Sometimes, our lawmakers pass laws that appear to defy logic and common sense. A new California law, SB 1322, is one of those laws. As of January 1, 2017, any minor who engages in sexual activity for pay cannot be convicted of prostitution.

You do not need to check your eyes: California will not charge minors with the crime of prostitution.

Opponents of the bill claim that this law will encourage pimps to use children as sex workers instead of adults because minors can be prostitutes without fear of prosecution. Children can continue to engage in these acts and the police will be powerless to stop it.

It is true that a minor who is involved in prostitution can no longer be charged with the crime under this new law. However, it is far from true that the law encourages the use of minors as sex workers.

The Purpose of SB 1322

Many minors involved in prostitution are victims of human trafficking. They have been forced by threat, fraud, or coercion into sex work. In many of these cases, immigrant teenagers are trapped into sexual slavery to pay family debts or the cost of migration to the United States. Behind drug trafficking, human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world.

SB 1322 was designed to protect the long-term well being of minors who are exploited by adults and forced into prostitution. The bill, which was proposed by state senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), seeks to end what is effectively double punishment of minors forced into sex work. Before passing this law, minors convicted of prostitution were first punished by the criminal acts of those who exploit them. These minors were then punished again by the criminal justice system, branded as prostitutes and forced to deal with a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

By not criminally punishing these minors, SB 1322 ends the double victimization of these minors and gives them a way to move past the exploitation they have suffered.

The Truth: Law Enforcement Is Not Powerless to Prevent Child Prostitution

Opponents of the law are misleading the public about the effects of the new law. To pretend that the police simply return a minor to the streets after he or she has been involved in prostitution is not true. While the law prevents filing criminal charges against minors in a child prostitution case, the adults involved are still subject to the same criminal penalties that were available before, including charges for sex crimes against a minor and solicitation of sex.

In addition, there are already laws in California that require police officers to intervene when they determine a minor is in an unsafe situation. California Welfare & Institutions Code section 300(b)(2) mandates that law enforcement must remove a minor in this situation.

Instead of turning minor sex workers over to the juvenile justice system, SB 1322 allows them to be placed with the California Department of Social Services, which then works to place these minors in a safe environment and prevent them from being further exploited as sex slaves.

Wallin & Klarich Is Here to Help

For over 35 years, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been fighting for the rights of minors and adults, whether they are facing criminal charges or are subject to the juvenile justice system. Wallin & Klarich will utilize every available legal defense and all of our skill and legal knowledge to help people in their time of need. Let us help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

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