Prostitution is prosecuted under Penal Code 647(b), which has two subsections. The first subsection, which falls under 647(b)(1), applies to “an individual who solicits, or who agrees to engage in, any act of prostitution with the intent to receive compensation, money, or anything of value from another person.” This subsection applies to the person who receives the compensation, specifically, the prostitute. The second subsection, which falls under 647(b)(2), applies to “an individual who solicits, or who agrees to engage in, or who engages in, any act of prostitution with another person who is 18 years of age or older in exchange for the individual providing compensation, money, or anything of value to the other person.” This subsection, in other words, applies to the customer (or “john”, as male customers are commonly referred to). Both sections are misdemeanors and carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine. Most first time offenders under either subsection who meet certain requirements can enter a post-plea diversionary program, whereby after entering a plea, they have to attend a class or classes, typically complete a test for the presence of HIV antibodies, AIDS Education, stay away from the location of arrest, and not pick up any new arrests for the year following their plea. If these conditions are followed, the defendant will be allowed to withdraw their plea at the end of the year, and may even be allowed to have the record of their arrest sealed. Prostitution cases are heavily impacted in plea negotiations by whether or not there is an audio recording of the conversation between the defendant and the undercover officer posing as a prostitute. First time offenders whose plea may result in adverse immigration consequences may also be allowed to plea to a lesser charge, such as trespass or disturbing the peace, although this is not always the case.

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