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Keeping a House of Prostitution / ill Fame


California Penal Code 315

In California, it is illegal to keep or reside in a house of prostitution. A house of prostitution is also known as a house of ill fame, or a house of ill repute. (Penal Code 315)

Prostitution is a crime in California and is generally defined as sexual services for compensation. For more information on the precise definition of prostitution, including the penalties and defenses associated with prostitution, please see our prostitution page at PC 647(b).

A house, for purposes of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), does not have to be an actual house. According to PC 315, a house can be just about any building, such as a massage parlor, a strip club, or a motel.

It is a crime to reside in a house of prostitution as much as it is to keep a house of prostitution. To keep a house of prostitution means to operate or manage a business where prostitutes are working, such as a brothel, strip club, or massage parlor. In some cases, a defendant can keep a house of prostitution while also working as a prostitute in the same house.

The definition of ill fame and ill repute: ill fame and ill repute are both defined as to have a reputation of immorality or vice, or to be held in low esteem. The terms keeping a house of prostitution, keeping a house of ill fame, and keeping a house of ill repute all have the definition. Some courts, and some officers, write a criminal complaint or a misdemeanor citation for PC 315 charges differently. However, whatever the terminology that is used for PC 315 charges, the meaning, the defenses, and the penalties are all the same.

To prove that the defendant is keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), the district attorney will need to prove that the defendant:

1) willfully maintained, or is residing in, a place where prostitution occurs, and

2) that at the time the house or building was used for prostitution the defendant knew that prostitution was occurring.

Evidence required to prove the crime of keeping a house of ill fame (ill repute) may be any competent and relevant evidence, and may include evidence of the house's character, the purpose for which it is kept or used, or the character of the women using it or residing in it. (Penal Code 315 & 316).

It is also a crime to lease a house for prostitution even if the lessor is not operating or managing the house (Penal Code 316).

Defenses to Keeping a House of Prostitution

1) Insufficient evidence: If there is little or weak evidence that a house or building was actually used for prostitution, as that crime is defined in penal code 647(b), or little or weak evidence that the owner or manager of the house knew that prostitution was occurring on the premises, then the defendant may be entitled to a dismissal of the PC 315 charges.

All of the evidence in a PC 315 criminal charge must be reviewed to determine whether, as a whole, there is sufficient evidence to prove the crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant committed the crime. If the district attorney cannot meet this burden then the case is said to have insufficient evidence to prove the charge and the case should be dismissed (Penal Code 1096).

In PC 315 cases with little or weak evidence the district attorney does not necessarily need to dismiss the case so long as the district attorney actually reasonably believes a crime has been committed by the defendant. In cases of little or weak evidence that prostitution occurred in a house or building or that the defendant actually knew that prostitution was occurring in a house or building the district attorney might be inclined to offer a plea bargain to a lesser crime.

2) Entrapment Defense: Entrapment occurs when the police encourage or promote a crime by way of their overbearing conduct. For example, if a police officer entices a person to start a prostitution business out of that person's preexisting massage parlor business, then the police officer may have entrapped the the defendant. 

In entrapment defense cases, even if the defendant admits guilt to a crime, he or she may never the less be entitled to a not guilty verdict if the defense can prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that  the defendant committed a crime as a result of the encouragement, promotion, pressure or enticement of police officers. A preponderance of the evidence simply means more likely than not. A preponderance of the evidence is a lower burden of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant does not have to admit guilt in order to assert that he or she was entrapped (People v. Perez (1965)). Also, it is the defendant that must prove that he or she was entrapped after an admission of the crime by the defendant or after a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by a judge or jury (California Criminal Jury Instructions [CalCrim] Section 3408).

Examples of entrapment can include flattery or coaxing by an officer to a defendant to commit a crime. It can also include repeated or insistent requests, or even an appeal to sympathy or friendship to commit a crime. The conduct of the officers is the primary focus on an entrapment defense. lf the conduct of the officers would cause a normally law-abiding citizen to commit a crime then the defendant may have been entrapped (People v. Barraza (1979).

The overall circumstances of the facts will be reviewed to determine whether or not law enforcement created the crime as opposed to merely offering an opportunity to the defendant to commit a crime.

Entrapment defenses are more commonly found in prostitution charges filed under PC 647(b) [agree, solicit, or engage in prostitution]; however,  an entrapment defense can be used in just about any criminal charge, including the criminal charge of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) filed under PC 315.

3) Police Misconduct & Miranda Violations: The topic of police officer misconduct as it applies to a possible defense to keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) cases is a very lengthy and in-depth legal topic; therefore, for brevity, only the most basic description of police officer misconduct as it relates to any defense to PC 315 charges, is discussed in this section. 

In most keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) cases the police must have a search warrant, supported by Probable Cause, before any officer may enter and search the premises of any house or building. This is true even when the police reasonably believe prostitution is being committed in a particular house or building. In addition, the police must obtain a suspect's waiver of right to remain silent before being questioned by law enforcement (U.S. Constitution 4th Amendment, Miranda v. Arizona (1966)). 

Warrantless searches of houses and buildings, and seizures of evidence without warrants, might be considered a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights to privacy, and as such, any evidence obtained during a search or seizure without a warrant may be made inadmissible in a criminal case.

The same may be true for defendants who make incriminating statements to the police without first waiving his or her right to remain silent or his or her right to have an attorney present during any questioning by the police.

Other police misconduct issues that might lead to a defense in a PC 315 case include, racial profiling by police officers, coercive strategies by police to gain confessions, excessive force by police, failure to turn over exculpatory discover (evidence favorable to defendant), false reporting by police, entrapment by officers, and more. 

Police misconduct is not always intentional. In fact, in most warrantless search or seizure cases, or entrapment cases, the officers are not trying to violate the defendant's constitutional rights, but rather, like any of us, police officers are human and sometimes they make mistakes.

4) Statute of Limitations Defense: The statute of limitations is a law (a statute) that limits the amount of time (limitations) that prosecutors otherwise have to file criminal claims against defendants.

The crime of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) is classified as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors have a one year statute of limitations. In other words, the district attorney only has one year from the date of the offense in which to file criminal charges in a PC 315 cases. If the district attorney does not file charges in that one year time period then the district attorney will be barred from prosecuting a PC 315 case (Serna v. Superior Court (1985), & PC 802).

5) Jury Nullification Defense: Jury nullification in a PC 315 case occurs when the jury, or any individual juror, believes beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), but never the less, the jury, or any juror, votes not guilty.

To nullify the verdict by voting not guilty, even when the jury, or a juror, believes that defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, is a statement by the jury, or any juror, that the crime of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), is morally wrong, or that the particular defendant in the present case should not be punished for some reason, such as sympathy for the defendant, or juror prejudice against the prosecutor or judge.

Jury nullification is not a true defense in the sense that the defense attorney does not purposefully set out to instruct the jury, or juror, to vote not guilty due to some moral obligation or other reason beside insufficient evidence; however, jury nullification does happen quite frequently in criminal cases, especially in cases of adult prostitution filed under PC 647(b), or personal possession of drug cases. Jury nullification is usually a result of a jury, or juror, who believe that certain crimes should be decriminalized.

Additional Defenses to PC 315 Crimes

The list of defenses discussed above represents the more common defenses to a PC 315 charge; however, there are many other defenses that might apply depending on the circumstances of the case. Without going into too much detail for the sake of brevity, these defenses include: unconstitutionally vague language in the statute (See PC 316 charges and Manning v. Municipal Court (1982), lack of jurisdiction, double jeopardy, ex post facto defenses, Due Process violations, speedy trial rights violations that lead to dismissal of criminal charges, discovery violations that lead to dismissal of criminal charges, prosecutor misconduct that leads to dismissal of criminal charges, and more.

Punishment Under Red Light Abatement Law:

Under California Penal Code sections 11225-11235, (collectively known as Red Light Abatement Law), the legislature has created special penalties for defendants upon their conviction of certain crimes. Included in those enumerated crimes are the crimes of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) and PC 316 leasing a house of prostitution.

The special penalties include: Injunction against conducting business in the establishment where prostitution occurred (typically a strip club or massage parlor), sale of the business by the government, loss of control of the business to the government, collection of proceeds from the business by the government to cover litigation costs and sale, release of the building by the government, file a lien on the business (including a person, a corporation, a lessee, an agent, or a trustee of the business). 

In sum, if found guilty of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) under PC 315 the government may take and sell the business that was used to support prostitution and the defendant may be made to pay the expense of any government takeover of the business.

Additional penalty information for PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) can be found at the top right column of this page by clicking at PC 315 Penalties.

Our Prostitution Defense Attorneys

If you are charged with any prostitution charges, including PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute, PC 647(b) agree to, engage in, or solicit prostitution, or PC 653.22(a) loiter with intent to commit prostitution, contact our prostitution defense attorneys today for a free consultation.

Our prostitution attorneys have successfully defended against all prostitution and prostitution related crimes. We have negotiated favorable outcomes for hundreds of prostitution related crimes. 

We represent private providers, strip clubs and dancers, massage parlors operators and employees, adult film companies and actors, Internet advertisers, and adult clubs that have been charged with prostitution, pimping, pandering, and more.

Our attorneys offer free initial consultations and we are available to attend court without the need for you to attend (in most misdemeanor criminal cases). We defend against all prostitution criminal charges in San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and Los Angeles county. Our prostitution defense attorneys are available six days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday - Saturday.



The Law of Penal Code 315

Every person who keeps a house of ill fame in this state, resorted to for the purposes of prostitution or lewdness, or who willfully reside in such house, is guilty of a misdemeanor; and in all prosecutions for keeping or resorting to such a house common repute may be received as competent evidence of the character of the house, the purpose for which it is kept or used, and the character of the women inhabiting or resorting to it.


Penalty, Fine, & Punishment for PC 315 Conviction

First Offense Conviction of PC 315

Punishment for a first time conviction of PC 315, Keeping or residing in a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), is as follows:

Misdemeanor Conviction: A misdemeanor conviction of PC 315 keeping or residing in a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) will stay on the defendant's criminal record for the defendant's entire life. Even an expungement subsequent to the PC 315 conviction will not entirely clear the defendant's criminal record (Penal Code 1203.4);

Jail: The jail penalty for PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) convictions can be up to 180 days in county jail for a first time offense. Sometimes the defendant may serve any jail time on work release or electronic monitoring (house arrest) (Penal Code 315, 4019, & 19);

Penalty Fines: The penalty fines for a first time conviction of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) may be up to $1,000.00. This amount does not include any penalty associated with Red Light Abatement Law penalties (Penal Code 11225-11235, 315, & 19).

Probation: If convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) the defendant may be placed on probation for up to three years. The probation is court probation (aka summary probation or informal probation). Probation terms for PC 315 convictions usually include restraining orders, penalty fines, jail punishment, and other harsh terms and conditions (Penal Code 1203).

Loss of Massage Therapist License: If convicted of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) the defendant may lose his or her massage therapist license or business license (Government Code 51032 & California Code or Regulations Title 16);

Immigration Consequences: If convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) the defendant could face possible loss of immigration status, including deportation from the United States, denial of re-entry to the U.S., loss of work visa, or loss of permanent residence status (applicable to non-U.S. citizens 8 U.S. Code Section 1227);

Professional, Business, or Occupational License: If convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) the defendant will likely face a loss, suspension, or revocation of his or her professional or occupational license. This includes any professional license issued by a California Bar, Board, or Commission. This includes licenses for doctors, dentists, lawyers, psychologists, nurses, therapist, teachers, boxers, cosmetologists, phlebotomists, and more (Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations);

Family Law Consequences: If convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), the defendant could lose rights to custody or visitation of his or her children through Juvenile Dependency Proceedings or through orders from a family law judge after a Child Protective Service Referral. The defendant can also suffer negative consequences for future adoption rights. This is more common when a child's parents are already in the process of child custody proceedings or where the defendant allowed his or her child to become exposed to the house of prostitution conduct (Family Code 3000 et seq & 8700 et seq);

Sex Offender Registration Requirement: If convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) the defendant could be made to register as a sex offender as part of his or her penalty. This is an unusual penalty in PC 315 convictions, but it is possible if the court finds that the crime was committed by the defendant for sexual compulsion or gratification (California Penal Code 290.006).

Government Sale, or Possession of Business: Under California Red Light Abatement Law, if a defendant is convicted of PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute), even for a first offense, the penalty can include a sale or possession of the defendant's business by the government (Penal Code 11225-11235 & Mitchell v. Superior Court (1989))  

Penalties for PC 647(b) Prostitution Convictions

When the operator or lessor of a house of prostitution is also convicted prostitution, in addition to keeping a house of prostitution, there are additional penalties. These penalties are associated with the PC 647(b) conviction [agree to, engage in, or solicit prostitution] and include: 

Mandatory HIV AIDS Testing: If convicted of agreeing to commit, engaging in, or solicitation of prostitution under PC 647(b) the defendant will suffer, in addition to any conviction for keeping a house of prostitution charge under PC 315, the additional punishment of having to submit an HIV AIDS test. The reason for the test result is so that the defendant is made aware of his or her HIV AIDS status so that he or she may be prosecuted for future sex crimes against victims while having knowledge of his or her HIV AIDS status. (Penal Code 1202.6, 647(m)(1));

Sex Education Classes: Penalties for prostitution convictions filed under PC 647(b) [agree to, or solicit prostitution], include mandatory HIV AIDS classes. These classes are designed to instruct the defendant on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. These AIDS classes can be ordered as a probation term even if the defendant was not convicted of prostitution under PC 647(b). These classes may be ordered by a judge in any keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) convictions filed under PC 315 (Penal Code 1202.6, 1203, & 1001.10);

Vehicle impound / license suspended penalty: When the defendant of a PC 315 keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame (ill repute) charge is also charged with agreeing to, engaging in, or solicitation of, prostitution filed under PC 647(b), and, the defendant used his or her vehicle within 1000 feet of the residence or building used for prostitution, the defendant may have his or her driving license suspended (Vehicle Code 13201.5). For multiple convictions of PC 647(b) the defendant may his or her vehicle impounded for up to thirty (30) days (Vehicle Code 22659.5)..


Closely Related Crimes to Penal Code 315

PC 653.22(a) Loiter w/intent to commit prostitution

PC 647(b) Agree to, solicit, or engage prostitution
PC 309  Admit minors into house of prostitution
PC 314 Indecent Exposure
PC 647(a) Disorderly conduct
PC 266i Pandering
PC 266h Pimping
PC 236.1 Human Trafficking
PC 11225 Red Light Abatement Law
GC51302 Massage parlor license denial law
PC 647(m)(1) Prostitution soliciting a minor
PC 266g Prostituting wife
PC 266 Prostitution w/prior & AIDS positive
PC 267 Abduction of minor for prostitution
PC 266 Seduction of minor for prostitution
PC 602 trespassing
PC 415 Disturbing the peace
PC 316 Leasing house of prostitution
PC 266e Purchasing person for prostitution
PC 266d Receiving value for forced cohabitation

PC 273e Sending minor to house of prostitution

SB 1322 (SB-1322) & 647(b)(2) Underage Prostitution


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