Is It Legal To Be an Escort in San Diego?

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Escorts and prostitutes—undoubtedly you’ve heard both terms. Many use these labels interchangeably, but they are not the same. Prostitution is illegal, but it is not illegal to act as an escort. It is essential to understand the two and what sets each of them apart.

What’s the Difference Between an Escort and a Prostitute?

While some may think that escorts and prostitutes are the same, certain details differentiate the two.

California defines prostitution as “engaging in sexual intercourse or any lewd act with another person in exchange for money or other consideration.” A prostitute profits from performing sexual acts. Prostitutes are not paid only in money but can also be paid in anything of value. It is illegal to engage in prostitution or to solicit a prostitute. 

On the other hand, escorting is not illegal, though it is highly regulated. Escorts serve as companionship or entertainment. A legal escort does not engage in sexual behavior or acts. One of the most significant distinctions between escorts and prostitutes is that escorts, or their employers, must obtain an escort license. Escorts who work as nude entertainers must obtain a special escort license.

While there can be some gray areas between escorts and prostitutes, there are significant differences between them.

Escorting Without a License

Escorts must apply to obtain a special license. Once they have this license, the city will keep a close eye on the escort’s activities, making sure those activities do not border on prostitute-like behavior. Escorts or their employers holding escort licenses are required to keep a register to maintain their licenses. This register includes:

  • Their customers’ real information;
  • The information of all working escorts; and
  • The employee escort’s work hours.

Escorts also have to follow laws set forth by the State of California. Failure to comply can result in a misdemeanor charge and up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

How to Beat a Charge

If you are a working escort in San Diego with a valid license and are in compliance with all laws, you cannot be charged with any crimes. However, it is important to remember not to engage in any behavior or acts that can be construed as prostitution.

If you have been charged with prostitution or have violated state laws regulating escorts, you may have some defenses. These defenses include:

  • You were falsely accused;
  • There was no sexual act;
  • There was sex only after there was no escort agreement; or
  • Evidence was obtained illegally. 

If you are an escort who has been wrongfully charged with a crime, you must contact a San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will know precisely how to handle your case to get you the best possible outcome.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested on suspicion of prostitution or failure to comply with escort laws, you need the help of a knowledgeable and experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney. No one knows and understands these laws and regulations better than a criminal attorney. 

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, has extensive experience handling even the most difficult criminal cases. Additionally, attorney Kerry L. Armstrong is a criminal law specialist certified by the State Bar of California.  We are always willing to go the extra mile for our clients and never back down from a challenge.

Our team is a highly decorated group of passionate and dedicated attorneys ready to help you fight for your rights and future. We offer free and confidential case evaluations. Contact us today, and let’s discuss your case.

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.

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