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Prostitution Charges, Toronto Lawyer

While the Criminal Code of Canada doesn't specifically criminalize the act of prostitution, it does make it a crime to communicate for the purpose of prostitution. Criminal defence lawyers regularly defend prostitution related charges in the Toronto area.

Communication for the purpose of prostitution

Anyone who communicates with another person in attempt to obtain or sell prostitution services may be charged criminally in Canada.

The law doesn't specify the means of communication, or that anything specific needs to be said, merely that the communication must be made with the intent to solicit prostitution services. While some communications are fairly obvious (i.e. "I will pay you to have sex with me"), others are much less clear.

For instance:

If a man pulls up to a scantly clad woman at night and asks if she wants to take a ride, is this communicating for the purpose of prostitution? The answer depends on the intent of the man asking the question.

The more unclear the statement (in this case "take a ride"), the more difficult the case would be to prove in court. Language of "go for a date" is also often used which is ambiguous.

The court would examine factors like the area of town, the appearance of the woman, the circumstances of the man, any statements made to the police by either parties, and all witness testimony to attempt to decipher the intent of the accused (i.e. was he merely propositioning the woman for a date, or was he trying to buy sex).

Undercover police officers posing as prostitutes

One common method of police investigation for prostitution related crimes is to send out officers dressed as undercover prostitutes, and, as men seeking prostitution services. These officers hit the streets using audio and video equipment to catch prostitutes and their clients in the act.

How can you tell if a prostitute is an undercover officer?

Obviously, there is no way to be 100% sure. This being said, undercover police are going to be looking to record clear statements of intent and thus will attempt to get suspects to state specifically what they are looking for.

For example, if solicited to "take a drive", they may counter with "what for?". They will likely be reluctant to get into a car without a statement of specifics. In short, they will try to extract clear statements to show that the suspect is selling or looking to buy sex.

Aside from a heightened desire to get you to clearly admit that you are looking to buy sex, undercover police prostitutes may also be identified by their appearance. The prostitute with several bruises and missing teeth is perhaps more likely to not be a police officer than the one who isn't.

What if I never gave the prostitute any money?

It doesn't matter whether any money was actually exchanged or not. The relevant factor is solely whether the communication was made for the purpose of soliciting prostitution.

Don't think that you won't be charged simply because you didn't give (or accept) any money. Money may be relevant however in your defence to being charged. If you are arrested and the police find no money on your person, it lends credibility to your argument that you did not actually intend to buy sex.

Defending prostitution charges

Given that the definition of the charges requires the suspect to be communicating for the purpose of prostitution, the most common defence is to raise reasonable doubt as to the intent of the accused.

If it can be proven that he was joking, not serious, or asking the prostitute about services out of curiosity, he may be found not guilty.

Asking in a joking, or non-serious manner:

Two guys walking downtown from a nightclub spot a woman on the corner who is dressed like a prostitute. Showing off for his friend, one guy asks her: "How much for a blow job?". His intent is not to solicit prostitution, but instead to show off. He is asking in a non-serious or joking fashion. This case would be defended by calling his friend to testify as to the manner in which the statement was made. The accused may also wish to take the stand and testify to this effect.

Asking out of curiosity

Another defence is that the accused is asking merely out of curiosity rather than to actually attempt to buy sex. Some background facts may make this defence easier than others. For instance, if the accused was researching prostitution for a college paper at the time, perhaps he could use this fact to explain his actions in court.

Speaking to the police

Many defendant's foolishly destroy their ability to mount these defences because they choose to talk to the police about what happened. Telling the police that you did it because you recently separated from your wife won't help you one bit. All you are doing is ensuring that you will be charged or convicted. Smart people don't talk to the police.

How can I avoid a criminal record for prostitution?

Other than being found not guilty, those accused of prostitution related crimes may still be able to avoid a criminal record using the "Diversion Program", or by receiving an absolute or conditional discharge.

Diversion Program

If this is your first offense, and you have no other record, the crown may agree to a "diversion" program, which will allow you to avoid prosecution and a criminal record. Whether you are granted this option is the decision of the crown and it will require you to admit your responsibility for what happened (admit that you were communicating for the purpose of prostitution).

If you agree to diversion, you will be required to complete a number of tasks. Normally this consists of a one day education program at a cost to you of approximately $500.00 - $600.00.

Diversion will unlikely be an option in the future if you happened to be charged again after completing the program.

What if I'm convicted for soliciting prostitution?

Depending on your criminal record and the circumstances of the offence, you could receive up to six months in jail. Someone without a record in normal circumstances will likely be sentenced to probation.

You may also be able to get the judge to agree to a discharge for successfully completing the probation. If convicted, the role of the lawyer is to convince the court that a discharge is warranted in the circumstances so that you will be able to avoid a criminal record.

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