Success and Impact

CA Law Affirms: There Is No Such Thing As A Child Prostitute

Artwork of a heart on a brick wall

California continued its progress in recognizing children who have been sexually exploited as victims rather than criminals with its passage of Senate Bill 1322, affirming that there is no such thing as a child prostitute.

NCYL was involved in the development of the bill, which was signed into law in 2016 and went into effect in January 2017. The law precludes child victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) from being arrested and charged with prostitution and loitering with intent. Importantly, the passage of law signals the harmful and long-term effects criminalization can have, including further traumatization, disconnection from community and school, and vulnerability to violence.

The approach codified by SB 1322 is supported by recent federal and state laws aimed at recognizing children impacted by exploitation as victims. 

Why is this important?

Until very recent changes in law, up to and including SB 1322, children who were being trafficked were very often arrested and faced criminal prosecution. SB 1322 amended the state Penal Code sections on prostitution to render them inapplicable to people younger than 18, meaning that law enforcement could no longer arrest youth on prostitution charges. 

Instead of sending these young people to the juvenile justice system, youth are now connected to services and supports through the protocols established the CSEC Program, , which was created through SB 855, another NCYL-supported bill passed in 2014 [this text can link to the previous S&I story on SB 855].

The success of SB 1322 formalized a statewide commitment to recognizing young victims of CSE as the victims, rather than as criminals.

The National Center for Youth Law is proud to have led a coalition in supporting and helping to pass SB 1322.