Prostitution is the act of exchanging sexual services for money. A person can be charged with prostitution if they offer, agree, or engage in any sex act in exchange for money or something of value. It is also illegal to solicit, agree to take part in, or engage in any prostitutional acts.

The consequences of being convicted of violating PC 647(b) prostitution law can be life-altering and it is important that you should speak to an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are facing similar charges. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we can work with you to develop a defense strategy if you are facing prostitution charges. 

Prostitution under California Law

California Penal Code 647(b) defines prostitution as engaging in a sexual act or sexual contact with another person at a fee. This includes both direct and indirect forms of payment, such as gifts, drugs, or other items of value.

A person is said to engage in prostitution if they:

  • Exchange sexual favors for money or other forms of payment.
  • Offer sexual services to customers in exchange for money or other forms of payment.

Soliciting Prostitution

An individual is said to solicit prostitution if they:

  • Request or urge another person to engage in a sexual act for money or other compensation.
  • Have the intent to take part in prostitutional acts.

The most common form of soliciting prostitution acts is when someone offers money or anything of value to another person for sexual services. Even when the two parties never reach a formal agreement, the act of offering money or something else of value in exchange for sex can be considered a solicitation.

Agreeing to Take Part in Prostitution

For a person to be convicted under Penal Code 647 b, the prosecutor must prove that they agreed to take part in prostitution. This can be done by showing that:

  • The accused agreed with another person to take part in prostitution.
  • The accused intended to take part in prostitution acts with the other person.
  • The accused took some action in furtherance of the agreement.

The agreement to take part in prostitution must be between two individuals and can include a third party (such as a pimp or brothel owner). The agreement must be intentional and specific, meaning the accused must know the act that is to be performed. A mere offer to take part in prostitution is not enough for a conviction.

The action taken in furtherance of the agreement must be something other than just agreeing to the terms. This action could be payment of money, or taking steps to meet with the other individual to take part in prostitution acts.

Penalties for Prostitution

Those who are charged with violating PC 647(b) may face a misdemeanor charge. If convicted, the accused may be sentenced to up to 6 months or pay a maximum fine of $1,000. Additionally, the accused may be required to register as a sex offender and may be subject to other penalties such as community service or counseling.

In some cases, the charges may be upgraded to a felony if the accused has prior convictions, was engaged in prostitution with a minor, or if the person was found to have committed any other felonies during the act of prostitution. If convicted of a felony, the accused may be sentenced to up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition, the accused may be required to register as a sex offender, may be subject to other sanctions, and may be subject to lifetime probation supervision if convicted of a felony.

On top of the criminal penalties, there are non-criminal penalties for violating PC 647(b). For instance, if the accused is a driver, their license may be suspended. This can be a significant penalty, as it may impact the accused's ability to drive to school or work, among others.

For a subsequent offense, the severity of the penalty increases. A subsequent offense is defined as a second or subsequent offense of prostitution within five years of the first offense. The penalty for a subsequent offense is a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

On top of the criminal penalties, a subsequent prostitution offense can result in the offender having to register as a sex offender. Registration as a sex offender can have a significant impact on the offender’s life, as it will limit their ability to find employment and housing, and may cause them to be subjected to social stigma.

Common Prostitution Defenses

Several defenses can be used to fight prostitution charges. For example:

  • Lack of intent — One of the most common defenses to PC 647(b) charges is that the accused did not intend to engage in lewd and dissolute behavior. If the accused can show that their actions were not meant to be lewd or dissolute, but were instead accidental or a misunderstanding, then this can be used as a defense.
  • False accusation —It is also possible to defend against PC 647(b) charges by arguing that the accused was falsely accused. If the accused can show that the allegations against them are false or fabricated, then they may be able to avoid conviction.
  • Mistake of fact — The defense of mistake of fact may also be used to defend against PC 647(b) charges. If the accused can show that they believed they were not engaging in lewd or dissolute behavior, but instead were engaging in lawful behavior, then they may be able to avoid conviction.
  • Insufficient evidence — Another defense is that there is insufficient evidence to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot present sufficient evidence to prove their case, then the accused may be found not guilty.
  • Entrapment — Entrapment is also a defense that may be used to defend against PC 647(b) charges. If the accused can show that they were induced by law enforcement to commit a crime that they would not have otherwise committed, then they may be able to avoid conviction.

How does Senate Bill 233 help Sex Workers?

The passage of Senate Bill 233 (SB 233) protects sex workers in the United States. This bill was passed in 2019 and is the first to protect sex workers from discrimination and potential legal repercussions.

Under SB 233, sex workers are now protected from being charged with crimes related to consensual sex work. This includes activities such as solicitation, engaging in prostitution, and loitering for prostitution. The bill also protects sex workers from discrimination in housing, health care, and other services. It protects these individuals from being evicted or otherwise penalized by landlords or employers because of their status as sex workers.

The bill offers additional protection for sex workers who are victims of violence or exploitation. The bill ensures that sex workers who are victims of a crime are not arrested or charged with any crimes related to their sex work.

Can a Prostitution Conviction be Expunged?

Expungement is available for those who have been convicted of certain misdemeanors and felonies, including prostitution. The process of expungement involves filing a petition with the court and attending a hearing. The court will then review the petition and decide if the expungement is appropriate. If it is, the court will order the record of the conviction to be sealed and removed from the public record.

Certain conditions must be met for prostitution to be eligible for expungement in California. The applicant must have completed their probation and all court-ordered penalties, such as fines and community service. The applicant must also not have any other convictions on their record within the last seven years.

However, not all convictions for prostitution are eligible for expungement. For example, convictions for pimping and pandering are not eligible for expungement in California. Additionally, those who are convicted of multiple prostitution offenses may not be eligible for expungement.

Police Sting Operations Aiming Sex Workers

Police sting operations targeting prostitution often involve undercover officers posing as clients, intending to lure prostitutes into offering sexual services in exchange for money. The operations involve a team of officers working together to identify and apprehend prostitutes and their clients.

The officers may use a variety of tactics to establish contact with the prostitutes, including posing as potential customers or even as members of the media. Once contact has been made, the officers will typically negotiate a price for sexual services, which may range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. Once payment has been agreed upon, the officers will make a “buy-bust” arrest, meaning that they will arrest both the prostitute and the customer for engaging in prostitution.

Related Offenses

Some offenses are often charged together with or along with prostitution. These offenses include:

Human Trafficking

PC 236.1 defines human trafficking as the use of “force, fraud, or coercion” to cause someone to take part in a commercial sex act. It makes it illegal to recruit, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain someone for exploitation.

Under PC 236.1, anyone who is found guilty of human trafficking for prostitution can face up to 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Additionally, anyone convicted of human trafficking for prostitution can be required to register as a sex offender.

In addition to penalizing those who are found guilty of human trafficking, PC 236.1 also protects victims of human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking can seek restitution from those who trafficked them. Additionally, victims can seek protection from law enforcement and the court system, and they can be provided with services to help them recover from their experiences.


California PC 266h criminalizes pimping, which is defined as “causing, inducing, causing, persuading, or encouraging a person to engage in prostitution.” It also prohibits the receipt of money or other consideration for “procuring” someone to become a prostitute.

The law makes it illegal to receive compensation, or anything of value, for arranging a meeting between a prostitute and a customer. It also prohibits a person from deriving any financial benefit from a prostitution venture. This includes living off the avails of prostitution, which is known as “pimping.”

The law applies to any person who is involved in a prostitution venture, whether they are the prostitute, customer, or otherwise. It also applies to those who are not directly involved, such as landlords, drivers, and promoters.

Pimping is a felony, punishable by imprisonment in state prison for up to 3 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The sentence can be increased to up to 6 years if the person charged has a prior conviction for pimping. A prior conviction for pimping will also result in an additional 5 years of probation.


Under Penal Code 266i, it is illegal to directly or indirectly facilitate someone to engage in prostitution. This includes activities such as recruiting, enticing, or inducing someone to become a prostitute. It involves convincing someone to engage in prostitution, or arranging for someone to become a prostitute.

The law also applies to those who provide financial or other support to someone who is engaged in prostitution. This includes providing a place to stay, transportation, or any other type of assistance that helps facilitate prostitution.

The penalties for pandering can be severe. Depending on the circumstances, a person convicted of pandering can face up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, the court may order probation for up to three years. If a person has been convicted of pandering more than once, the penalties may be even more severe.

In addition to criminal penalties, persons convicted of pandering may be subject to civil liability. This means that a person convicted of pandering may be liable for damages to victims of their activities. This could include monetary damages for physical or emotional injuries suffered as a result of the pandering.

Aiding Prostitution

PC 653.23 is the California law that makes it a crime to aid or supervise a prostitute. This law applies to a person who helps another to engage in prostitution, including pimping, pandering, and transporting a person for prostitution.

To be convicted of aiding prostitution, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant aided or supervised another person.
  • Who was engaged in prostitution.
  • Knowing that the other person was engaging in prostitution.

This could include providing transportation, money, or advice to someone engaging in prostitution.

This crime is considered a misdemeanor in California. The potential penalties include imprisonment in county jail for six months, fines of $1,000, and probation. A conviction will also result in a criminal record, which could have serious consequences for the defendant's future, including making it difficult to find a job or housing.

In some cases, the defendant may have a valid defense to the charge. This could include a lack of knowledge that the person was engaging in prostitution or that the defendant was acting under duress.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is a crime of public indecency and can be charged when a person intentionally exposes their genitals in a public or semi-public place. It is an offense regardless of whether or not someone sees the exposure or not. The intent of the act is what is important. The act must have been done willfully and without the consent of the other person.

This crime is often associated with prostitution because it is a common way for people to solicit sex. When a person exposes themselves in public, it is seen as a sign that they are willing to engage in sexual activity. This can be done with or without the expectation of payment. Under PC 314, this offense is charged as a misdemeanor and it carries a potential jail sentence of six months and fines of $1,000. In some cases, police officers may set up a sting operation in which they will use undercover officers to pose as potential customers.

Lewd Conduct

Lewd conduct is defined as engaging in any kind of public sexual activity or any act of open and indecent or obscene behavior. It can include touching someone in a sexual manner in a public place or exposing one's genitals in a public area. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor and the penalties include six months imprisonment in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Lewd conduct is most commonly associated with prostitution, as engaging in any type of public sexual activity for sexual gratification could be considered lewd conduct.

To be convicted for this offense, the prosecution must prove that:

  • The defendant willfully engaged in the touching of his or her own body or another person's body, either directly or through clothing.
  • The touching was done with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify either the defendant or the other person.
  • The touching was done in a public place or an area where other people were present or could have seen the behavior.
  • The act was considered lewd or obscene by the standards of the community.

Enticing a Minor to Prostitution

Penal Code 266 PC makes it a crime to solicit or persuade a minor to engage in prostitution. This offense is also known as “enticing a child to prostitution” or “inducing a minor to engage in prostitution”. Under California Penal Code 266 PC, the crime of enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution consists of four elements, which the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant:

  • The defendant solicited, encouraged, or aided a minor to engage in prostitution activity.
  • The defendant knew that the minor was under the age of 18.
  • The defendant intended to persuade, induce, or encourage the minor to engage in prostitution.
  • The minor was persuaded.

 If a defendant is convicted of enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution, the punishment can include a fine of up to $25,000, a prison sentence of up to three years, and registration as a sex offender.

Annoying or Molesting a Minor

Under California Penal Code 647.6, it is illegal to annoy or molest a minor. This includes behavior such as: making lewd or lascivious comments, making obscene gestures, or exposing one’s genitalia or buttocks in the presence of a minor. Additionally, it is illegal to follow or stalk a minor, or to make contact with a minor with the intent to harm or annoy them.

In order to be convicted of annoying or molesting a minor in California, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person engaged in conduct directed at a minor with the specific intent to annoy or molest them. The prosecutor must also prove that the defendant had knowledge that the minor was present and that the conduct was likely to disturb, frighten, or annoy the minor.

The punishment for annoying or molesting a minor can include up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and/or up to three years of probation. Additionally, a conviction for this offense can have serious collateral consequences, including a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender. In addition to criminal penalties, a person convicted of annoying or molesting a minor can face civil penalties, including civil lawsuits for damages.

Although California law makes it illegal to annoy or molest a minor, note that the law does not criminalize all behavior directed at a minor. Some behavior, such as teasing, may be considered annoying but is not illegal.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Being accused of prostitution, or involvement in related activities such as solicitation, pandering, and pimping can have significant social and legal consequences. However, hiring an experienced sex crime lawyer can make a difference in the outcome of the case. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we can help you navigate the legal system, protect your rights, and explore available legal options for your case. Call us today at 888-666-8480.