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Pimping and Pandering

Pimping and Pandering in California – Penal Code 266h and 266i PC

Pimping and pandering in California are separate felony crimes but are typically charged along with each other because they are so closely related. Both offenses often deal with illegal commercial sex trafficking, which is exchanging money or something of value for sex, i.e., prostitution

Pimping and pandering are so similar that most defendants will be charged under both statutes. Penal Code 266h PC defines pimping, and Penal Code 266i defines pandering. These are two legally distinct crimes with different elements.

Pimping and Pandering in California – Penal Code 266h and 266i PC
It's a felony crime to receive earnings from a prostitute or persuade them to become one.

Pimping is related to somebody (a pimp) receiving the earnings of a prostitute, while pandering is related to somebody persuading someone to either become or remain a prostitute. Receiving money is not related to pandering but rather convincing or persuasion. 

To be found guilty of felony pimping, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you received financial support from someone you understood was engaging in prostitution or that you attempted to receive compensation for locating her customers.

In the traditional pimping crime, a pimp receives a portion of a prostitute's money from her customers, who are famously called “johns.” Often a pimp plays no part in getting her customers, but they fully expect to get a portion of their money for providing protection. 

Pimping and pandering are straight felony crimes, not a typical “wobbler.” However, Penal Code 653.23 supervising or aiding a prostitute are charged as misdemeanors. Our California criminal defense attorneys will review these laws further below.  

What is Penal Code 266h PC Pimping?

As noted, pimping is defined under California Penal Code Section 266h as receiving all or part of the proceeds of someone's work as a prostitute.  The use of force, fear, or coercion is not required under the definition of pimping.

The typical scenario most people think of regarding pimps is using coercion or force against their prostitutes to hand over their earnings. Still, others view pimps as providing essentials such as housing, clothing, and food unless they share their money.

However, pimping does not require setting up a prostitute's dates or communicating with their customers. The prostitute could be running their sex operation, but if a pimp receives a portion of their work proceeds, they could be found guilty of PC 266h pimping.

As noted, pimping is a straight felony under California law and can't be reduced to a misdemeanor.  If convicted under this law, you face up to six years in state prison and hefty fines. 

An example is when a man becomes acquainted with a woman who worked as a prostitute. He never directs her to provide services, how much to charge, or forces her to engage in commercial sex acts. 

However, in exchange for a place to live and protection, she would give him a portion of the proceeds from her transactions. Thus, since he receives compensation and provides her a place to live, he can be charged with pimping and pandering even when no forces are used.

What is Penal Code 266i PC Pandering?

Pandering is defined under California Penal Code Section 266i as encouraging someone to become or remain a prostitute. It's different from pimping which focuses on the exchange of money derived from prostitution. In other words, pandering often involves the following:

  • Encouraging,
  • Persuading,
  • Convincing,
  • Threatening,
  • Violence,
  • Promising,
  • Arranging,
  • Fraud,
  • Trickery.

These tactics are often used in recruiting prostitutes and could lead to charges under Penal Code Section 266i.

Even if the person pandering does not receive compensation, they could still be guilty under this statute because they are providing encouragement or inducement for the prostitution activity to occur.  

The “encouragement” could be violent, fraudulent, or non-violent and consists of verbal encouragement. Still, it's a specific intent crime, meaning that the prosecutor has to be able to prove that the defendant specifically intended the victim to become a prostitute.

This factor is often used as a defense that may have merely discussed prostitution but had no intent to encourage further prostitution-related activity.

What Are the Penalties and Related Crimes?

As stated above, pandering is a felony offense under California law and carries a maximum penalty of six years in state prison plus fines and fees.  It cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor or infraction.  

If the victim were a minor under 18, the maximum penalty would be eight years in a California state prison. There are several related offenses: 

  • Penal Code 236.1 PC – human trafficking law,
  • Penal Code 272 PC - contributing to the delinquency of a minor,
  • Penal Code 647(a) PC –lewd conduct in public,
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC – solicitation of prostitution,
  • Penal Code 653.23 PC - supervising or aiding a prostitute,
  • Penal Code 653.22 PC – loitering for prostitution.

The penalties for supervising or aiding a prostitute are up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and informal summary probation. 

What are the Legal Defenses? 

Based on the discussion above, a pimp is almost always a panderer and vice versa.  Common defenses include a lack of intent, false allegations, and police entrapment. 

Pimping and Pandering in California

Recall from above that pandering is a specific intent crime, and you can only be guilty if you committed the act on purpose by encouraging a person to be a prostitute. Perhaps we can argue that you did not act with this intent.

If charged with pimping, perhaps we can argue that you did not know the earnings you received were from prostitution activity. 

Perhaps you are the victim of police entrapment, which means overzealous law enforcement officers unjustly persuaded you to commit a crime you would have otherwise not committed. 

Perhaps police used pressure, fraud, harassment, or threats that convinced you to commit a crime. Maybe we can argue that you were wrongfully arrested and falsely accused. If you were charged with pimping and pandering under California law, contact our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers to review the details and legal options.   

Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a case dismissal. In some cases, it might be possible to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.” Eisner Gorin LLP is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm. You can reach us for an initial case review by phone or use the contact form.

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