January 8, 2015 By Stephen Klarich

Public shaming has become the latest trend in the fight against sex trafficking and prostitution. LA County has voted to follow several other city and county governments in an attempt to deter child sex trafficking. The LA County Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to request a plan from county attorneys that provides “for the publication of the names of individuals convicted of soliciting prostitution…with a particular emphasis on individuals that solicit minors who are victims of sex trafficking.” 1

LA County votes to publicize identity of those convicted of paying prostitutes.
Do you think those convicted of paying prostitutes for sex should be publicly shamed?

Part of the campaign involves displaying photographs of the “johns” on billboards, the Internet, and elsewhere as a way to discourage participation in prostitution. The degradation of the social status of those who solicit sex from minors or other victims of sex trafficking could force johns to be more accountable.

However, when a Richmond, California police captain posted mug shots of men who had been arrested for prostitution on the Facebook page of the police department, he ended up taking the mug shots down after Facebook users added personal information about the suspects, including their places of employment, where they attended school and their home addresses. 2

Penalties and Punishments for Prostitution in California (California Penal Code Section 647(b))

California Penal Code Section 647(b) makes it illegal to engage, offer, or agree to engage in the act of prostitution. 3

Prostitution is a misdemeanor crime that carries up to a $1,000 fine and a maximum six month sentence in county jail. These penalties are increased with any subsequent conviction for prostitution or solicitation.

Under California Penal Code Section 261.9, it is illegal to seek or procure the sexual services of a prostitute under the age of 18. 4 Anyone who is convicted under California Penal Code Section 261.9 will be fined up to $25,000 on top of any other penalty and punishment.

If you violate California Penal Code Section 647(b) while in your vehicle or near personal residences, the court can suspend or restrict your driver’s license and your vehicle could be seized by law enforcement.

Is Public Shaming for Prostitution Justified?

If you are convicted of paying for a prostitute, call Wallin & Klarich today.
Some believe lawmakers should instead increase the penalties for prostitution instead of public shaming.

Thus far, Richmond, National City, San Bernardino, and Stockton have all instituted some type of “john shaming” program, and Orange County is pushing for a “Sex Purchasers” section on the district attorney’s website where prostitution offenders’ mug shots will be posted for an indefinite period of time. LA County is planning to post offender mug shots in a variety of public places. However, the question remains: does public shaming work to reduce prostitution?

Issues that should be considered are how the public shaming affects the families of offenders and how much scrutiny it opens them up to. So far, it is unknown how the children of offenders whose mug shots have been posted in public places have been affected at home, at school, and in their community.

Prostitution Research and Education Executive Director Melissa Farley told the Los Angeles Times that she is “unaware of any evidence that shaming has resulted in long-term behavior change.” She referred to the effectiveness of Swedish law, which makes prostitution a crime equivalent to a felony, as an example of how increasing criminal penalties for prostitution works as opposed to public shaming.

While public shaming is legal, is there sufficient justification for punishing an offender who has already been penalized under California law?

Share Your Feedback with Us

We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about this topic. Do you agree that people who pay for sex should be shamed publicly on top of established legal penalties and punishments? What are some of the reasons you see that would make these laws a good or bad idea? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

1. [http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-county-john-shaming-20141209-story.html]
2. [http://www.latimes.com/local/orangecounty/la-me-john-shaming-20141120-story.html#page=1]
3. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=647.]
4. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=261.9.]


  1. i am a male and have never paid for sex, and i think people who do pay for sex are contributing to the exploitation and degradation of those whose organs they rent, and yes i think they should be placed on sex-offender lists. i believe that is the only way to end prostitution – decriminalize prostitutes, jail the johns. they are basically child molesters, since prostitutes are kept like little children, never allowed to grow up and become normal members of society, traumatized by the violence against women that is prostitution. johns are as much to blame as pimps; they are basically war criminals in the war on humanity’s intimate being- commodifiers of the body, and the brainwashed “happy porn actresses” are like gargoyles on the church, lackeys of the new corporate militarization of sexuality…

    1. Thank you very much for your interesting comments on our blog.

      At Wallin and Klarich we take a different view of this issue.

      Many males are seeking a sexual outlet when they reach out to a prostitute. They are not interested in anything other than finding “sexual satisfaction”. They have no interest in degrading the prostitute or in any way harming him or her.
      Whether prostitution should be a crime is a topic that is open for debate.

      To “shame” a successful businessman with a family and a good reputation because of one isolated act seems a drastic measure that our law firm does not support.

      We understand that there are those who engage in trafficking of minors for the purpose of using them for sexual purposes.

      We are totally opposed to such conduct and belief such persons should be prosecuted aggressively.

      An act of prostitution is between two consenting adults who almost always know exactly what they are bargaining for.

      Neither is harmed and they both receive what they are looking for.

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