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Okabe & Haushalter Blog

Proposed Bill Offers Protections for Sex Workers

Okabe & Haushalter Mar 7, 2019 Sex Crimes

State Senator, Scott Wiener, recently proposed Senate Bill 233 (SB 233) as a statewide measure to protect sex workers who are victims of violent crimes. Sex workers frequently end up as crime victims because perpetrators know that sex workers often do not report violent crimes for fear of being prosecuted for the crime of being a sex worker.

Los Angeles sex crimes defense attorneys understand the difficult position that sex workers are put in when they become victims of violent crimes while they are working and SB 233 aims to protect them from facing prosecution as a result of reporting someone else’s violent, criminal conduct.

Reporting violent crimes

Sex workers are frequently victims of violent crimes including sexual assault, robbery, and human trafficking. As previously mentioned, these crimes often go unreported because sex workers fear being prosecuted for their occupation as a sex worker. In the past, law enforcement has not been generally kind to sex worker victims often treating them as though they are to blame for another person’s crimes.

SB 233 would prohibit prosecuting sex workers when they report being victims of or witnessing violent crimes. Not only will this help to protect sex worker victims, but it will also ensure that more criminals are prosecuted for their crimes that they may not otherwise be prosecuted for.

Specified violent crimes

Under the bill, sex workers will be protected when reporting the following specified violent crimes:

  • Sexual assault
  • Human trafficking
  • Stalking
  • Robbery
  • Assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Threats
  • Extortion
  • Blackmail
  • Burglary
  • Another violent crime

Use of condoms as evidence

An additional component of SB 233 provides that evidence of condoms in a sex worker’s possession may not be used as evidence to convict them. When condoms are permitted to be used as evidence, sex workers are discouraged from carrying condoms when they are working, which is an obvious threat to both the sex worker’s health and the health of people who engage their services.

Questions about the bill’s language

While the bill has received a lot of support so far, some have questioned the actual language of the bill, which provides that sex workers who report specified violent crimes “shall not be arrested for a crime . . .” Critics suggest that this bill leaves open the possibility of letting dangerous criminals including human traffickers off the hook. If and how the bill’s language is tweaked to remediate this ostensible oversight remains to be seen.

Los Angeles sex crimes defense attorneys at Okabe and Haushalter are paying attention to the progression of this bill and any changes that are made along the way. Our criminal defense attorneys are strong constitutional rights advocates who work to see that every client receives aggressive and responsible representation.

If you or a loved one is being investigated or charged with a crime, contact one of our attorneys to discuss your case and possible defense strategies as soon as possible. It is never too soon to get out in front of a potential criminal charge.