You may have noticed over the past few years and months that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has been working hard to crack down on illegal massage parlors and prostitution in general, mostly through the use of undercover agents. Local law enforcement also use what are called “POP” (Problem Orientated Policing) teams who speak to local community members, get an idea as to what crimes the citizens in that geographic area are concerned about, and then act on them. Early this year, Sacramento POP teams identified illegal prostitution as one of those issues.
Prostitution is a California sex crime about which there is still great debate. On the one hand, there are those who work in the business, deem it their right to use their bodies any way they wish, and find the practice empowering. On the other hand, there are those persons who argue that allowing such a practice to continue, even legally, is unequivocally immoral. Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on ideologically, prostitution remains illegal in the state of California.
According to California Penal Code 647(b), prostitution is very simply defined, the exchange of money for goods and/or services of a sexual nature. This law prohibits 2 things: 1) actually engaging in prostitution and 2) merely offering or agreeing to engage in prostitution. Penalties for prostitution are not particularly harsh; it is considered a misdemeanor. If you have been arrested on a first-offense prostitution charge, you will likely spend no more than 6 months in county jail and be subject to a fine of $1,000. However, it is also useful to remember that it is very difficult to prove that there was either an agreement to exchange money for sexual services or that money was actually exchanged. This is, perhaps, why the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has relied so heavily on undercover operations in the past, and will likely continue to do so.