself or make it impossible for your lawyer to defend you. The talkshow host/ reporter or any other member of the media is going to try to get you to say whatever they want to hear- but you have the right to determine how much you will tell them. Do not let them bully you into saying anything that will get you into more trouble. If you feel they are going too far, tell them so. Just like anyone else, they will try to take advantage of you if you let them. You set the boundaries and determine what information you are willing to give.
You can also get paid for your appearance, so be sure to ask the producer about a fee. Depending upon how much they want you and whether or not you are giving them an exclusive interview, they can pay you from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, although the Donahue Show seldom pays anyone at all. Shows like "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "Dateline" do not pay at all, but other so called tabloid shows like "Hard Copy," "Inside Edition" and "A Current Affair," will pay you and sometimes pay you a lot of money which can help you take care of your legal fees. If you get a lot of offers to do shows, you might think about hiring a publicist to represent you and negotiate your appearance fees.
Back to your lawyer. If your lawyer absolutely refuses to let you speak to the press, it is your decision. The lawyer is working for you, and only you can decide if it is worth risking your case. Ask the lawyer what the risks are if you do speak to the media, and if it is okay if you just inform the press that you will be happy to speak to them when your lawyer permits you to. Again, unless a lawyer has handled a high profile prostitution case, they may not understand the importance of being nice to the press. A press statement from your lawyer is not going to be the same as one from you, and the media may ignore it.
Also, if your case is not in the category of a Heidi Fleiss, even if your story is "hot" for a few days, eventually the media will find someone else to shine the spotlight on. Your opportunity to cash in on your notoriety is limited, and if it is a sweeps or ratings month, you have a better chance to get your side of the story told then you do when the month is over. Your story becomes a cold one in a short time, unless you can lure the media to wait for an interview with you at such time as you can give one.
ALL THIS SOUNDS AWFUL . . . IS THERE ANY WAY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM GETTING ARRESTED?
To be honest with you, if the police want to arrest you, no matter what you do or say or don't say, they can and will arrest you. The charges might very well get thrown out of court or never get filed at all, but, you will probably end up spending money to defend yourself even if it goes nowhere. And not to mention you may have some explaining to do to your family and friends if your arrest makes the eleven o'clock news. When it comes to men and women in whatever branch of the sex industry, society would prefer not to know if the police are violating your rights. They figure the police wouldn't have arrested you in the first place if you weren't doing something illegal. So, it is up to you to take an aggressive posture and fight for your rights.
There are some things that you can do to keep angry neighbors, jealous boyfriends, etc from turning you in, as well as some signs to look out for if the potential client is actually an undercover cop.
Keep in mind that nothing you can do is 100% arrest proof. Exercise every precaution that you can, and hope that someday soon we will get these silly protectionist laws repealed so you can work in peace without the stress of wondering if it's your day to "go downtown."
Be extra careful on multiple girl calls. The cops like to set up as many women at a time as possible because it saves time on paperwork. Beside, cops are just like other men and they like menages, too!
If you go to his hotel room and he asks you to sit in a specific seat, rather than where you want to, he may be angling you for the video camera. Either make sure they get your good side for the tape of tell him you will sit wherever you want.
*If you are an exotic dancer, and a customer wants to see you privately, don't think that just because he has been into the club before and spent lots of money on you that he is safe. Cops can and do spend lots of the taxpayer's money to set up sting operations, and so it is not safe to assume that the customer is not a cop because he has given you big tips in the past. Even if you turn him down to see him privately, he can still arrest you if you allow him to touch your genitals, or he asks you to touch his, for a tip. If he has an erection, it is still no proof that he is not a cop- after all, cops are human too, and they can get aroused as easily as any other men when they are dealing with attractive and sexy women.
IF LITTLE BELLS START GOING OFF IN YOUR HEAD - LISTEN TO THEM DON'T EVER TALK ABOUT SEX AND MONEY AND IF HE INSIST UPON GETTING YOU TO DISCUSS A SEX ACT GET UP AND LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. IF HE IS VISITING YOU, TELL HIM HE HAS OFFENDED YOU AND ASK HIM TO LEAVE AT ONCE.
OTHER WAYS TO POSSIBLY AVOID GETTING ARRESTED
Sometimes, it seems as though for some women in the sex industry', their worst enemy is themselves. Without realizing it, they allow the people in their orbit to become the means that destroys them. By behaving in a certain way, they give their friends, neighbors, lovers and relatives the opportunity to report them to the police and thereby risk getting arrested. Here are some common mistakes to avoid- and thereby avoid making your friends, neighbors, boyfriends and even your fellow sex workers, jealous or angry at you and turning you in.
OTHER SEX WORKERS
It would be nice to think that everyone in this business is ethical and honest, but, I realize that in every profession there are those who you can trust and those you cannot. If you want to keep your fellow sex worker from turning on you, and reporting you to the police, you need to behave toward them in a way that won't make them angry or jealous of you. This means that you should practice the golden rule. Don't do anything to them that you would not want them to do to you. Don't steal clients from them, don't cheat them out of money you may owe them. If you do doubles together, tell them if you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease so they can get a medical check up, too. Keep your word to them. If you have called them to arrange for a double but the client cancels, let them know as soon as possible so they can make other plans.
If you work for more than one madam, be up front about it. She will probably find out about it anyway. Don't get greedy and try to go around her to see one of her clients on your own. If she has a policy that allows you to see him on your own after you pay the first or second cut to her, that's fine. If you and a fellow sex worker agree to exchange clients rather than a cut, then you should be fair with them and give them as much work as they give you or let them know you can't and offer to pay a cut instead.
It has happened in the past that clients have turned in the sex worker they see. If they feel they are getting cheated out of time or money, they might feel it is okay to report you to the police. Be sure that you treat all clients in a fair and reasonable manner. If you think they are cheating you out of money, tell them to their face rather than try to get even by shorting them on time or taking money out of their wallet while they shower. Sometimes they will write bad checks, or not show up for their appointment, and we may feel that we can get even by calling them at work and telling their secretaries or calling their wives and telling them where their husbands spend their time. This is never acceptable to do to anyone for any reason. You may be mad that you got cheated, but by pulling a stunt like that, it may backfire and get you arrested instead. If you are worried about getting bad checks, don't take anything but cash. As far as not notifying you about missing an appointment- it is rude for anyone to do. There is nothing one can do about rude behavior except to politely let him know you will not be available for him again if he calls. If he really wants to see you again, tell him that in the future, he must pay you something extra if he doesn't give you notice of a cancelled appointment or if he is late. It is a good policy to always be polite to your clients even if they behave rudely to you, because it will be you and not them who gets arrested if they want to "drop a dime' on you.
FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS
Because you are in a profession that can net you a larger than average income, it is easy for those who have to work far more hours for less income to become jealous of the things you have. It is especially important to take time to sooth their feelings and turn them into allies rather than enemies. If you don't want to tell your friends what you do for a living, that is understandable. Many people are uptight about their own sexuality and can be very critical of you if you have ditched your hang-ups. In the past, some well meaning 'friends' and family members have actually turned in their prostitute friends and relatives to the police when they discover what their friend does for a living. If they are unable to persuade their friend to leave the business, they may mistakenly think that by turning them in to the police, they are saving their friend from a "life of degradation, exploitation and pain." Their misguided intervention can ultimately destroy your life, so it is understandable that some of us try to keep our lives hidden from our non-sex industry friends and family. So, by living a double life, some women are able to keep these friends from discovering their secret.
However, if they discover your profession by accident, you should be ready to discuss it openly and honestly with them. By hedging, you lead them to think the worst about your career, and they may develop a "Good Samaritan" complex and want to 'help' you by calling the police. Assure them that you don't have a big, mean pimp who is forcing you into this business and taking all your money, and that you always practice safe sex, etc.
*Be the best neighbor on your block or in your building. It's best not to have loud parties or have your guests park in other people's driveways or parking spaces. Don't leave your trash where it doesn't belong. You shouldn't play your music so loud that someone has to complain. This goes for your phone ringing as well. Be sure they can't hear your phone or answering machine from outside your apartment. . . for several reasons. Go out of your way to be friendly to your neighbors. Be pleasant, say "hi." Exchange Christmas cards or even gifts with those who are living the closest to you. It is more difficult for someone to dislike you if they see you as a nice person.
*If your clients visit you at your apartment or house, be sure they know which one to come to so that they don't end up knocking at your neighbor's door in the middle of the night and bother them. This can be annoying at any time of day, but particularly if they are sleeping and someone comes knocking and asks for you at three in the morning. Not only will they get upset that their sleep was interrupted, but they may wonder why you are having company at that time of night. If there is a problem, be sure that you speak to them the next day and apologize for the rude behavior of your friends. Smoothing ruffled feathers goes a long way to keeping them out of your business.
* If you have a boyfriend, even if he knows about your work, it's important to be sure he doesn't feel insecure about your relationship with him. [If he doesn't know about your work, be very careful what you tell him you do. Sometimes they want to surprise you at the job where you say you work, but, if you are not there, they become suspicious.] If he does know about your work, it is helpful to talk about how he feels about it and not dismiss his feelings as unimportant.
If he does not know about your work, it is a tough call whether or not to be honest with him and tell him. If you think there is not a chance in the world that he will find out, then maybe you can get away with not telling him. But if you expect to have a long relationship with him or even get married, it is a possibility that your past may crop up eventually, and he may feel that you were dishonest by not telling him. This may threaten your relationship permanently, but then, so can be honest about it. It takes a very secure man to be able to handle knowing about the work we do. This is why is is difficult for many women to establish long term relationships with a man, unless she first meets him as a client or has been in a secure relationship prior to entering the profession. Someday, when society grows up and gives our profession the respect it deserves, perhaps it will make it easier for sex workers to enter into long term committed relationships just as any other worker in any other profession can.
Well, that about covers most of the questions that are asked concerning the sex industry and your risk of arrest.
If you have been convicted of any prostitution related offense and are facing incarceration, you may want more information about how to survive jail or prison. I think it is easier to go through if you know what to expect than if you don't know what's coming. COYOTE LA will have another booklet available soon which will describe the situation you will face and in what order it will come.
We will also adopt you while you are incarcerated. This means that if you are in a local county jail or a nearby state prison facility, we will try to get permission to be a regular visitor. If we are not able to do that, we will at least write to you, send you stamps and writing material, and if possible, send you items that you will be allowed to have during your incarceration.
While it is terribly unfair that any of us have to spend one minute of our lives away from our family and friends for engaging in activity that is none of anyone's business, the fact is that you will survive it. With a support team of friends outside to give you encouragement, this traumatic event will be over sooner than you think and this unthinkably unjust situation will one day be far behind you. If it should happen to you, remember that, until the law is changed, there will be many who are incarcerated after you who will need your encouragement and support.
We encourage you to write or call us and share any experience you may have with law enforcement agents- good or bad- so we can warn others and perhaps prevent someone else from getting arrested.