Loitering for Prostitution is No Longer an Offense Under CA Law

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed controversial legislation Friday that bans police officers from arresting people for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. 

Sen. Scott Wiener authored SB 357 with support from groups like ACLU California Action. Proponents argue that loitering laws are frequently used to discriminate against women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.

“Current law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up. Many of those impacted by this law are Black and Brown trans women,” Wiener said.  

Newsom signaled hesitation in signing the bill. It was held up for nine months while Wiener worked to persuade the governor. And on Friday, the governor struck a careful tone.

“While I agree with the author’s intent and I am signing this legislation, we must be cautious about its implementation,” Newsom stated. “My administration will monitor crime and prosecution trends for any possible unintended consequences and will act to mitigate any such impacts.”

The bill was opposed by law enforcement leaders and advocates for victims of sex trafficking. Although SB 357 does not legalize prostitution, opponents say it will have a similar effect in practice and will make it harder for law enforcement to intervene in cases where women or minors are victimized by trafficking.

At least two county district attorneys reacted positively to the bill’s signing. 

“We supported this law being repealed because the language used was overbroad, subjective and allowed law enforcement to stop and arrest people for discriminatory reasons,” tweeted Los Angeles’ George Gascón.

Contra Costa’s Diana Becton also praised the Governor for signing SB 357, saying it would aid the identification of human trafficking victims by “removing the fear of arrest.”