Is Patronizing a Prostitute a Crime in California?

January 15, 2023 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in California  Criminal Defense  
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Penal Code 653.22

Patronizing prostitution is a crime that can be committed any time someone is paid to do something sexual. Patronizing a prostitute means giving her something of value, even if it’s not cash. If you agreed to pay for a sexual act that didn’t happen, but there was an explicit transaction or deal, you could be charged with patronizing prostitution.

Accusations of prostitution patronage or solicitation may be humiliating and socially damaging. You should contact a criminal defense attorney following your arrest to protect your reputation and future from the potentially devastating effects of a charge like this. Patronizing prostitution charges are often the result of simple misunderstandings or law police entrapment; thus, contacting an attorney as soon as possible should be your first concern. Whether or not money was exchanged, you have the right to stay silent and calmly await the arrival of your attorney.

What is Against the Law under California Penal Code 647(b)(1)–(3), Soliciting Prostitution?

Under CPC 647(b)(1)-(3), to be guilty of Soliciting prostitution, you must:

  • Ask someone else to do prostitution;
  • Mean to engage in prostitution;
  • Make a request that the other person accepts.

To find you guilty under CPC 647(b)(1)-(3)[1], the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Requested, solicited, or agreed: You asked, suggested, or agreed with another person to do an act of prostitution;
  2. Intent: You wanted to engage in prostitution with the other party;
  3. Received the communication: The other person got the message with the request, suggestion, or agreement.


A violation of this law constitutes a misdemeanor, sentenced by up to six months in County Jail. You would be obliged to serve fifty percent of that time. However, if you have a previous conviction under PC 647(b), the maximum sentence stays the same, but you must spend a minimum of 45 days in jail. If this is your third conviction, you must spend a minimum of 90 days in County Jail and a maximum of six months.

In addition, most California courts require you to complete an HIV Testing and AIDS Education Program filed with the court. Additionally, suppose the location you frequent is renowned for prostitution, and police sting operations are conducted there. In that case, you may be prohibited from entering that area at any time, which may be troublesome if you work or live nearby. This is not a sex crime defined by PC 290; hence you will not be forced to register as a Sex Offender unless unusual and extreme circumstances as determined by a judge apply.

However, if convicted under 647(b)(3) (solicitation involving a minor), you may be subject to the following penalties:

  • Minimum of two days and maximum of one (1) year in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $10,000; OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment; OR, Both a fine and imprisonment.

Are accusations under PC 647b subject to legal defenses?

In solicitation and prosecution proceedings, defendants may raise a legal defense to refute accusations. The following three typical defenses are offered by those accused:

Insufficient evidence

Insufficient evidence indicates that a prosecutor only has some of the proof required to prosecute someone for soliciting or prostitution. A jury will only have a reasonable doubt that an accused person committed a crime if enough evidence supports it.


Entrapment refers to a situation in which the police coerce a suspect into committing a crime. When a defendant is accused of prostitution or solicitation following an undercover operation, entrapment is often raised as a defense. The defense is effective as long as the accused demonstrates that the PC 647b infraction was only due to the undercover police officer’s entrapment.

False accusations

Unfortunately, individuals are often wrongfully charged under this law. Someone may falsely accuse someone else of soliciting or engaging in prostitution out of envy or retaliation. Nevertheless, a defendant may argue that they were unfairly held responsible, regardless of the cause.

It may not be evident what the defendant was truly consenting to due to a language barrier, cognitive impairment, or other condition that prevents the parties from communicating clearly.

Similar Offenses

The offenses listed below are categorized as “related” because they are commonly prosecuted under California Penal Code sections 647(b)(1)-(3) or share components that the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
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  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
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  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
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  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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