Question: Senate Bill 357 is expected to be tabled on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk in January. The bill would decriminalize vagrancy for the purpose of prostitution. Supporters of the bill say the vagrancy law targets minorities. Opponents say this is just a step towards legalizing prostitution. As of now, is prostitution illegal in California?
IJ, Los Angeles
A: Prostitution means willfully engaging in sex, or some obscene act, with another person in exchange for money or something of value.
A law came into effect in California last year that protects the rights of sex workers (see explanation below), but it has not legalized the act of paying for sex.
A conviction for prostitution in California carries up to six months in prison and a $ 1,000 fine. Note that the payment made by the âclientâ does not necessarily have to be paid to the person performing the sexual act (it could be a third party, such as a pimp). In addition, prostitution is a priority crime. As such, a subsequent offense carries higher penalties (for example, mandatory minimum sentences of 45 days in county jail for a second offense and 90 days for a third or subsequent offense).
The outcome of the bill you are referring to (California Senate Bill 347, which affects how vagrancy will be handled) is expected to be submitted to Governor Newsom for signature in January. He was passed by both chambers, but is being temporarily held in the Senate for further comment, so when he comes before the governor he will have further thoughts on why he should or shouldn’t sign.
Those supporting the bill indicate that law enforcement uses subjective factors under the vagrancy law to arrest someone they think is working as a prostitute, and therefore certain types of people are invariably the target. (and discriminated against). Opponents argue that the bill is a step not only towards legalizing prostitution, but also making it easier for women to be exploited by sex traffickers.
If it is signed by the governor (which I cannot predict at the moment), expect challenges in the courts.
Last year, a new law entered into force. It has two basic functions: a) Sometimes, during the act of prostitution, a crime is committed and the prostitute is a witness; on some occasions the prostitute is the victim. Now, if such a person reports certain types of criminal charges, even if it involves him in the crime of prostitution, there is immunity from prosecution. These reportable crimes include serious crime, types of aggravated assault and assault with a firearm. In addition, the new law provides that finding a condom or condoms on a person is no longer available to substantiate a “probable cause” of the individual’s arrest for public nuisance, or for solicitation or having engaged in a crime. obscene conduct or prostitution, or loitering to commit prostitution.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach lawyer with over 35 years of experience. His column, published on Wednesday, provides a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email him your questions and comments at [email protected]