Under California Penal Code 266h PC, it is a crime to receive revenue from another person’s work as a prostitute, an offense commonly known as “pimping.” If you receive money from a prostitute, manage a brothel, use a prostitute’s money to pay your rent, or otherwise benefit monetarily from another person’s prostitution, you could find yourself facing felony charges. 

Another felony offense that is closely related to pimping is pandering. Under California Penal Code 266i PC, it is illegal to persuade or influence another person to become or remain a prostitute. Whether it’s through threats of violence, trickery, bribery, or other methods, encouraging another person’s prostitution is a serious crime that could land you time in California state prison. 

If you are facing charges of pimping, pandering, or another similar crime like human trafficking, there’s a lot you need to know about the penalties you may be facing and the legal defense options that are available to you. Only a qualified criminal defense attorney can answer all of your questions and build the right defensive strategy based on the details of your case. 

How are pimping and pandering defined in California?

Since pimping and pandering and both crimes involving prostitution, it is first helpful to understand how prostitution in defined by California state law. Under Penal Code 647b PC, a prostitute is defined as a person who engages in sexual intercourse or any physical contact of the genitals, buttocks or female breast (otherwise known as a “lewd act”) in exchange for money or other compensation. 

In California, criminal offenses are defined by the things that a prosecutor must prove in order to secure a conviction. These are known as “elements” of the crime. Below are the elements that must be proven to be present in a case in order for a defendant to be found guilty of either pimping or pandering. 

Pimping – Penal Code 266h PC

In order for a prosecutor to convict someone of pimping, the following must be proven:

  1. The defendant had knowledge that another person was a prostitute
  2. At least one of the following was true:
  • The defendant received financial support from the money that was earned by the prostitute
  • The defendant received money from the prostitute in exchange for soliciting customers
  • The defendant received financial support from money that was lent to the prostitute by the owner of a brother or other house of prostitution

Pandering – Penal Code 266i PC

In order for a prosecutor to convict someone of pandering, the following must be proven:

  1. The defendant specifically intended to influence another person to become or remain a prostitute.
  2. The defendant demonstrated that intent in any of the following ways:
  • By persuading someone to be a prostitute
  • By receiving or giving monetary compensation for someone to become a prostitute
  • By use of threats, promises, or violence 
  • By use of trickery or fraud

California penalties for pimping and pandering

In California, pimping and pandering are both felonies. Because they are separate offenses, each carries its own set of penalties. They do, however share some similar potential punishments and legal repercussions.


A violation of Penal Code 266h PC, or pimping, is punishable by:

  • Up to 6 years in California state prison, OR
  • Felony probation, OR
  • Up to 8 years in state prison and mandatory registration as a California sex offender if convicted of pimping a person under 18 years of age


A violation of Penal Code 266i PC, or pandering, is punishable by:

  • Up to 6 years in California state prison, OR
  • Felony probation, AND/OR
  • A fine of up to $10,000, OR
  • Up to 8 years in state prison and mandatory registration as a California sex offender if convicted of pandering a person under 18 years of age

Immigration consequences

Both pimping and pandering can have a negative impact on immigration circumstances. Some possible consequences for convicted non-citizens include:

  • Deportation
  • Being marked “inadmissible.”

Gun rights

In California, convicted felons are not permitted to acquire or possess a firearm. Therefore, a pimping or pandering conviction will cause the defendant to lose his or her gun rights

If you’ve been accused of pimping or pandering, there are a number of legal strategies that your attorney might use in your defense. Below are some of the most common legal defenses against pimping and/or pandering charges. 

  1. False accusation

False accusation is one of the most common legal defenses against pimping and pandering, especially in cases where the defendant was in a romantic relationship with a prostitute. It is not uncommon for a prostitute to falsely accuse a defendant of pimping or pandering out of jealousy, revenge, or other reasons. 

  1. Entrapment

Law enforcement officers often make pimping and pandering arrests during undercover sting operations. But there are times when an officer illegally “lures” a suspect or gets them to commit a crime that they otherwise wouldn’t have committed, which is known as entrapment. If an officer used threats, harassment, pressure, or fraud to get you to commit pimping or pandering, then an entrapment defense may be appropriate for your case. 

  1. No knowledge

One of the “elements” of the crime of pimping is the defendant’s knowledge that the person they were receiving money from was a prostitute. If you can prove that you did not have such knowledge, you cannot be convicted of violating Penal Code 266h PC.

  1. No specific intent

In order to convict someone for pandering, a prosecutor must prove that they had the specific intent to encourage someone to become or remain a prostitute. If someone became a prostitute because of something you did or said but you can prove that it was not your intent for them to do so, you may not be found guilty of pandering.  

Getting pimping or pandering charges expunged

A defendant who is convicted of pimping or pandering may be eligible to have their charges expunged. According to California Penal Code 1203.4, expungement releases the convicted person from the penalties and disabilities incurred. If you are convicted of either crime you will be entitled to expungement when you successfully complete your ordered prison sentence or probation term. 

There are several other California offenses related to pimping and pandering that share certain common elements. Below are 3 such related crimes a person may be charged with instead of Penal Code 266h PC or Penal Code 266i PC depending on the facts of their case. 

Supervising or aiding a prostitute – PC 653.23

On the surface, supervising or assisting a prostitute may seem very similar to pimping. The important distinction is that pimping deals more specifically with the receipt of money from another person engaging in prostitution. A person may be charged instead with violating PC 653.23 if they supervised or aided a prostitute but did not financially benefit from their proceeds. 

Human trafficking – PC 236.1

Human trafficking is considered to be a much more serious crime than pimping and carries much harsher penalties. It is defined as:

  1. Depriving another person of their freedom with the intent to obtain labor from them, for commercial sexual activity or exploitation, or to violate other related California laws, and/or
  2. Persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act 

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272

While pandering is defined by the specific intent to persuade another person to engage in prostitution, PC 272 is an offense in which, often times, the delinquency of a minor is a direct result of the defendant’s failure to act. If a minor becomes a habitual truant, a juvenile delinquent, or a dependent of the juvenile court system because of something you did or failed to do, you could be charged with violating PC 272. 

If you or someone you know has been charged with pimping, pandering, or a related crime, it is important that you seek strong legal counsel as soon as possible. As a California criminal defense attorney with over 30 years of experience representing clients, I am confident that I can answer all of your questions and create the best defensive strategy for your specific case. Regardless of the severity of your charges, there is no reason you should face them alone. Call my office today for your free consultation – 800-834-6434.