Monday, January 17, 2011

People v. Dixon (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 14, 2011)

Here's a criminal law question for you.  Imagine it's a final examination.  Or on the bar exam:

"John sends a text message to Jane offering to give her $200 in return for sex.  (The text reads: 'U with me, 1 night, $200 or more.'  Romantic, eh?)  Jane has not previously engaged in sexual activity for money, and is uninterested in doing so now.  John is guilty of which of the following California offenses:

A.  Soliciting prostitution ("Solicitation").
B.  Pandering (penalizing someone who "by promises, threats" or other means "causes or encourages another person to become a prostitute").
C.  Conspiracy to commit prostitution.
D.  (A) and (B).
E.  Each of (A) through (C).


Clearly, (A) is true.  This is a classic case of solicitation, and John/the john is obviously guilty.  Similarly, it's not (C).  There was no agreement between two people, so no conspiracy.

The question is whether John's act constitutes pandering.  The California A.G.'s Office thinks it does, which is why it charged him (actually, Todd Dixon) with it, got a guilty verdict from a jury, and defended this verdict in the Court of Appeal.  Todd "encouraged" Jane (actually, "L.N.") to be a prostitute because he wanted to turn her into a prostitute, albeit for one night and for himself.

But the Court of Appeal disagrees.  As do I.  Pandering is when you turn someone into a prostitute for someone else, or for a group of others.  Merely soliciting someone to have sex for you for money doesn't qualify.  Regardless of whether or not this is her first time.  Which, among other things, is why we think of "pandering" -- or the verb, "to pander" -- as being outwardly-directed.

I'm surprised the A.G.'s Office thought otherwise.  As, apparently, was the Court of Appeal.  Which makes repeated comments about the A.G.'s brief that definitely fall in the not-very-positive category.

Consider your knowledge of prostution law broadened yet again.