Saying that current California prostitution laws violate their right to privacy and their freedom of speech, a San Francisco-based sex workers’ rights organization is fighting for prostitution to be legalized in California. The group, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project (ESPLERP), has filed a federal lawsuit challenging California prostitution laws. The suit names Attorney General Kamala Harris, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and three other Bay Area district attorneys as defendants. 1 The Attorney General’s Office, which claims that current state laws protect California sex workers from violence and human trafficking, has filed a motion to have the suit dismissed.

ESPLERP President Maxine Doogan says that while officials say the current laws protect sex workers from the violence of the streets, sex workers are harshly punished under the law, which doesn’t make sense if in the eyes of the law sex workers are victims. “There’s a bunch of double standards” in the current law, Doogan said. She also explained that under California law, any sex workers who unionize and attend regular meetings could be charged with criminal conspiracy because the business of prostitution is illegal.

Prostitution – California Penal Code Section 647(b)

Convicted of prostitution in California.
Currently, those convicted of prostitution are harshly punished under California law.

Currently, California law allows someone to exchange sex for money if the act has artistic value or will be filmed, as pornography is covered under laws governing freedom of expression. California Penal Code Section 647(b) says that anyone who solicits, agrees to engage in, or engages in, any act of prostitution is guilty of a crime that carries a punishment of up to six months in county jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

PC 647(b) allows for any subsequent offense of prostitution or solicitation to increase the minimum punishment for offenders. As such, a second prostitution offense would increase the minimum jail sentence to 45 days. Being convicted of three or more PC 647(b) violations would increase the minimum jail sentence to 90 days.

Would Legalizing Prostitution Have Positive Benefits?

Recently, after the FBI shuttered a sex service website that connected “johns” and prostitutes, sex workers told Business Insider that decriminalizing prostitution would allow workers to report crimes, and it would be the best way to shut down the human trafficking black market. 2 Workers also said that legalizing prostitution would get sex workers off the streets and allow workers to take greater control over their work, including using online properties that would allow them to share information and resources with each other and screen potential violent customers.

Share Your Feedback With Us

We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear your thoughts about the potential legalization of prostitution. Do you think that prostitution should be legalized in California? Does the fact that pornography and sex that has artistic value is legal in the state increase the chance of the legalization of prostitution? What are some of the reasons you believe the legalization of prostitution is a good or bad idea? Please leave your comments below.


1. [http://www.laweekly.com/news/a-new-movement-to-legalize-prostitution-faces-a-fight-with-kamala-harris-5570911]
2. [http://www.businessinsider.com/r-sex-website-seizure-spurs-san-francisco-bid-to-decriminalize-prostitution-2014-]

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