American social attitudes toward the so-called “vices” like alcohol, drugs and sex have changed over the years, and in many respects, we’ve taken a more relaxed attitude toward them.

That might lead some to ask: Is prostitution legal anywhere in the State of California?

The answer is no. Prostitution is illegal throughout California. Both engaging in prostitution and soliciting prostitution are classified as “acts of prostitution” under California law. Soliciting and engaging are misdemeanors, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and fines up to $1,000 on your first offense.

How does California law define prostitution?

Under Penal Code 647(b) PC, prostitution is defined as the exchange of money, goods or services for sex or lewd conduct. It’s important to note that the sex or lewd conduct sometimes doesn’t actually need to take place for the act to be considered “complete.”

California law specifically prohibits three kinds of prostitution:

  1. Engaging in an act of prostitution
  2. Soliciting an act of prostitution
  3. Agreeing to an act of prostitution

In other words, (1) it’s illegal to willfully engage in sex or a lewd act (touching the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of another person to arouse or gratify sexually) in exchange for compensation.

It’s also (2) illegal to request that another person engage in act of prostitution. In order to convict someone of solicitation, the prosecution will have to prove that the defendant actually meant to go through with the act. They typically do this by showing evidence of the defendant offering money or other consideration.

Finally, (3) it’s illegal to agree to an act of prostitution. What this means is that if a prosecutor can show that two parties agreed to an act of prostitution ⁠— if money or drugs were exchanged, for example ⁠— they can be convicted of agreeing to an act of prostitution.

Defenses against solicitation charges

It can be stressful to face allegations of soliciting an act of prostitution. It’s a personally and professionally damaging charge, and as we mentioned above, it carries criminal penalties of up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Every situation is different, so your defense will depend on the specific facts and evidence of your case. However, common defenses can include entrapment, lack of trustworthy evidence or insufficient evidence.

An experienced sex crime attorney might also be able to have your charges reduced to a less damaging charge than solicitation of a prostitute. When interviewing attorneys, make sure to ask about the attorney’s history representing prostitution cases and their track record.

Robert M. Helfend is a specialist in sex crimes cases, serving the greater Los Angeles area since 1984. Call today for your free case evaluation – 800-834-6434.