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Is Prostitution Legal in California?
3 Types of Penalties Explained

Prostitution, which is the act of engaging in sexual intercourse or a lewd act with someone else in exchange for money, is still illegal in California, and may be punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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New Protections for Sex Workers in California

In 2019, California passed a harm reduction bill for sex workers known as “SB 233.” This law aims to improve the health and safety of people in the sex trade by:

  1. Ending the practice of using “condoms as evidence” of prostitution.
  2. Giving people the power to report a crime they’ve experienced or witnessed without being arrested or prosecuted for related sex work or misdemeanor drug offenses.

Does SB 233 Decriminalize Sex Work?

No. Solicitation and other sex work-related offenses are still illegal in California and may be punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. SB 233 grants immunity from arrest and prosecution for sex work-related and misdemeanor drug offenses, and prevents police from using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

Prostitution is illegal in the U.S. with the exception of 10 counties in Nevada. In November 2009, Rhode Island closed a legal loophole that had allowed indoor prostitution to exist since 1980.

What’s the Difference Between Solicitation and Prostitution?

Solicitation refers to the act of offering something of value in exchange for a sexual or lewd favor. Meanwhile, prostitution is the act of providing sexual or lewd favors in exchange for something of value, most often money.

What is the Penalty for Paying for Sex in California?

Agreeing to engage in prostitution is a misdemeanor offense in California. Possible penalties that you may face if you are convicted include:

  • Up to 6 months of jail time
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Additional jail time if you are a repeat offender

How to Beat a Prostitution Charge

If you are facing charges of prostitution or solicitation, you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to fight the charges and achieve the best possible outcome. A knowledgeable lawyer will review the details of your case, and decide the best strategy to help you to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Potential defense strategies include:

  • A mistake of the fact of the circumstances surrounding the charge
  • A lack of pertinent evidence to make a conviction
  • Insufficient evidence to make a conviction
  • Entrapment

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