California Prostitution Laws
Overview of California Prostitution Laws
Prostitution refers to a lewd act performed in exchange for money or another form of compensation. Under California state law, a lewd act requires physical contact of a sexual nature, sexual conduct, or sexual intercourse between two people.
To prove a case of prostitution, the prosecutor must establish several elements. The prosecutor must show that the defendant had a specific intent to engage in prostitution -- specifically, the defendant must have intended to participate in a lewd act in exchange for compensation. The defendant and the other participant must have formed an agreement to carry out the intent to engage in prostitution.
The prosecutor must also show an act performed by the defendant reflecting the defendant's agreement to engage in prostitution. For example, the prosecutor might present evidence that the defendant got into the other participant's car. While California state laws do not list the types of acts that further participants' agreement to engage in prostitution, the state courts have explained that the act may happen before or after the participants made their agreement.
Defenses to Prostitution Charges
- Entrapment by an undercover police officer
Penalties and Sentences
A conviction for prostitution results in misdemeanor sentencing under state law. The court may sentence the defendant to probation, a term of imprisonment in county jail, or a fine. However, probation is not an option if the defendant has a prior conviction for prostitution. If the defendant has one prior conviction for prostitution, California requires a sentence of at least 45 days in county jail without the possibility of probation, early release, or work furlough. Similarly, two or more prior convictions for prostitution will increase the sentence to at least 90 days in county jail.
In addition, the court may impose an additional punishment if the crime of prostitution took place in a motor vehicle within 1,000 feet of a private residence. The court may decide to restrict the defendant's use of a motor vehicle for up to six months, with exceptions made for driving to the defendant's school or workplace.
California Prostitution Statute
California Penal Code Section 647 (scroll down for section)
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.