Did California Just “Legalize” Underage Prostitution?

In September of 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB1322, the Commercial Sex Acts: Minors law and was scheduled to go into effect on January 1st. 2017.  Somehow, this was widely ignored by the public until late December of 2016.  Right wing media has had a field day with this law, saying that California just legalized underage prostitution, and left wing media has defended the law.  The facts are, both sides have a valid argument.

Let’s start with the basic text of SB1322.

Anyone “who solicits or who agrees to engage in or who engages in any act of prostitution. A person agrees to engage in an act of prostitution when, with specific intent to so engage, he or she manifests an  acceptance of an offer or solicitation to so engage, regardless of whether the offer or solicitation was made by a person who also possessed the specific intent to engage in prostitution.”  However, “this subdivision does not apply to a child under 18 years of age who is alleged to have engaged in conduct to receive money or other consideration that would, if committed by an adult, violate this subdivision. A commercially exploited child under this paragraph may be adjudged a dependent child of the court pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and may be taken into temporary custody pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 305 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, if the conditions allowing temporary custody without warrant are met.”

Read the full text of the law HERE

To put it more plainly, the law has been set up so the victims of child sex trafficking, which is big business for illegals and Mexican cartels, will no longer be arrested or prosecuted as a prostitute.  Instead, they will be taken into custody by the police, under the authority of section 305 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Section 305 of the Welfare and Institutions Code reads:

“Any peace officer may, without a warrant, take into temporary custody a minor:

(a) When the officer has reasonable cause for believing that the minor is a person described in Section 300, and, in addition, that the minor has an immediate need for medical care, or the minor is in immediate danger of physical or sexual abuse, or the physical environment or the fact that the child is left unattended poses an immediate threat to the child’s health or safety. In cases in which the child is left unattended, the peace officer shall first attempt to contact the child’s parent or guardian to determine if the parent or guardian is able to assume custody of the child. If the parent or guardian cannot be contacted, the peace officer shall notify a social worker in the county welfare department to assume custody of the child.”

Read the full text of section 305 HERE

While the possibility of ending up in state custody, orphanage or a foster home doesn’t sound incredibly pleasing to most, a child that has been kidnapped and forced into prostitution may think it’s paradise.  Any way you put it, SB1322 and section 305 of the Welfare and Institutions Code gets the child off the street and out of the hands of the trafficker or pimp.  Added to that, by passing SB1322, a trafficked minor who would have been charged and probably convicted of prostitution previously, will now not have the burden of having that charge and/or conviction on their criminal record.  Those are the facts about SB1322.

So did California “legalize” child prostitution?  Well, sort of.  While prostitution is still illegal in California, SB1322 recognizes that a child that is forced into prostitution should not be charged or convicted for it.  However, the John and pimp will be.  On the other hand, if a minor can not be arrested for prostitution, in a way, one could say that the state “legalized” it.

Saying that California “legalized” underage prostitution, paints a picture of it now being legal to put a child/minor on the street with the intent of selling them for sex, and that’s just not the case.  That is still 100% illegal, arrestable and punishable.

Could there be unforeseen side effects to this law?  Sure.  It does nothing to stop child trafficking or prostitution.  Even if it did, criminals do not follow laws, so it would do virtually nothing to stop those things anyway.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) wrote an op-ed of the “unintended but predictable consequence of how the real villains — pimps and other traffickers in human misery — will respond to this new law.” He says that while “pimping and pandering will still be against the law,” SB 1332 “will only incentivize the increased exploitation of underage girls.”  Allen goes on to state, “Unfortunately, the reality is that the legalization of underage prostitution suffers from the fatal defect endemic to progressive-left policymaking: it ignores experience, common sense and most of all human nature — especially its darker side.”

However, Allen also says he is in favor of having police officers take child prostitutes into custody, in order to help these young victims escape their abusive “pimps.”  He also writes, “minors involved in prostitution are clearly victims, and allowing our law enforcement officers to pick these minors up and get them away from their pimps and into custody is a dramatically better solution than making it legal for them to sell themselves for sex.”  This is under the assumption that there are minors out there willingly prostituting themselves out, which, because it has been decriminalized, could happen.  Remember, SB1322 covers all minors, this even means 17-year-olds.  Kids as young as 12 and 13 years old are in gangs these days, so the possibility exists that a 16 or 17-year-old girl could sell themselves for sex.

This article is not here to convince you that SB1322 is good or bad, it is strictly to give you the facts of the law and the possible side effects, so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

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