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Escort Licenses, The End of My Probation and How I expunged my own case without a lawyer or money

26 Dec

On December 22, 2009, I represented myself before the LAX courthouse for the 3rd time as my own lawyer.  On October 22, 2009 I had appeared before the judge asking for early termination of my 18 month summary (no probation officer, no real rules except don’t get caught again and stay off Craigslists’ erotic section).  I had been fundraising for the environment at $10/hr in front of grocery stores since stepping down as the director of SWOP-LA and looking for a job on the very list of craig that got me busted in the sting at the LAX Hilton over 18 months ago.  (FIGHTING YOUR CASE EXTENDS VIRUTALLY EXTENDS YOUR PROBATION, because you have to stay out of trouble the entire time that you are fighting your innocence, otherwise duh, you can’t really say that you are innocent).  My probation term did not start until I accepted the DEAL of 18 months of probation and the misdemeanor charge of “escorting without a license” which is usually coupled with 647b prostitution, but the deal was that if we (my then lawyer) and I did not take it to trial I would have the 647b charge dropped.  I’m not sure if it really mattered at all because whenever anyone did a background check and they saw the escorting without a license charge coupled with probation, they treated me like I was a prostitute anyway.  In effect, either way you are treated as if you are guilty of prostitution.  The first eye opener was when I was banned from any teaching job for 5 years, the second was when a reduced income apartment said they wouldn’t rent to anyone who had any convictions in the last year, and another eye opener was whenI finally broke down and decided I would even be a stripclub stripper again to make ends meet and they had a background check question on their application too!  I couldn’t even be a stripper as a convicted “escort without a license!”  If escorting without a license charges are truly a business license violation charge then why do they have such long probation terms and why am I banned from teaching when I was not convicted of prostitution?

The license to escort charge was just the way that they usually were able to nab people in case they wouldn’t be able to pin the prostitution charge on the accused so easily.


I decided to find this out!  I went down to the brand new police building, on probation with nothing to fear because I knew that they knew my name and my conviction and that I was not going down there with the intent to commit a crime, but with the intent to find out if in fact it was even possible for someone like myself, or any other member of the SWOP-LA community to actually BE IN COMPLIANCE with these escort licensing requirements that they were charging so many people in LA with everyday.  The requirements roughly are that you:

1. must work for someone, an agency for example.  (also known as a pimp, even though living off the avails of prostitution is a felony..)

2. must have an office with RECORDS that the POLICE can inspect which lists client names, phone numbers and how much was charged for each date.

3. must be fingerprinted at her own expense every 3 months

4. must have true residence address on her CA Identification, which will be known to the police.

5. must pay $495 as an individual escort for this license, and if she works for herself another $495 to as an escort bureau.  This discourages independent escorts who are or want to work as a sole proprietors.

WOW!  Sounds like a great deal.  Should I make my check out to LAPD or just hand them “a donation of $990?” or should I just get arrested first, like most of us do and then have them take our money through restitution fines and community service fees, or for most paying of BAILBONDS AND LAWYERS?

Luckily I qualified for getting out of jail without bail on my OWN RECOGNIZANCE (also known as O.R) and did not have to pay bail. I was in jail for about 10 hours, transferred from a holding cell near the airport and then transported in a van to the VAlley where I did the rest of my hard time with DUI chics and street girls who had pimps, including the girl I was taken down with.  It was a great learning experience, they accepted me and didn’t want to kick my ass and I”m sure they were pissed when my name was called and I left.  “It’s been great kickin it with you girls, but I gotta go.”  The day everyone gets out of short term jail is always a happy one and people are jealous of you, but usually express happiness for you.  Even though the  only thing available to read in the county jail cell is the B section of the local yellow pages showing all the Bailbonds ads.  If you make all your court dates, have no warrants and no failures to appears you can qualify for O.R release, even on a repeat offense.  It states that you are not a flight risk and that you will show up for your court date. You just have to know this or you could sit in jail for a week or spend $3000 to bail yourself out when you could have spent 0.  But, there are the way things are supposed to go and then there are the way that things go.

I knew that I was eventually going to get arrested in the back of my mind when I started this work. It is something that you have to prepare for mentally, but nothing can really prepare you for the real thing. Because I have been arrested in a sting once, I feel that I now have the tools to better recognize what I didn’t then.  I am much more cautious, but still make mistakes…

The typical lawyer in LA, the cheesy ones that advertise in the yellow pages with the worst ads, charge $2000 to do an expungement. You can do it yourself for FREE if you can just endure the bureaucratic run around that some of the people in the court will put you through.  Everyone will tell you a different answer, some of the answers will seem completely outlandish, some will say no to the exact same question you just got a yes to.  In the end, just know that it can be done and that you do have the right to the information on how to get it done and who in the building to talk to about it.  At the court I was at the bailliff who was talking on his 2 way pager WHILE answering my questions was the one who knew the most truthful answers in the whole court house.  He sees a lot because he’s in there everyday.  $2000 for an expungement my ass. There is another resource of a woman founded and led prison abolition org that helps women with expungement cases for free called A New WAy of LIfe.

You can get your expungement fees ($120) completely or partially lowered due to your income.  Mine were reduced in half at $60, which is a LOT LESS THAN $2000 the last time I checked.  The idea that the justice system creates this idea that citizens who are convicted of crimes should not represent themselves in court or do anything of a legal nature themselves, is utterly disempowering.  I hated having to use a lawyer as a mouthpiece for my fate, and as soon as I was able to tell myself what to wear to court that morning and tell myself what to say to the judge from MY OWN HEART did I reclaim the power that getting arrested and jailed for something that I still do NOT believe should be a crime, ESPECIALLY SINCE MY PEACE WAS DISTURBED AND THIS OFFICED SOLICTED ME for prostitution and I agreed NOT vice versa.

SWOP-LA COURT SUPPORT:: I never thanked Ofelia, Natalie, Raven and Paula for waking up in the morning and helping me feel not so alone in this.  I really felt that there was a community spirit with me because there were members supporting me that I hadn’t seen in at least 3 years and some members that had just been part of SWOP for less than a couple weeks.  I want to try to return the favor if I can.  Call on me or us for court support, we can help you!  We’re small but powerful!  And going to Denny’s afterwards is always a great stress reliever for any bad girl in court all morning..Call or leave us a message.  We DO CARE and would like to be there for you if we can!  WE can’t always do it individually but together we can pool our resources and get you a ride to court, a wake up call and someone to shoot the shit with while you wait for your case to be called!  And we won’t even charge you $2000! (Donating what you might pay towards a lawyer to SWOP-LA would be ideal though).

I was arrested in May of 2008 and 1 year and 7 months later I am finally done with it.  I spent a day in jail, 40 hours handing out groceries at APLA (I fought for that assignement vs. garbage duty as well), about $300 in court fees and hundreds more in lawyer expenses for a pro bono lawyer from San Francisco, most of which was paid for by an anonymous donor who heard me speak ONCE on KPFA 90.7 about International Sex Worker Rights DAy on March 3rd (are you getting the importance of using community resources moral yet?).  I also had a bunch of San Francisco SWOPsters pull together some funds at a fundraiser I had in May which really costs almost as much as it raised unfortunately but it was a great morale booster for me as I was in the midst of fighting my charge which I had to stop doing due to finnancial burden.  Fighting your charge is what we advise, public defenders NEVER want to help us fight these charges it seems. No one is trying to do activism in the county courthouse.  They are hoping to try to make you TAKE THE DEAL.  They are overworked and underpaid.  In the end, I feel it hurt me to use an out of town lawyer but I LEARNED from this entire experience and hope that I NEVER have to endure it again anytime soon.  Because of what I went through, I can probably give anyone arrested in LA some pretty good support on this issue, so feel free to email me at mariko.passion at with your questions or for court support..


Mariko Passion 2009.

Reflections of the Sex Worker Festival from SF, the City Of Hottie Queer Workers::by Mommy Fiercest

7 Jun

Until last summer I didn’t know any other sex workers…

I’ve been an activist and organizer in the LA queer and trans community for years but aside from the  partners I was doing sex work with I knew of no other workers. I had seen and been titilated by old flyers for the sex workers art show at the private college where all the rich white people I dated went*.


Where could I find these feminist sex workers? I’d read about $pread in Bitch Magazine and theMommy Undressingn forgotton all about it until I was in Mexico City last summer on my honeymoon. My crazy activist husband signed us up to volunteer for three days at the World AIDS Conference.

That’s where I met Mariko and found out about the Sex Workers Outreach Project and that there exhisted a chapter in LA.  After I became involved in SWOP LA I began to reach out to the queer community to see if anyone I knew was closeted and to invite them to join our meetings. It was through this coming out amoung my peers that I was able to find out that four or five friends

and peers were already doing sex work and were just as closeted as I was.

The stigma around people who do sex work in Los Angeles is a lot stronger than in SF or  perhaps it just the way it seems  on account of beautiful and safe feeling environment that was created this week at Sex Worker Fest by all the beautiful performers and organizers.  annieportrait

This summer I had the opportunity to befriend and perform with the woman I want to be when I grow up, Carol Leigh (aka Scarlot Harlot) MCing “Whore-A-Palooza” and meeting hundreds of beautiful, talented, creative and kinky sex workers. It seems every queer person here has loved someone who was a sex worker and couldn’t help but think “How could someone not want to be a part of this beautiful city?”

From San Francisco,

Mommy Fiercest

* which is incidentally the same place I heard the word “queer used”.

DAY 2: postcard to LA from Candy

4 Jun

Hi, This is HoneyBuns Candy

In San Fran feeling bored once i get some pussy and some dick and money ill be OK. This is your bubble butt adult ts star saying the movie was nice, Everyone had fun but little me. I got into my shy 80’s  mood.  If someone would have said,”Lets fire this bowl of kris and gave me so pussy or dick that would be a good thing, but they didn’t..

Oh, Well..This is Candy saying,

“Eat you later, baby!”