SB-233 “Immunity from Arrest” Law Approved by the Governor

On July 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom approved SB-233.[1] Existing law criminalizes various aspects of sex work, including soliciting anyone to engage in, or engaging in, lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, or maintaining a public nuisance. SB-233 would prohibit the arrest of a person for a misdemeanor violation of specified sex work crimes if the person is reporting that they are a victim of, or witness to, specified crimes.

Further, this bill enacts new law which states that possession of condoms in any amount does not provide a basis for probable cause for arrest for specified sex crimes.

This bill further prohibits introducing the possession of a condom as evidence in the prosecution of crimes relating to specified prostitution related offenses. Thus, this bill adds Section 782.1 to the Evidence Code and states that: “the possession of a condom is not admissible as evidence in the prosecution of a violation of Section 372 of, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647 of, or Section 653.22 of, the Penal Code, if the offense is related to prostitution.”

According to the Senate Public Safety, sex workers are victims of violent crime at a disproportionately high rate. Thus, the legislature has determined that it is “critically important that sex workers feel safe reporting crimes and carrying condoms.” The legislature further determined that treating condoms as evidence of sex work exacerbates the unsafe work environment because it discourages sex workers from practicing safer sex and leads to higher risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

It appears that SB-233 was enacted to provide protections to men and women working in the sex industry who, research has shown, are one of our most vulnerable populations.

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[1] Visit the following link for the full text:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB233

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