Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Law and Sex Work

S. 210 and 211 “The Bawdy-house Provisions”

This section of the Criminal Code makes it illegal for anyone to run a bawdy-house, work in a bawdy-house, be found in a bawdy-house or allow someone else to run a bawdy-house.

A bawdy-house* is defined as anyplace used ‘for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency.’ This means a brothel or any place used regularly by one ore more people, including a hotel room, your home or even the same parking lot.

‘For the purpose of prostitution’ can mean doing anything with the intention of turning on or offering sex to a client in exchange for money. Offering sex includes saying you will do something sexual, saying you have sex with other clients, or touching yourself in a sexual manner.

Often police will go undercover posing as clients using different officers on different days to show a bawdy-house exists, or they will observe people coming or going from a certain location regularly.

Keeping a common bawdy house:

If police obtain a warrant* and enter a location on suspicion of it being a bawdy-house, they can arrest anyone who is inside. Those considered to be the ‘managers’ or owners of in-call services can be charged with ‘keeping a common bawdy-house,’ S. 210(1). This person does not have to own or rent the space. It is enough to have ads, a land phone line, or keys to the place. This is an indictable offence*, meaning a conviction can lead to imprisonment for up to two years, though most people receive a fine.

As bawdy-houses are businesses and make money, running one can be considered an ‘enterprise crime*,’ meaning any money earned and anything bought with that money could be considered ‘proceeds of crime*.’ You could be charged with ‘possession of the proceeds of crime’ and all of these items could be seized unless you can prove you bought them with money you earned legally.

Inmate of a common bawdy house:

People found living or working in a bawdy-house can be charged with being an ‘inmate of a common bawdy house,’ S. 210(2)(a). People visiting a bawdy-house can be charged with ‘being found, without lawful excuse, in a common bawdy-house,’ S. 210(2)(a). This is also a summary offence* and is often used to prosecute clients, as well as receptionists and maids.

Knowingly permitting the premises to be used as a common bawdy-house:
If you own or rent a property and allow it to be used as a bawdy-house you can be charged with ‘knowingly permitting the premises to be used as a common bawdy-house,’ S. 210(2)(c).

The offences of being an inmate of a bawdy-house, being found in a bawdy house without lawful excuse, and knowingly permitting the premises to be used as a bawdy-house are summary offences that can lead to a sentence of up to 6 months in prison or a fine up to $2000.

If you work regularly out of your rented apartment or home and your landlord finds out, you are likely to be evicted as landlords can be charged under S. 210(2)(c). Landlords are allowed to evict tenants if they become aware that illegal activities are taking place on the property.

S. 211 makes it illegal to take someone, or offer to take someone, to a place that you know is a bawdy-house or to even tell someone where a bawdy-house is.

S. 212 “The Procuring Provisions and Living off the Avails”

This section of the Criminal Code addresses procuring* and makes it illegal for anyone to introduce or influence another person into sex work. It also makes it illegal to take a fee for referring someone to another sex worker or for providing protection. It is also illegal to hide a person in or take a person to bawdy-house, or to give a person drugs or alcohol to induce them to engage in sex work.

Finally, this section makes it illegal to ‘live on the avails of prostitution,’ meaning if you support a partner, adult child, friend or even in some cases a roommate, in part or in full, they could be charged with this offence. Previous cases have attempted to restrict prosecution under this provision to ‘parasitic relationships’ but it could still affect anyone supported by a sex worker.

Procuring is an indictable offence, meaning you can be sentenced for up 10 years, or possibly longer if the sex worker or the person being “procured” is under 18 years of age.

S. 213 “The Communicating Provisions”

This section of the Criminal Code makes it illegal for anyone who is in a public place, a place open to the public, or a place in public view, from ‘communicating, or attempting to communicate, to any person in any manner, for the purpose of prostitution.’ This includes stopping a vehicle or person on the street.

A ‘public place*’ is defined as anywhere the public has access to or where someone can or might be able to see you. Even a private place can be considered public if you can be seen through an open door or an uncovered window. Cars, hotel lobbies, bars, the street are all considered public places. Pay phone or cell phone conversations where other people can hear you could be considered communicating in public.

Communicating is a summary conviction offence resulting in up to a $2000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. If charged you should get an appearance notice* and be let go, unless you have no ID with you, have outstanding charges*, or have breached bail or some other court order.

Working safely and legally?

You can’t be charged with ‘communicating’ if you are not discussing prices and services in a public place. If negotiation occurs in a hotel room or anywhere that is not a public place, you cannot be charged with communicating. If you set a date up by phone from your home with a regular client, you won’t be charged with communicating.

Saying that you only charge for a period of time, instead of for a specific service, will not prevent being charged/ found guilty of communicating, especially if you are found on a known stroll. Cell phone conversations occurring in public and pay phones are considered “public.” You can be charged with communicating for negotiating over the phone. If setting up appointments, it is better to use a home phone or cell phone in a private place, such as at home.

Adults exchanging sex for money is not illegal in Canada. Going to see a client at his home or a hotel room is not illegal. If this client regularly has sex workers over to the same place though, you both could be charged under the bawdy-house provisions if you are found there, though this rarely happens.

Often, undercover police officers pose as clients in order to arrest sex workers for communicating. You can be charged even if the police officer tells you they are not a cop, shows you identification and even if he sexually touches himself or you.

Entrapment* is a legal term used in the United States, meaning being tricked into committing a crime by the police. This defense can only be used in Canada if a police officer behaves in a manner that forces you to do something you would never have done under normal circumstances.

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