California’s Prostitution Laws
Prostitution, also known as the “world’s oldest profession,” is the act of engaging in sexual activity for compensation and is prohibited in virtually all 50 states. Call girls, escorts, streetwalkers, and brothels are all examples of prostitution. A person who solicits, consents to engage in, or engages in any act of prostitution with the intent to receive money or compensation from another person is guilty of the offense under California Penal Code Section 647(b).
Additionally, prior to the recent passage of Senate Bill 357, loitering in a public area with the intent to engage in prostitution was also illegal in California. This covered hiring, directing, supervising, or helping a person loiter with the intention of prostitution, as well as collecting or receiving all or some of the earnings of a prostitution act. A violation of any of these provisions was charged as a misdemeanor. However, with the passage of the new Senate Bill earlier this month, these laws are changing.
Senate Bill 357: California Ends Arrests for Loitering for Prostitution
The new bill SB 357 prohibits arrest or prosecution for loitering with the intention of engaging in prostitution. SB 357 was delivered to Governor Gavin Newsom last month, nine months after it was approved by the Legislature. Proponents of the new bill are glad for the change, arguing that the previous law was inherently discriminatory because it singled out individuals based solely on their appearance rather than for any behavior. As a result, women of color and trans women were disproportionately criminalized.
Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the bill, has stated that it is now more important than ever to get rid of discriminatory laws that target the LGBTQ+ community. According to Wiener, the loitering prohibition enabled law enforcement officers to target and detain those who are donning tight clothing or a lot of make-up. The bill was also supported by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Equality California, as well as many former and current sex workers.
On the other side, the bill’s opponents worry that the change is a step toward eventually legalizing prostitution. Critics contend that the bill will encourage sex trafficking in the state, particularly in underprivileged areas, and that the law will make it easier for sex buyers to exploit vulnerable people. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also worries that the new law will interfere with investigations, making it harder to confront those who commit crimes related to trafficking or prostitution and to help victims. Some victims have also spoken out against the bill, stating that it is actually increasing demand.
To be clear, SB 357 does not legalize soliciting or engaging in prostitution. It only revokes certain provisions of the law that have contributed to the disproportionate prosecution of trans women and Black and Latino women. Furthermore, the new bill permits people who have previously been found guilty of loitering for prostitution to ask the court to throw out their conviction and seal their record.
SB 357 is a part of a greater effort to stop discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ groups, women of color, and sex workers. Last year, similar legislation was approved in New York. In addition, several other related measures have become law in California in recent years. In 2016, a bill was passed that banned arresting minors for prostitution, with the intent of treating them as victims instead. In 2019, another bill prohibited arresting sex workers for reporting crimes as a victim or a witness. With these new laws, we can expect heightened standards for when arrests can be made related to prostitution.
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If you have been charged with a prostitution crime, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in sex-related crimes, and we guarantee a safe and judgment-free environment to discuss your case. You can place your trust in us.
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