NY Criminal Defense – Mere Presence in “House of Prostitution”: Court Finds Complaint Legally Sufficient

Recently, on September 8, 2008, I commented on People v. Magali Rodriguez. In that matter, a New York criminal defense attorney challenged the legal sufficiency of a complaint charging the defendant with Prostitution. Specifically, the challenge was based on the fact that a third party negotiated the financial transaction. In finding the complaint (it’s actually called an “information”) legally sufficient, the Court stated that the defendant herself need not be the one to offer the sexual conduct and discuss the financial transaction. What must be reviewed is the “totality of the circumstances.”

On a similar note, another recent decision from New York (Manhattan) Criminal Court in January 2008, People v. Heesuk Choi, 2007NY085556, reveals that courts may be getting stricter in their enforcement of Prostitution and related crimes. In that matter, an undercover police officer was in a “brothel” or “house of prostitution” where five women (one was the defendant), who did not speak, were paraded out to him. The undercover agreed on a price with a madam and was asked to pick a girl.

The criminal defense attorney argued that the case should be dismissed for facial insufficiency because the mere presence of the defendant did not establish her involvement in the sexual transaction. In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Weinberg asserted that “it is not necessary to establish that defendant individually negotiated with the undercover in order to establish a prima facie case of prostitution. The Court is not required to turn a blind eye to compelling circumstantial evidence while engaged in a facial sufficiency review.”

In other words, not only may Prostitution be legally established by only alleging that someone else negotiated the transaction, but alleging presence alone, under certain circumstances, may be legally sufficient.

While these decisions may be viewed as a setback, it is important to note that a denial of dismissal does not mean a determination of guilt. The next stage in the process of maintaining your innocence would be either a hearing and/or trial. It is absolutely imperative that if your case proceeds to trial you retain a criminal attorney with real trial experience who can fight to maintain your innocence and protect your rights. As I have said many times…don’t compound a bad situation by hiring an attorney who has minimal working knowledge of the criminal justice system, trial work, and the crimes relating to Prostitution.

***Protect yourself by knowing your rights and the law****

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