What is California’s Prostitution & Solicitation Laws?

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California continues to crack down on prostitution, with high-profile arrests making the newspaper regularly.

If you’ve been picked up, we understand you might be feeling embarrassed and concerned about your future.

In some situations, a person wasn’t even soliciting prostitution when they got caught up in a police sting.

At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we offer compassionate legal representation to those arrested for prostitution or solicitation.

We can help figure out how to beat a solicitation charge in California, which is why it is important to contact our firm.

We credit our strong grasp of the law for our excellent results, and we have managed to get many charges dismissed or dropped and assisted in figuring out how to fight solicitation charges.

Contact us today. One of our San Diego criminal defense attorneys will be pleased to meet with you.

California’s Prostitution and Solicitation Laws

In 2019, in California, prostitution is not legal. The following information explains why prostitution is not legal in California.

You can find California’s law at California Penal Code 647 (b). This law criminalizes the offer or acceptance of money or other valuable consideration for sexual or lewd conduct.

One important facet of this law is that the sex act (or lewd conduct) does not have to actually take place for Penal Code 647 b to apply.

California’s soliciting and prostitution law criminalizes three things:

  • Engaging in prostitution,
  • Soliciting prostitution, and
  • Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution.

Penalties for Soliciting and Prostitution in California

Solicitation and prostitution are misdemeanors, not felonies.

The exact punishment a defendant faces depends on several factors, such as where the violation occurred and whether this is the defendant’s first offense:

  • First offense: up to 6 months and jail and up to a $1,000 fine
  • Second offense: mandatory 45 days in jail
  • Third offense: mandatory 90 days in jail

A defendant can face additional penalties if arrested while using a car and within 1,000 feet of a residence. In addition to the penalties above, defendants can have their driver’s license suspended for 30 days.

Those convicted of prostitution or solicitation can be required to register as sex offenders, though many are not. Speak about this possibility with your prostitution defense attorney.

Engaging in Prostitution

A person can be arrested for engaging in prostitution for intentionally engaging in sexual intercourse or a lewd act in exchange for compensation, including money.

In short, this means the defendant willingly engaged in the sexual act or did it on purpose. It does not mean that he or she knew that the law was being broken at that moment.

Remember that the lewd act embraces more than sexual intercourse. It can also include touching genitals, buttocks, or female breasts with the intent to become sexually aroused or gratified.

So accepting money to let someone rub your breasts actually counts as engaging in prostitution under Penal Code 647(b).

Soliciting Prostitution

A person can be arrested and convicted of solicitation if he asks another person to engage in an act of prostitution and intended to engage in the act. Intent matters here.

The defendant must have actually intended to go through with the offer, even if he or she did not, in fact, follow through.

The prosecutor can prove intent by showing that the defendant offered money or other consideration or took some other step that manifested intent.

Solicitation can also occur even where the person being propositioned is not a prostitute or is a police officer undercover.

The person propositioned does not have to have any intent to follow through, even if they accept the offer.

Agreeing to Engage in Prostitution

Simply agreeing to have sex for money also is illegal, even if no one goes through with the transaction.

In other words, a transaction does not have to be completed for the police to nab someone for agreeing to engage in prostitution.

A defendant is guilty if:

  • They agreed to engage in prostitution with someone else,
  • They intended to actually engage in the act, or
  • They further the commission of the prostitute by taking some other act beyond the agreement.

The last element is often in dispute. Simply saying “yes” is not enough. Some other act is required. For example:

  • Withdrawing money from an ATM machine,
  • Telling the other person to undress,
  • Taking your clothes off, or
  • Driving to a location to meet the person for sex or other lewd behavior.

Defenses to California Solicitation and Prostitution Charges

With decades of experience, our firm understands the many defenses we can raise to a prostitution or solicitation charge.

For example, if you are under 18, you cannot be found guilty of prostitution.

Instead, prostitution laws in California defines anyone under 18 as a “commercially sexually exploited child.”

In other cases, you might raise the following defenses:

  • Insufficient evidence,
  • Entrapment, and
  • Lack of Intent.

Let’s take a closer look at these.

Insufficient Evidence

The state must prove each case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Often, however, there is doubt about whether you broke the law because the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence about what people said and did.

For example, a defendant might be accused of propositioning a police officer, but there was no recorded statement even though the officer should have been wired.

In this situation, we can’t be sure that the defendant propositioned sex for money or other compensation.


This is a hard defense to prove.

To raise entrapment, a defendant needs to show that the police officer’s conduct would have induced a normal, law-abiding citizen to commit a crime.

In other words, a defendant must show more than that the police created the opportunity to commit a crime.

Some examples of entrapment include:

  • Repeatedly soliciting someone, even after they say “no.”
  • Badgering a person or intimidating them into agreeing to sex
  • Offering an extraordinarily large sum of money
  • Promising that the conduct is not illegal and won’t be uncovered by the police

Everything depends on the circumstances, but a good attorney can use the facts to his or her advantage to argue entrapment.

Lack of Intent

The intent is an element of the offense, and the prosecutor cannot maintain a charge if not intent is shown.

For example, someone might have solicited a prostitute on a dare but have had no intention of going through with it.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Being picked up for prostitution or solicitation can be an unsettling experience. Our California criminal defense attorneys can help.

We are very confident in our abilities, having obtained favorable resolutions for many of our clients.

If you would like more information, or if you have a question you need an answer to, please contact a criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today.

We offer a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.