Bay Area Prostitution and Massage Parlors

Last Modified: August 10, 2023

Bay Area Prostitution and Massage Parlors

Prostitution and Massage Parlors

Recently, we’ve seen law enforcement authorities in Northern California insist that they are ‘cracking down’ on illegal massage parlors. This is true for most bay area counties including Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo and Marin.  In fact, last year, the Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’malley as made this a central political issue making this a hot button issue for every local law enforcement agency.

It’s not illegal to own, operate, or work in a properly licensed massage parlor – but such businesses are often stereotyped and targeted as being a front for illegal activities, including prostitution and pimping.

Investigation into massage parlors usually involves a sting operation in which officers visit the massage therapy business and try to engage in sexual activities with the employee.  This often includes officers soliciting sexual acts such as touching of private parts and more.  Officers often video tape the interaction usually without a search warrant.  In San Jose, we have seen cases in which officers known to the therapist essentially rewrite verbatim police reports involving other massage business and submit these to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office.

At Summit Defense, we have over 120 years of experience in defending these kinds of matters, and our attorneys include former prosecutors and a former police officer. If you have been accused of prostitution, pimping, or any related offense, your best chance of defending the case against you is by having one of our experienced attorneys on your side. You can contact one of our attorneys today to organize your first, free consultation.

Prostitution, pimping, and other associated activities are illegal in California. But in a time when high-volume, visible arrests are very popular with the DA and the police, we increasingly see the law enforcement net being cast very wide, and a disproportionate number of people being charged with prostitution and related offenses.  The Corona Virus pandemic is likely to further politicize Massage Parlors given the public need to reduce transmissions.

What are the common offenses associated with massage parlor raids?

Under California Penal Code 647(b), engaging in an act of prostitution, or soliciting another person to engage in an act of prostitution, are both Misdemeanor offenses. Other related offenses include:

  • Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution – Penal Code 647(b).
  • Loitering with the intent to commit prostitution – Penal Code 653.22(a).
  • Pimping (living off the proceeds of someone else’s prostitution – Penal Code 266h.

We provide more information about these offenses, the kind of evidence that is required to prove them, and the possible penalties, on this page of our site.

Further, when investigating or targeting massage parlors and similar businesses, the authorities will often look into the activities of the business. They may be interested in any financial inconsistencies, or if there are any assets that they can seize. For those reasons, defendants could have their property seized and might find themselves accused of offenses such as:

  • Tax evasion;
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Labor code violations; or
  • Licensing violations.

Many of the above offenses are felonies – which means that these kinds of investigations expose defendants to serious penalties, as well as potentially having a devastating impact on their personal financial and business operations.  If you have been accused of any kind of offense linked to prostitution, or related to the running of a massage parlor or similar business, you need an experienced Summit Defense attorney representing you.

Who can be charged with prostitution and related offenses?

There are two main groups of people that the police and the District Attorney usually target in these kinds of matters – the business owners, and the female employees in the parlors.

Business owners, operators, and managers are usually charged with offenses of pimping and pandering, and can also charged with finance and business-related offenses.

The ‘working girls’ – and they are almost always women – are usually charged with prostitution and soliciting offenses. However, there are investigations where the authorities try to allege that women who are only low-level prostitutes are actually involved in the running of the business, which means that sex workers are subjected to much more serious charges than they should be.

Will a charge affect my immigration status?

Often, owners and employees of massage parlors are not US citizens. This means that criminal prosecution can create huge immigration problems for them.

At Summit Defense, we have a specialist immigration attorney who works alongside our defense attorneys, and is ready to assist our clients in navigating any immigration issues that arise in their cases. If you are a non-citizen and you are concerned about your immigration status, you should contact Summit Defense so as we can help you deal with the issue immediately.

I’m only a worker, why have the authorities targeted me?

An unfortunate aspect of these kinds of investigations is that the authorities often target the women who are alleged to be performing sex work in these kinds of businesses. What makes that kind of targeting even more unfair is that the DA and police often publicly claim that their operations are aimed at ‘helping’ the victims of sex work or sex trafficking. It really is morally confused, however, to claim that arresting someone and charging them with a criminal offense is helping them in any way.

At Summit Defense, we have seen many women who are simply low-level sex workers being unfairly subjected to criminal prosecution, and often accused of much more serious offenses – despite a lack of evidence. We believe that this kind of re-victimization by the authorities is wrong, and we will vigorously defend those kinds of reprehensible charges.

How can Summit Defense help me?

Our experienced attorneys can help defendants at any stage of the criminal process – whether you are under investigation, need help in being granted bail, or have already been charged.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that early intervention is your best defense strategy, and we can often intervene early with the DA, resulting in charges being reduced or dropped altogether. There are often opportunities to influence the process or speak to important witnesses at the start of your case that won’t exist later – which is why you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Your Summit Defense attorney will develop a comprehensive defense strategy from the start of your case. This begins with ensuring that you are free from custody so we can properly prepare your defense. We will negotiate with the Prosecutor where appropriate, and seek to limit your exposure to serious criminal penalties. Because these cases often involve the seizure of property, we will also develop a strategy that fights the forfeiture of your valuable personal and business property.

As some of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in the Bay Area, we have an excellent track record of achieving excellent results for our clients – if you are facing an allegation of prostitution, of running an illegal massage parlor, or any related offense, you need to call a Summit Defense attorney immediately to discuss your case, and what we can do for you.

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With over 120 years of cumulative and exclusive Criminal Defense experience, our reputation for aggressive and results oriented performance, whether in State court or Federal Court, has been documented by several Bay Area news channels and vetted by hundreds of satisfied clients. Our success and industry recognition is the result of our EXCLUSIVE FOCUS on criminal defense; we don’t accept personal injury or family law cases. This single-minded focus allows us to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of legal doctrine and provide you with the best results possible.
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