Public and private spaces alike are protected under California law. Public spaces are protected so they are used for their intended purposes and they remain safe and operational for the public. Private spaces, such as personal property, are protected from trespassers or from unreasonable, i.e. illegal, search and seizure, as under the Fourth Amendment. Public spaces are generally highly regulated by law enforcement to ensure they do not become a place for criminal activity to flourish. However, it is commonly the public spaces that experience the most criminal activity in any given area. Because of this commonality, loitering in a space without a lawful reason to be there is criminalized in California. Examples of loitering could include a minor standing outside a convenience store for hours with the purpose and intent of buying alcohol from an adult over 21. Similarly, a man waiting in his car in a no-parking zone alley with the purpose and intent of soliciting the services of a prostitute can be an example of loitering. A related but separate crime is disorderly conduct, which covers many acts of loitering or otherwise spending time in a space with the intent to commit a crime or be a public nuisance. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time, fines or both. As you can see, simply spending time in a space is sometimes enough to make you a criminal, as long as you have the intent to commit a crime. Loitering, while seemingly innocent enough, is a crime charged as a misdemeanor and can result in severe consequences, relative to the act committed. A loitering charge can come with up to six months in jail and up to $1000 in fines, or a combination of both. Loitering with intent to commit or solicit an act of prostitution is a specific offense for cases where the unlawful activity is prostitution. In this scenario, you do not have to have even reached an agreement to exchange services and compensation with a prostitute. To be arrested on this count, it must be evident you had the intent to engage in soliciting a prostitute or committing an act of prostitution. Like many criminal activities, intent is all-important. The prosecution must prove you were loitering with intent to commit a crime to convict you. In the case of loitering with intent to solicit or engage in an act of prostitution, it must be evident that you had the intent to engage in such activities. Common behaviors that demonstrate intent are spending time in areas noted for prostitution activities without no other clear purpose or agenda; talking to a women standing in an area known for prostitution activities or paying a prostitute for their services in public. Part of proving intent is proving you had reason to believe the particular individual you interacted with, if any, was a prostitute offering illicit services. Evidence of this can be hard for the prosecution to produce so there is sometimes room for a strong legal defense. They may be able to prove intent if, as a potential customer, you were found with a substantial amount of cash in large bills or a card or flyer for the prostitute's services. They may be able to prove intent, as a prostitute, you were found with a pager or more than one cell phone, condoms, a firearm or your pimp. Location is also a very important part of the prosecutor's mission. In most major cities, areas of prostitution are well known and just spending time there can be incriminating. Other loitering crimes can involve people spending time outside storefronts without a legal purpose, like having just bought something or using the payphone, or a minor trying to buy alcohol. For businesses, this can reduce sales or give their locations a bad name, as would loitering with the purpose of soliciting a prostitute. For this reason, businesses are encouraged to report illegal loitering and put up no-loitering signs. To be safe, pay attention to where these well-known loitering areas are and stay away if you can. Sometimes it is just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you are facing charges of loitering, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. An experienced attorney will be familiar with past loitering convictions in your area and can best advise you on any potential defense options you may have available. Loitering is a charge worth fighting against. Don't let unfortunate circumstances land you a criminal charge.
Are you in Tulare or Kings County and facing charges of loitering? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards fighting your charges and fighting for your dignity. Call our offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.