No, California Did Not Legalize Child Prostitution

(TFC) – What’s a New Year’s weekend like without a popular lie circling the internet? I ask because it doesn’t appear we’ll ever see a day like that again. Especially with sensationalist partisan rags like the Washington Examiner producing partisan garbage like their most recent: “California Democrats legalize child prostitution”. With cursory research, one finds that couldn’t be much further from the truth.

The article starts out with a line straight out of Fearmongering for Dummies, and states, “Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right.” Unfortunately, that’s also wrong. The relevant text of the bill (SB 1322) states:

Section 647 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
647. Except as provided in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) and subdivision (l), every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:
(a) Who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.
(b) (1) 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. No agreement to engage in an act of prostitution shall constitute a violation of this subdivision unless some act, in addition to the agreement, is done within this state in furtherance of the commission of an act of prostitution by the person agreeing to engage in that act. As used in this subdivision, “prostitution” includes any lewd act between persons for money or other consideration.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), 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.

This essentially means that children would most likely be subject to protective custody, rather than going to jail. This bill is relatively straightforward, compared to many others. “Protective custody” is already a legal term, replete with legal requirements well-established in existing case law, so it’s doubtful they’ll change much, if any, of the way it’s applied, because of this particular bill. Protective custody probably means several things in this context, two possible approaches including:

  1. Children who came into prostitution voluntarily will be sent back to parents.
  2. Children who were abducted will also be sent back to their parents, but with mental and/or physical health screenings, and care if need be.

A case-by-case basis should be expected. An LATimes article written before the bill passed in the senate states:

SB 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also would allow law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.
The measure passed Thursday with a 42-29 vote. It was one of two bills heard Thursday seeking to decriminalize prostitution.

I’ll give them that this could be a simple misunderstanding of terms. They consistently used the term “legalized” when what the bill actually did was decriminalize it. Where prostitution is legal, there are certain requirements – Nevada, for instance, only has eight licensed brothels, meaning you can’t just find someone on a street corner. These people have been approved, and have permits to perform their professional duties. They must test negative for HIV, and can only legally do their job in a licensed brothel. Doing it anywhere else, or while carrying HIV, is a felony, one which carries penalties.

California has no such measures in place. Nowhere in the bill does it reference minimum legal requirements to have sex with a child. In fact, it delineates a host of penalties associated with even approaching performance of such an act. All the bill does is prevent victims of sex trafficking from also going to jail. Apparently, for some, this is not a change for the better. Kid’s life isn’t already bad enough – they should also be locked up with a lot of truly terrible people. Teach em a lesson. Well, this prohibition, in the opinion of the bill’s supporters, does more harm than good. A press release for the bill states boldly “‘There is no such thing as a child prostitute… Sex trafficked minors will no longer be charged with prostitution. Instead of being treated as criminals, youths to get supervision and counseling services'”

Sad state journalism is in now. Instead of looking the facts in the eye, bias blinds many writers, preventing them from seeing clearly, including cited facts in their piece, or even being consistent in their own writing. This is true in the Washington Examiner piece. At no less than paragraph three, the author states, in no uncertain terms:

Pimping and pandering will still be against the law whether it involves running adult women or young girls.

So is it “legalized”, or is it against the law? Most people will never know, because even if they get past the headline before hitting share, they’ll hit that wall in the middle, and have to decide whether the author’s clear anti-left bias is something they’re willing to entertain or not, and given that it’s a decidedly partisan rag, and their audience largely also partisan, the likely answer to that decision is “yes”.

A message to anyone reading this: let’s do better in 2017. This kind of reporting is a direct product of what we encourage, and we can encourage much better content. Vote with your clicks, and avoid sharing yellow journalism today. Focus your activism on areas where it matters, and keep focused. Things like this only serve to tug at your heartstrings, and only get funding and support when people don’t look at them for the hack pieces they are. It’s time to be the generation of truth.

If we aren’t, things can’t get any better, and that actually is terrifying.