June 24, 2022 By Stephen Klarich

California’s Current Loitering for Prostitution Laws 

Commonly referred to as the “world’s oldest profession,” prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment and is illegal in almost all 50 states. Prostitution can include brothels and streetwalkers, as well as call girls and escorts. Under California Penal Code Section 647(b), an individual who solicits, agrees to engage in, or engages in any act of prostitution with the intent to receive compensation, money, or anything of value from another person is guilty of this crime. In addition, California criminalize the act of loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution. This  includes directing, supervising, recruiting, or aiding a person who is loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, or collecting or receiving all or part of the proceeds of an act of prostitution. Under existing law, a violation of any of these provisions is a misdemeanor. 

What Is Senate Bill 357? 

Recently, however, the law against loitering for prostitution may be facing change. Senate Bill 357 is a new bill that would prohibit arrests for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. Nine months after the measure passed the Legislature, the bill was finally sent to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk this week. For proponents of the new bill, the existing law against loitering for prostitution is inherently discriminatory because it targets people for how they appear rather than for any action. As a result, trans women and women of color are disproportionately criminalized. 

On the other hand, opponents of the bill fear that the reform is part of an effort to eventually decriminalize prostitution. Critics further argue that the bill would lead to an increase in sex trafficking in the state, especially in poor neighborhoods. However, SB 357 would not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. It would only allow those who were previously convicted of loitering for prostitution to petition the court to dismiss and seal the record of the conviction. 

Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the bill, has stated that in light of Pride Month, it is now more important than ever to get rid of a discriminatory law that targets the LGBTQ+ community. The bill is sponsored by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Equality California, as well as former and current sex workers. Wiener also argued that the anti-loitering law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothing or a lot of make-up. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, however, disagrees. The department opposes the new bill, stating that the current law is effective at keeping prostitutes from hanging around public places, businesses, and residential communities, which in turn reduces crime and drug use. Law enforcement officers also argue that although the bill has good intentions behind it, it will also unintentionally benefit sex buyers by giving them the benefit of the doubt.

SB 357 is part of a larger movement to end discrimination and violence against sex workers, women of color, and LGBTQ+ communities. Similar legislation was passed in New York last year. Governor Newsom will have 12 days to sign or veto the legislation. If the bill passes, we can expect heightened standards for when arrests can be made related to prostitution. Under the new bill, one cannot be arrested, for example, for possessing a large amount of condoms. Hopefully, SB 357 has the positive effect on communities that Wiener intended when he drafted the bill. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have a question about SB 357 or 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. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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