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What Can You Expect If Arrested?

Written by: Norma Jean Almodovar, Executive Director, COYOTE LA/SC
This article was contributed by Chelsea Madrid.

No matter what I tell you, you will never be prepared for it when it happens. Being arrested is a traumatic and humiliating experience that can leave you in shock. If you are arrested in your own home, you might feel much like a rape victim does and be afraid to be left alone or feel like you have to move away. You will probably not feel safe in your own place for a while.

If the police have broken down your door to enter your home, you will probably experience fear of a reentry attack. There is little to do for such a feeling except to let time pass--and the feeling will eventually go away. You can seek therapy for your trauma, but it is important that you find a therapist or counselor who will not judge you for your profession and try to add guilt to the mixture of unstable emotions. You should ask some of your peers if they know of a therapist who will understand your situation and who will not try to blame your traumatized emotions on your work.

Most times when women are arrested for misdemeanor prostitution, they will be taken to the local police or sheriff's station and fingerprinted and booked. The officer who arrests you will probably tell you it won't take very long to go through the process of being booked, but, take it from those who have been there- it always takes many hours longer than they tell you it will. They want you to remain calm, so they will lie to you in order to keep you from getting more upset. Be prepared to be in custody overnight or even longer- and if you are released early, you can consider yourself lucky.

Ultimately, you will be given the opportunity to make a phone call to contact a bail bonds person or your lawyer. Be sure that you have someone you can call who can make these calls for you incase you can't remember their numbers or incase you are only given one chance to make a call. If you have a friend available to take a call from you in the middle of the night, so much the better. Give him or her all the information necessary to get you out such as your location, your booking number and the arrest charge to give the bail bonds person. If you are released on your own "recognizance," that means that you don't have to post bail to get out. You will simply have to sign the arrest 'ticket' and agree to appear at your arraignment on the date you are given.

Now, back to what it is like in jail. I can't speak for all jails- as I have only been to Los Angeles' Sybil Brand Institute. It is horribly overcrowded and an unpleasant place to be.

If you are taken to jail after you have been booked at the police or sheriff's station, you will have to go through the process all over again, unless the jail holding facility is in the same place as you were taken to begin with. If it is in a separate location as it is in LA, you will be told to remove your shoes and stockings or socks and checked for drugs. If you have any jewelry, earrings, rings, etc. they will take them from you at this time. You will be given a receipt for all your things, but be sure they have listed everything they take from you. If it isn't listed on the receipt when they give it to you, you will probably never be able to prove they took it, and you can be sure that they will have some nice new jewelry to wear to the next cop party. Sad, but all too true!

Next, you will be placed in a holding tank until it is your turn to be given a shower and checked for lice. In the holding tank, you have no privacy, so if at all possible, use the bathroom at the police station before you are taken to jail. There is usually no toilet paper in the holding tank, and the toilet is usually always overflowing. If you are on your period, you will not be able to find tampons, only pads, if you are lucky. Sometimes the women's jails are out of the basic necessities of life. Remind yourself that this is not a permanent situation, and no matter how humiliating it will be, it will be over eventually. When the other inmates who are called trustees bring coffee, fruit and sandwiches, do not turn them down even if you aren't hungry. The other women in the tank will get angry with you, and you don't want to make any enemies here. Take the food and when the guards aren't looking you can give it away.

When it is your turn to be given a shower, it is better to know what to expect. If you are at all shy, this will be a very unpleasant experience. You have to shower and wash your hair in front of the female officers, and when you get out of the shower, you will have your head checked for lice and a body cavity search. . . meaning you have to bend over and spread your legs. . . and no, you won't get paid for this one! You will then be given a jail gown and your bedroll. Even if you think that you will be out of jail soon, you will still be given all this as they don't know when you will be released so they only go through the process once. If you are released quickly, you simply give them the property back when you leave.

After you have been showered and checked for lice, you will most likely be fingerprinted even if they did it at the police station. After that, they will have you escorted to the dorm where you will be housed until you have been released.

There are usually pay phones there, so you can continue to try to contact someone to bail you out. Each jail facility has a different time that lights go out and the telephones are turned off, but regardless, you can still be bailed out any time at all. When it is your turn, the officer will call your name over the loudspeaker even if it is four o'clock in the morning (did you expect to get some sleep in here???) If you attempt to ask an officer any questions in the meantime, they usually don't answer you, so don't get frustrated. Usually another inmate will have whatever answer you need, so be friendly and ask them.

Believe me, if you are in jail on a prostitution charge, but don't think you should have been arrested, this is not the place to tell anyone that the cops wrongly arrested you. You will not find any sympathy at all here! Many of the women in county jails have been arrested for prostitution at one time or another, and have no patience for women who think they are too good to be there. As I said earlier, this is not a place to make enemies. You will need to have a friend to tell you what's going on in there if nothing else- so, be cool and go along with the program. No, you don't have to become anyone's love slave here- so don't think that being friendly is going to get you there.

Remember that the county jails are filled with more and more gang members- women gang members are numerous- so don't say things that will offend one group or another. The best behavior is to keep your mouth shut, be friendly but reserved.

It is difficult to know ahead of time what your bail will be- because it varies from case to case. Sometimes it is a low bail and sometimes high- it just depends on the officers who are arresting you or in what city you were arrested. If you have prior arrests or convictions, your bail will probably be higher.

Once you have posted bail, you will be given back your property and or money that you gave to the booking officer. Check to be sure that all the property and money is there, because once you have left the building, it is too late to claim something is missing.

WHAT IF I USE A DIFFERENT NAME FOR MY BUSINESS, DO I HAVE TO TELL THEM MY REAL NAME, AND IF I DON'T, WILL THEY FIND OUT ANYWAY?

Actors and actresses often use aliases. If the police bully you because you may use a different name for work, remind them that one of their heroes also used a 'fake' name- John Wayne. You can take the chance of not giving them your real name, and if you have no fingerprints on file, the chances are you will get away with it. If you have ever been arrested in another state, it may take more time, but with technology advancing as rapidly as it is, they will undoubtedly catch up with you. It is not illegal to use a fictitious name, or else plenty of actors and actresses would be in jail for doing so. It may, however, be a crime to deliberately withhold information from a law enforcement agent.

WHAT IF I DON'T SHOW UP AT MY ARRAIGNMENT?

Unless you gave them a false name when they arrested you and they have no way to find you again, it is wise to show up at your arraignment. One of the reasons that many bail bonds people have stopped posting bail for prostitution arrests is because the women they post bail for don't show up at their arraignment and the bail bonds people lose their money. When you don't show up in court as you agreed to do when you were released, you make it more difficult for the next woman who gets arrested to be able to get out on bail. Of course, if you continue in your occupation and you should ever get arrested again, it will be on your record.

IF THEY TAKE PROPERTY FROM MY APARTMENT, WILL I EVER GET IT BACK, AND IF SO, WHEN?

You should eventually get back everything they take from you, with the exception of drugs, of course, but it does take a long time sometimes for you to get it back. Sometimes you will never get it back unless you sue, and even then it is not for sure. Insist that your lawyer keep trying to recover your property, and keep track of the times you asked him or her to do it, what their response was, and if they gave you a time that you might get it back.

WHAT KIND OF LAWYER DO I NEED AND WHAT WILL HE OR SHE DO FOR ME? HOW MUCH WILL THEY CHARGE ME?

For a prostitution, pandering or pimping charge, you will need a criminal lawyer. As I said earlier, it is best to have a lawyer with experience handling these kinds of cases, or someone with enthusiasm for this cause. They will appear in court with you at your arraignment, file the necessary motions and papers that need to be filed with the court, and obtain all the information they need from the police records. HOWEVER, DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT THEY WILL KNOW EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR CASE. It is your job to make a list of the events that led to your arrest and give them possible reasons that led to your arrest, such as a jealous neighbor, a boyfriend, or a client you might be upset with you. Lawyers are not mind readers and only know what is in the police records. If you think that something is important to your case, be sure you get a clear answer from your attorney what they intend to do about it. Do not assume that just because you told your attorney about something that they will pursue that information.

You have a right to know what is going on with your case at all times. If your lawyer won't give you a straight answer, keep after them until you know exactly where you stand. If your attorney uses language to explain your case to you that you don't understand, insist that they tell you so that you do understand everything that is going on.

Lawyers charge different fees for different services, so it is important to get in writing exactly what they are going to do for the money you pay them. Some charge by the hour and others charge by the case. And they usually charge more to go to trial, so you need to know what the fees are for up to trial and what they will be if you decide to go to trial. If you are paying the lawyer by the hour, you may want to work out an arrangement to pay a flat fee for the trial.

If you are paying the lawyer by the hour, be sure that he/she keeps track of the hours they spend on your case and give you a copy. . .don't take their word for how many hours they spent on it. You need to know if there are some questionable charges to your bill, such as phone calls to you or someone else that never took place, so be sure that you keep track of every phone call to your attorney or their calls to you. Keep track of how long the call is- because they will try to bill you for a whole hour even if they only talked to you for five minutes. Some lawyers want all their money upfront, and others will allow you to pay as the legal case proceeds. You will not get a refund if they lose your case, but if there is deliberate malpractice or incompetence, you can sue although it is difficult to find a lawyer who will sue anotherlawyer. If you have a question about your case, you have every right to call your attorney to ask them. A word of warning- attorneys are notorious for not returning phone calls- no matter how much you are paying them. If it is an emergency, you should state that when you leave a message with their voice mail or secretary. If it is a question that can wait, it may be a while before they get back to you, so be prepared. While you are waiting to learn your fate, it can be extremely frustrating if your attorney doesn't call you back right away. Don't panic. I found it helpful to write down the questions I had as they came to me so I could remember to ask my attorney whenever he did call me.

The court must notify your attorney of anything that is important to your case, so don't worry that the police or the court can do anything to you without letting your attorney know first.

IF THEY HAVE ME ON TAPE, DO I HAVE A CHANCE TO FIGHT THE CASE OR SHOULD I JUST PLEAD GUILTY?

As we discussed earlier, pleading guilty and getting a probation sentence can be a very bad thing, so, I suggest you demand that it go to trial. If the court is overloaded with cases, the city attorney or district attorney is not going to want to waste valuable court time and will try to get you to plea bargain. If you insist on going to trial, they may just throw the case out altogether. (You can't count on this, of course, but, it often happens.)

If you have a public defender as your attorney, they will do their best to get you to take the offer that the city or district attorney offers you. Insist upon your right to go to trial. It is more work for them, but that's what they get paid for. Since you are facing a mandatory 45 days in jail, the least you can do for yourself is fight it.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A HIGH PROFILE CASE - THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

If you are unfortunate enough to get arrested at a time when there is a spotlight on prostitution (such as during television ratings periods like February, May, September and November) or if your case is unusual and would likely cause the media to be interested in your case, there are things you should know about what can happen to you and how you can fight back. If the media picks up on your case and flashes your name and perhaps even home address on the television screen, you will find your whole life will be altered- if not forever, then for some time to come. It is traumatic to have your privacy shattered for the sake of television or newspaper ratings, but the journalist who calls attention to your case to the public will not be concerned for your welfare. Even though prostitution is against the law to protect women from being exploited, you will find that there are few reporters who care about protecting your rights. They figure that if you were involved in an illegal or sexually explicit business, you have given up your rights to privacy and protection.

Most of the time, reporters do not view women in the sex industry as human beings whose lives can be destroyed by the publicity that they receive- that we can even be put in danger of being murdered when our home address is revealed to the public and to some psycho out there who figures that society is better off without the "sinful woman." It has happened in the past, unfortunately, but the media doesn't apologize and doesn't get it that it is wrong for them to put us at risk through their efforts to get ratings. It makes the media our worst enemy in somecases. However, once the "cat is out of the bag," the most important thing you can do for yourself is to make a friend out of the media. If you have nothing to hide, it will only help you if you are friendly to the press rather than ignore them. Ignoring the press will only allow them to give the police version of the events, and, it will make it more difficult later on to get them to print your version. You do not need to tell them your whole story. Rather, if you want to wait until after you have had your arraignment in court and see if you are even going to be charged and have to go to trial, you can just tell them that you would be happy to give your side as soon as it is possible for you to do so. Appear friendly and cooperative, so that you bait them and make them want to talk to you. Unless your attorney has had experience dealing with a high profile case, they will probably not want you to speak to the press at all. In the circumstances where someone is charged with a serious crime where there is a victim, this is probably good advice, but in the cases of prostitution and related charges, there is no good reason not to try to make friends of the press. There is every reason for you to do so, however, including getting your reputation back. Your friends and family who may not have known what profession you were in before, may want to disown you. If they see only the police version of the events, they may never know what really happened. Since the media has already exposed you to the world, it is up to you to reclaim your reputation.

If you have the opportunity to appear on a talkshow, be careful which one you do. If the talkshow has a reputation of tearing it's guests apart, you don't need to have that experience! Other shows like Oprah or Donahue are better, and will give you an opportunity to state your case without being verbally ambushed. One other side effect of appearing on a national tv show is that it tends to make your family, friends and neighbors view you differently and perhaps even think of you now as a celebrity rather than just an accused prostitute. For whatever reason, people do treat you differently if you have been on national tv than if you are just mentioned in the news.

If you decide to appear on a talkshow, you might want to wait until it has been determined if the city or district attorney is going to file charges. If they do, you need to be careful what you say on television so that you don't implicate yourself or make it impossible for your lawyer to defend you. The talkshow host/ reporter or any other member of the media is going to try to get you to say whatever they want to hear- but you have the right to determine how much you will tell them. Do not let them bully you into saying anything that will get you into more trouble. If you feel they are going too far, tell them so. Just like anyone else, they will try to take advantage of you if you let them. You set the boundaries and determine what information you are willing togive. You can also get paid for your appearance, so be sure to ask the producer about a fee. Depending upon how much they want you and whether or not you are giving them an exclusive interview, they can pay you from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, although the Donahue Show seldom pays anyone at all. Shows like "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "Dateline" do not pay at all, but other so called tabloid shows like "Hard Copy," "Inside Edition" and "A Current Affair," will pay you and sometimes pay you a lot of money which can help you take care of your legal fees. If you get a lot of offers to do shows, you might think about hiring a publicist to represent you and negotiate your appearancefees. Back to your lawyer. If your lawyer absolutely refuses to let you speak to the press, it is your decision. The lawyer is working for you, and only you can decide if it is worth risking your case. Ask the lawyer what the risks are if you do speak to the media, and if it is okay if you just inform the press that you will be happy to speak to them when your lawyer permits you to. Again, unless a lawyer has handled a high profile prostitution case, they may not understand the importance of being nice to the press. A press statement from your lawyer is not going to be the same as one from you, and the media may ignore it. Also, if your case is not in the category of a Heidi Fleiss, even if your story is "hot" for a few days, eventually the media will find someone else to shine the spotlight on. Your opportunity to cash in on your notoriety is limited, and if it is a sweeps or ratings month, you have a better chance to get your side of the story told then you do when the month is over. Your story becomes a cold one in a short time, unless you can lure the media to wait for an interview with you at such time as you can give one.

ALL THIS SOUNDS AWFUL . . . IS THERE ANY WAY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM GETTING ARRESTED?

To be honest with you, if the police want to arrest you, no matter what you do or say or don't say, they can and will arrest you. The charges might very well get thrown out of court or never get filed at all, but, you will probably end up spending money to defend yourself even if it goes nowhere. And not to mention you may have some explaining to do to your family and friends if your arrest makes the eleven o'clock news. When it comes to men and women in whatever branch of the sex industry, society would prefer not to know if the police are violating your rights. They figure the police wouldn't have arrested you in the first place if you weren't doing something illegal. So, it is up to you to take an aggressive posture and fight for your rights.

There are some things that you can do to keep angry neighbors, jealous boyfriends, etc from turning you in, as well as some signs to look out for if the potential client is actually an undercover cop.

Keep in mind that nothing you can do is 100% arrest proof. Exercise every precaution that you can, and hope that someday soon we will get these silly protectionist laws repealed so you can work in peace without the stress of wondering if it's your day to "go downtown." MORE TIPS Be extra careful on multiple girl calls. The cops like to set up as many women at a time as possible because it saves time on paperwork. Beside, cops are just like other men and they like menages, too!

If you go to his hotel room and he asks you to sit in a specific seat, rather than where you want to, he may be angling you for the video camera. Either make sure they get your good side for the tape and tell him you will sit wherever you want.

If you are an exotic dancer, and a customer wants to see you privately, don't think that just because he has been into the club before and spent lots of money on you that he is safe. Cops can and do spend lots of the taxpayer's money to set up sting operations, and so it is not safe to assume that the customer is not a cop because he has given you big tips in the past. Even if you turn him down to see him privately, he can still arrest you if you allow him to touch your genitals, or he asks you to touch his, for a tip. If he has an erection, it is still no proof that he is not a cop- after all, cops are human too, and they can get aroused as easily as any other men when they are dealing with attractive and sexy women.

IF LITTLE BELLS START GOING OFF IN YOUR HEAD - LISTEN TO THEM DON'T EVER TALK ABOUT SEX AND MONEY AND IF HE INSIST UPON GETTING YOU TO DISCUSS A SEX ACT GET UP AND LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. IF HE IS VISITING YOU, TELL HIM HE HAS OFFENDED YOU AND ASK HIM TO LEAVE AT ONCE.

OTHER WAYS TO POSSIBLY AVOID GETTING ARRESTED

Sometimes, it seems as though for some women in the sex industry', their worst enemy is themselves. Without realizing it, they allow the people in their orbit to become the means that destroys them. By behaving in a certain way, they give their friends, neighbors, lovers and relatives the opportunity to report them to the police and thereby risk getting arrested. Here are some common mistakes to avoid- and thereby avoid making your friends, neighbors, boyfriends and even your fellow sex workers, jealous or angry at you and turning you in.

OTHER SEX WORKERS

It would be nice to think that everyone in this business is ethical and honest, but, I realize that in every profession there are those who you can trust and those you cannot. If you want to keep your fellow sex worker from turning on you, and reporting you to the police, you need to behave toward them in a way that won't make them angry or jealous of you. This means that you should practice the golden rule. Don't do anything to them that you would not want them to do to you. Don't steal clients from them, don't cheat them out of money you may owe them. If you do doubles together, tell them if you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease so they can get a medical check up, too.

Keep your word to them. If you have called them to arrange for a double but the client cancels, let them know as soon as possible so they can make other plans.

If you work for more than one madam, be up front about it. She will probably find out about it anyway. Don't get greedy and try to go around her to see one of her clients on your own. If she has a policy that allows you to see him on your own after you pay the first or second cut to her, that's fine. If you and a fellow sex worker agree to exchange clients rather than a cut, then you should be fair with them and give them as much work as they give you or let them know you can't and offerto pay a cut instead.

CLIENTS

It has happened in the past that clients have turned in the sex worker they see. If they feel they are getting cheated out of time or money, they might feel it is okay to report you to the police. Be sure that you treat all clients in a fair and reasonable manner. If you think they are cheating you out of money, tell them to their face rather than try to get even by shorting them on time or taking money out of their wallet while they shower.

Sometimes they will write bad checks, or not show up for their appointment, and we may feel that we can get even by calling them at work and telling their secretaries or calling their wives and telling them where their husbands spend their time. This is never acceptable to do to anyone for any reason. You may be mad that you got cheated, but by pulling a stunt like that, it may backfire and get you arrested instead. If you are worried about getting bad checks, don't take anything butcash.

As far as not notifying you about missing an appointment- it is rude for anyone to do. There is nothing one can do about rude behavior except to politely let him know you will not be available for him again if he calls. If he really wants to see you again, tell him that in the future, he must pay you something extra if he doesn't give you notice of a cancelled appointment or if he is late. It is a good policy to always be polite to your clients even if they behave rudely to you, because it will be you and not them who gets arrested if they want to "drop a dime'on you.

FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS

Because you are in a profession that can net you a larger than average income, it is easy for those who have to work far more hours for less income to become jealous of the things you have. It is especially important to if take time to sooth their feelings and turn them into allies rather than enemies. If you don't want to tell your friends what you do for a living, that is understandable. Many people are uptight about their own sexuality and can be very critical of you if you have ditched your hang-ups. In the past, some well meaning 'friends' and family members have actually turned in their prostitute friends and relatives to the police when they discover what their friend does for a living. If they are unable to persuade their friend to leave the business, they may mistakenly think that by turning them in to the police, they are saving their friend from a life of degradation and pain. Their misguided intervention can ultimately destroy your life, so it is understandable that some of us try to keep our lives hidden from our non-sex industry friends and family. So, by living a double life, some women are able to keep these friends from discovering their secret.

However, if they discover your profession by accident, you should be ready to discuss it openly and honestly with them. By hedging, you lead them to think the worst about your career, and they may develop a "Good Samaritan" complex and want to 'help' you by calling the police. Assure them that you don't have a big, mean pimp who is forcing you into this business and taking all your money, and that you always practice safesex, etc.

Be the best neighbor on your block or in your building. It's best not to have loud parties or have your guests park in other people's driveways or parking spaces. Don't leave your trash where it doesn't belong. You shouldn't play your music so loud that someone has to complain. This goes for your phone ringing as well. Be sure they can't hear your phone or answering machine from outside your apartment. . . for several reasons. Go out of your way to be friendly to your neighbors. Be pleasant, say "hi." Exchange Christmas cards or even gifts with those who are living the closest to you. It is more difficult for someone to dislike you if they see you as a nice person.

If your clients visit you at your apartment or house, be sure they know which one to come to so that they don't end up knocking at your neighbor's door in the middle of the night and bother them. This can be annoying at any time of day, but particularly if they are sleeping and someone comes knocking and asks for you at three in the morning. Not only will they get upset that their sleep was interrupted, but they may wonder why you are having company at that time of night. If there is a problem, be sure that you speak to them the next day and apologize for the rude behavior of your friends. Smoothing ruffled feathers goes a long way to keeping them out of your business.

If you have a boyfriend, even if he knows about your work, it's important to be sure he doesn't feel insecure about your relationship with him. [If he doesn't know about your work, be very careful what you tell him you do. Sometimes they want to surprise you at the job where you say you work, but, if you are not there, they become suspicious.] If he does know about your work, it is helpful to talk about how he feels about it and not dismiss his feelings as unimportant.

If he does not know about your work, it is a tough call whether or not to be honest with him and tell him. If you think there is not a chance in the world that he will find out, then maybe you can get away with not telling him. But if you expect to have a long relationship with him or even get married, it is a possibility that your past may crop up eventually, and he may feel that you were dishonest by not telling him. This may threaten your relationship permanently, but then, so can be honest about it. It takes a very secure man to be able to handle knowing about the work we do. This is why is is difficult for many women to establish long term relationships with a man, unless she first meets him as a client or has been in a secure relationship prior to entering the profession.

Someday, when society grows up and gives our profession the respect it deserves, perhaps it will make it easier for sex workers to enter into long term committed relationships just as any other worker in any other profession can.

Hugs and Kisses,
Chelsea Madrid

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