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House of Prostitution

Penal Code 315 PC - Keeping or Living in a House of Prostitution

California Penal Code 315 PC makes it a crime for people to maintain or live in a house prostitution, a misdemeanor crime that carries penalties of up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Keeping a house of prostitution is also called a house of ill fame and a house of ill repute. Simply put. It's illegal to “keep” a house of prostitution, meaning allowing, managing, or operating a business where prostitutes are working.

This includes a brothel, strip club, massage parlor, motel, or even a private residence when you know about illegal sexual activity. California Penal Code 647(b) PC prostitution is defined as sexual services in exchange for compensation or other benefits.

Penal Code 315 PC - Keeping or Living in a House of Prostitution in California
PC 315 makes it a crime for people to live in or maintain a brothel for the purpose of prostitution.

This means that not only acts of prostitution are illegal, but also the facilities that are designated for these activities. PC 315 makes it a crime for someone either to keep a house of prostitution or to live in one willfully.  

The “house” in the context of this law is any location where prostitution activity regularly occurs. To “keep a house of prostitution” means to operate or manage a regular prostitution business. Sometimes, a working prostitute is also the person responsible for running a house of prostitution at the same time.

PC 315 says, “Every person who keeps a house of ill-fame in this state, resorted to for the purposes of prostitution or lewdness, or who willfully resides in such house, is guilty of a misdemeanor; and in all prosecutions for keeping or resorting to such a house common repute may be received as competent evidence of the character of the house, the purpose for which it is kept or used, and the character of the women inhabiting or resorting to it.”

A prostitute is typically a female who engages in sexual intercourse or any lewd act with someone in exchange for money or other forms of compensation.  Lewd acts are defined as physical contact of the genitals, buttocks, or female breasts by the customer (John) for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

What is the “House of Prostitution” Law? 

Penal Code 315 PC makes it a misdemeanor offense to do any of the following: 

  • Keep, own, manage, or maintain a house where regular prostitution occurs.
  • Willfully reside in a house when you know it's a house of prostitution.

Under the law, a house of prostitution is any premise where sexual services are exchanged for money or other type of compensation. The statute targets not just people directly engaged in prostitution but also anyone who facilitates or profits from it.

Notably, to be arrested and convicted of violating Penal Code 315 PC by keeping a house of prostitution, you do not have to participate in prostitution or profit from it.  Suppose you live in a brothel when you know it's being regularly used for prostitution. In that case, that would be sufficient for a conviction.

The broad term "house of prostitution" means prosecutors have a low burden of proof showing premises are used for prostitution. Prosecution often stems from the character of the house (ill-fame) and the purpose for which it is kept. Simply put, the “house” is typically known by the community as a brothel, which can be used as evidence in court.

What Factors Must Be Proven for a Conviction? 

To convict you of PC 315, prosecutors must be able to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:

  • The place in question was being used for regular prostitution activity.
  • You maintained or managed the premises as a house of prostitution or
  • You willfully lived in the place knowing about the prostitution activity.
  • You must have been aware that the premises were used for prostitution.

Suppose you rent a home with several rooms and are known as a "madam" who manages a group of prostitutes living there. In that case, you could be convicted under Penal Code 315, keeping a house of prostitution law. 

Suppose you own the same home above, knowing that the renter is using it for regular prostitution activity. In that case, you could also be convicted of violating PC 315, even if you only collect the rent from the occupant.

What Is the PC 315 Penalties? 

Penal Code 315 PC keeping a house of prostitution is a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:  

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • A second offense carries a minimum of 45 days in county jail.
  • A third or subsequent carries a minimum of 90 days in jail.
  • Summary probation.

Sometimes, the judge will order misdemeanor summary probation only rather than jail time. The terms and conditions of probation typically include the following:

  • Community service,
  • Work release,
  • Electronic monitoring,
  • House arrest,
  • Educational programs,
  • Counseling,
  • Periodic check-ins with the court,
  • Restraining orders prohibiting you from going to the place where the prostitution occurred. 

A massage therapist who is convicted of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame might lose their therapist license or business license. Non-citizen aliens might suffer negative immigration consequences, such as deportation from the United States, denial of re-entry, loss of work visa, or loss of permanent residence status.

Further, California's “Red Light Abatement Law” allows for special penalties if you are convicted of keeping a house of prostitutes, such as an injunction against conducting business in the place where the prostitution occurred and forced sale of the business by the government.

What is the PC 315 Defenses?

Suppose you are accused of violating Penal Code 315. In that case, our California sex crime attorneys can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome on the case, such as the following:

  • Lack of knowledge.
  • Lack of intent.
  • Mistake of fact.
  • Insufficient evidence.
  • False accusation.

Perhaps we can argue that you were unaware that the premises were being used for prostitution and can't be held criminally liable.

Maybe we can argue there was no intent to keep or allow the premises to be used for prostitution. Perhaps you rented the property not knowing it was being used as a brothel but took steps to prevent it after the discovery of illegal activity. Maybe we can argue that you reasonably believed the premises were used for legitimate purposes.

Keeping a House of Prostitution Defenses

Perhaps we can argue there was police misconduct or Miranda violations. If any evidence was gathered by illegal searches or seizures, coerced confessions, or there was a confession after your Miranda rights were violated, then it could be suppressed and not used against you. 

Perhaps we can argue there was police entrapment, which occurs when the police encourage or promote a crime using overbearing conduct. Maybe we can say the police officer enticed you to act as a prostitute during a massage.

Perhaps the police officer used coercion, harassment, or flattery to persuade you to commit a crime you would have otherwise not committed. Maybe they used repeated requests until you complied.

The conduct of the police officers is the focus of an entrapment defense. Perhaps their conduct would cause an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to commit a crime. If the entrapment argument succeeds, the evidence gathered can't be used against you.

Perhaps we can argue the statute of limitations expired, which is the amount of time prosecutors have to file criminal charges against you. Since Penal Code 315 PC is a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the incident. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA. 

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