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Criminal Defense Information for Prostitution (Cal. Penal Code s. 647)

  1. What is Prostitution?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Prostitution?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Prostitution?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Prostitution?
  1. What is Prostitution?

    Prostitution is a type of disorderly conduct and is codified in Cal. Pen. Code s. 647 (b) Opens in New Window. That section says it is illegal for a person to engage in or agree to engage in any lewd act between people when money or other "consideration" exchanges hands.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Prostitution?

    Prostitute working the local corner

    Prostitute working the local corner

    To prove the defendant is guilty of Prostitution, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Specifically intended to trade lewd acts for money or other item of value;
    2. Agreed to engage in lewd acts or actually engaged in lewd acts; and
    3. Received money or other item of value in exchange for the lewd act.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Prostitution?

    Prostitution is a misdemeanor. A first time offense for prostitution carries up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines and the judge may suspend the defendant's license for up to 30 days or restrict the license for up to six months. (Cal. Pen. Code s. 19 Opens in New Window.)

    A second offense has the same penalty as a first time offense with the added requirement that the defendant server at least 45 days in jail.

    A third or subsequent offense carries a minimum of 90 days in jails. Cal. Pen. Code s. 647 (k) Opens in New Window.

    If the prostitute is under 18 years old, an additional fine of up to $25,00 can be imposed. Cal. Pen. Code s. 261.9 Opens in New Window.

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Prostitution?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Prostitution, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Prostitution, some of these justifications include:

    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.
See also, Pandering, Pimping.