Penal Code § 653.23(a)(1) is best known as the misdemeanor version of pimping or pandering. It prohibits a person from doing “either of the following: (1) Direct, supervise, recruit, or otherwise aid another person in the commission of a violation of subdivision (b) of Section 647 or subdivision (a) of Section 653.22. (2) Collect or receive all or part of the proceeds earned from an act or acts of prostitution committed by another person in violation of subdivision (b) of Section 647.”
The Reader’s Digest Version: Penal Code § 653.23(a)(1) is the misdemeanor version of pimping and pandering with a maximum county jail sentence of six months and / or a fine of $1,000, plus penalties and assessments.
For the reader who may not be familiar with the code sections mentioned, above, Penal Code § 647(b) is solicitation of prostitution and 653.22(a) is loitering for purposes of prostitution (Senate Bill (SB) 357, effective in July 2022, repealed Penal Code § 653.22, loitering for purposes of prostitution).
In other words, it criminalizes supervising or otherwise aiding a prostitute. This can be as simple as acting as a lookout while a prostitute engages in a “car date” to alert the prostitute of police in the area, to actively soliciting customers for a prostitute, or acting like a boss to the prostitutes that may be soliciting customers within a bar or massage parlor.
The code section states “(b) Among the circumstances that may be considered in determining whether a person is in violation of subdivision (a) are that the person does the following:
(1) Repeatedly speaks or communicates with another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(2) Repeatedly or continuously monitors or watches another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(3) Repeatedly engages or attempts to engage in conversation with pedestrians or motorists to solicit, arrange, or facilitate an act of prostitution between the pedestrians or motorists and another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(4) Repeatedly stops or attempts to stop pedestrians or motorists to solicit, arrange, or facilitate an act of prostitution between pedestrians or motorists and another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(5) Circles an area in a motor vehicle and repeatedly beckons to, contacts, or attempts to contact or stop pedestrians or other motorists to solicit, arrange, or facilitate an act of prostitution between the pedestrians or motorists and another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(6) Receives or appears to receive money from another person who is acting in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(7) Engages in any of the behavior described in paragraphs (1) to (6), inclusive, in regard to or on behalf of two or more persons who are in violation of subdivision (a) of Section 653.22.
(8) Has been convicted of violating this section, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647, subdivision (a) of Section 653.22, Section 266h, or 266i, or any other offense relating to or involving prostitution within five years of the arrest under this section.
(9) Has engaged, within six months prior to the arrest under subdivision (a), in any behavior described in this subdivision, with the exception of paragraph (8), or in any other behavior indicative of prostitution activity.”
The defenses to this crime are most commonly, lack of intent, but this is undermined quite often by the defendant’s “repeated” conduct as the code section requires. Entrapment can also be claimed, but it has rather difficult requirements to prove.
The punishment for violation of Penal Code § 653.23(a)(1) is a maximum of six months in county jail and / or a $1,000 fine, plus penalties and assessments (which can boost the total owed to over $4,200).
Probation is certainly permitted, depending upon the facts, and most likely would include an obligation to attend an AIDS education and awareness class and perform community service. Most importantly, one would expect probation to include an obligation to stay away from a certain area commonly known as an area where prostitutes congregate and perhaps where defendant was arrested.
Pimping, in contrast (defined at Penal Code § 266h(a)), is proven by the prosecution showing:
1 The defendant knew that another person was a prostitute, and
2 That defendant lived or derived support or maintenance in whole or in part from the earnings or proceeds of the other person’s prostitution, or from money loaned or advanced to or charged against that other person by any keeper or manager or inmate of a house or other place where prostitution is practiced or allowed or that defendant solicited or received compensation for soliciting customers for the prostitution services of the other person.
The punishment for pimping is three, four or six years in state prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
Pandering, defined at Penal Code § 266i, involves encouraging or persuading a person to become a prostitute or continue working as a prostitute. Defendant may encourage or persuade someone to become or continue working as a prostitute through promises, threats, intimidation, violence or other forceful and/or fraudulent methods (for example “this is a movie audition”). Pandering can also include recruiting a person to go work at a hotel known for having prostitutes available or transportation of a prostitute to a customer.
Pandering also includes finding a person a job in a house of prostitution (yes, these still exist, but are more discreet nowadays). It may also include helping someone come into California, often from outside the United States, to work here as a prostitute. When this happens, the federal government may be interested in prosecution as well.
The punishment for pandering is the same as for pimping.
For more information about prostitution, pimping and pandering, please click on the following articles: