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In re Aarica S.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Fourth Division

February 21, 2014

IN RE AARICA S., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
v.
Aarica S., Defendant and Appellant. The People, Plaintiff and Respondent,

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Catherine J. Pratt, Judge. Affirmed. (No. MJ20515)

COUNSEL

Kimberly Howland Meyer, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, and Victoria B. Wilson, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

WILLHITE, J.

Aarica S. appeals from an order of wardship (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 602) following a finding that she committed the crime of soliciting prostitution (Pen.Code, § 647, subd. (b)).[1] Appellant contends that because she was a victim of human trafficking, the juvenile court erred in denying her motion under Evidence Code section 1161, subdivision (a), to exclude evidence that she committed a commercial sex act, namely, the solicitation of prostitution underlying the wardship petition. We hold that Evidence Code section 1161, subdivision (a), applies only when there is a specific causal connection between the person's status as a victim of human trafficking and the commission of the commercial sex act at issue. Because, supported by substantial evidence, the juvenile court found that appellant was not a victim of human trafficking in relation to the solicitation of prostitution at issue here, we conclude that Evidence Code section 1161 does not apply, and affirm the juvenile court's order.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 31, 2013, around 5:40 p.m., Los Angeles Police Department Officer Roberto Morales was working undercover, monitoring prostitution activity near James M. Wood Avenue and Lake Avenue in Los Angeles. Officer Morales saw appellant speaking to a pedestrian on the corner. He became suspicious because it was a high prostitution area. A fellow officer told him appellant had been seen trying to attract the attention of vehicles driven by lone male drivers for approximately five minutes.

Officer Morales drove his car toward appellant and made eye contact with her. Appellant approached his front passenger side window. Officer Morales asked appellant if she needed a ride. Appellant replied that she did not need a ride but asked if he needed a date, which Officer Morales understood to be a term commonly used by prostitutes. Officer Morales told appellant that he was looking for a date, and appellant asked if he was a cop. [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 138] He told her he was not, and she asked if she could get in his car. Appellant got in the car, and Officer Morales began driving.

Appellant asked Officer Morales " if that area was where the girls work normally," which Officer Morales understood to mean working as prostitutes. Appellant asked what Officer Morales wanted, and he told her he wanted a blow job. Appellant asked him if $40 was a good price, and Officer Morales agreed. He asked her if she had a condom and a place to go, but she said that she had neither. He asked if she would perform the act without a condom, and she agreed, but she asked for more money. Officer Morales offered $60, and appellant replied, " Yes, that is what I am talking about. You are my kind of man." Appellant then attempted to touch his groin, which Officer Morales explained was commonly done by prostitutes who are attempting to determine if someone is an undercover officer. Officer Morales blocked her hand, and she asked him to touch her. He touched her kneecap and immediately removed his hand. Officer Morales testified that she asked him to touch her in order to determine if he was an officer because officers are not allowed to touch them improperly. Officer Morales continued driving until other officers stopped them via a prearranged signal and arrested appellant.

Officer Morales testified that he did not know that appellant was a minor and only learned this after her arrest. Appellant was 17 years old at the time of the proceedings.

On February 1, 2013, a third petition was filed (see fn. 1, ante ), alleging that appellant solicited prostitution in violation of Penal Code section 647, subdivision (b), a misdemeanor.[2] Appellant denied the allegations of the petition.

On February 21, 2013, a contested hearing was held on the petition. Appellant moved to dismiss the petition and to exclude evidence that " she ‘ has engaged in any commercial sexual act as a result of being a victim of human trafficking,’ " relying on the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act) and Evidence Code section 1161, subdivision (a).

In support of her motion, appellant presented the following evidence to establish that she was a victim of human trafficking. Appellant testified that her father raped her when she was three years old. When appellant was 14 years old, her friend introduced her to a pimp, Eric Williams, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams explained " the rules" to appellant, telling her to be friendly, stop men and talk to them, make a price and perform sexual acts with them. He took her to the Strip in Las Vegas, but she did not know what to do, so she returned to him. Williams and his uncle forced ...


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