A misleading column about a new state law by an Orange County lawmaker has sparked inaccurate online reports taking off on Facebook.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner under the headline “California Democrats legalize child prostitution,” which has been cut and pasted by a variety of partisan websites as the basis for their false claims.
Allen is referring to Senate Bill 1322, by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, which decriminalizes prostitution for minors by barring officers from arresting people under 18 for soliciting sex or loitering with intent to commit prostitution.
It generated significant legislative debate over whether the new approach is sound public policy, but it is false to say the law “legalizes” child prostitution in California.
Those soliciting the sex and those arranging the clients can still be charged with crimes. People caught having sexual conduct with minors can be charged with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to felonies carrying life terms, depending on the ages of those involved and the individual circumstances of the offenses.
It’s also wildly misleading to equate decriminalizing minors with law enforcement not being allowed to interfere with minors engaging in commercial sex acts. Under the law, officers who encounter minors doing so must report the circumstances to the county child welfare agency as abuse or neglect.