Another Bad Sex Worker Bill on the Horizon

150209_SenBatesOfficialPortraitMIf FOSTA hasn’t been enough to make those in the various sex worker industries collective heads spin, now you can add California Senate Bill 1204 to the mix. This bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Patricia Bates, from ultra-conservative San Diego and Orange County California is aimed at broadening the definition of “pandering” within the State of California.

Why Senator Bates needed to expand on the definition of pandering is anyone’s guess, but here is what she had to say about SB 1204 on her website;

“Defines pandering (as it relates to human trafficking) as arranging, causing, encouraging, including, persuading, or procuring another person to be a prostitute, with the intent that the other person engage in an act of prosecution. Essentially, this measure simplifies the pandering theories that prosecutors use in human trafficking cases to prosecute criminals.”

I have added the bold so you can see that Senator Bates wants to make it easier for prosecutors to charge and jail human traffickers. Of course no one likes human traffickers and everyone believes that they should be imprisoned for trafficking. However, the more broad a law’s wording is the more likely that the law will ensnare those that are not targeted by the law. Here is what Senate Bill 1204 would define pandering as;

A person who arranges, causes, encourages, induces, persuades, or procures another person to be a prostitute, with the intent that the other person engage in an act of prostitution, is guilty of pandering, a felony, and shall be punished as provided in subdivision (b).

As a lawyer, my biggest issue with this language is that it requires a court’s interpretation to really understand. It is not clear on its face, which makes it possibly unconstitutional. What does “encourages” mean? If I say to my friend “hey you would make a great prostitute!” – have I just encouraged that person to be a prostitute and therefore I am guilty of the crime of pandering ? What about my free speech rights ? What if my friend who is a prostitute says, “gee I wish I could see a client today because I really need to feed my child/pay my rent but I cannot afford condoms” and I give that person condoms, have I encouraged the act of prostitution ? What if I as a lawyer – give advice to a prostitute, not related to the act of prostitution, have I just committed pandering ? As you can see, words matter. And this bill is very badly worded.

Therefore, I would encourage you to contact Senator Patricia Bates office and encourage her to kill her own bill.

Link to Senator Bates —

Link to SB 1204 —

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