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What is the Difference Between Pimping and Pandering Under California Law?

Posted by Alan Eisner | May 27, 2020

What is the Difference Between Pimping and Pandering Under California Law?
PC 266h pimping involves receiving earnings from a prostitute, while PC 26i pandering involves persuading someone to become a prostitute.

Pimping and pandering are both serious felony offenses under California's criminal laws. They involve the unlawful trafficking of others for purposes of commercial sex acts, meaning the exchange of money or other things of value for sexual acts, i.e. prostitution.

Pimping and pandering are so closely related that it is extremely common for defendants charged with one of the two offenses to also be charged with the other. However, they are legally distinct and have different elements.

There are primary differences between the sex crimes of pimping and pandering. Pimping is connected with someone receiving the earnings of a prostitute, while pandering occurs when someone persuades another person to either become, or remain, a prostitute. Receiving money is not a part of a pandering crime, rather it deals with convincing or persuasion.

In order to be found guilty of felony pimping (CALCRIM 1150), it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you received financial support from somebody that you understood was engaging in prostitution, or you received or attempted to receive compensation for locating their customers.

In the classic pimping crime, a pimp will receive a portion of a prostitute's payment they received their customers, commonly known as a “john.” In many situations, the pimp played no part in providing a customer to the prostitute, but they still expect to receive money from the prostitute.

It should be noted that pimping and pandering are straight felony crimes, not a “wobbler.” The only type of conduct that would be considered a misdemeanor is the crime of supervising or aiding a prostitute defined under California Penal Code 653.23.

The Crime of Pimping – Penal Code 266h

Pimping is prohibited by California Penal Code Section 266h. Pimping is defined as the crime of receiving all or part of the proceeds of another person's work as a prostitute. 

Note that force, fear, or coercion are not required under the definition of pimping. While it is unlikely a case would be filed in this circumstance, technically someone is guilty of pimping if they have a friend who is a prostitute who voluntarily shares their prostitution earnings. 

In the more common scenario, however, we view pimps as coercing the prostitutes and forcing them to share their prostitution earnings through force, fear, or by denying them access to essentials such as housing, clothing, and food unless they share their earnings.

It should also be noted that pimping does not require that the defendant set up the prostitute's “dates,” or communicate in any way with the customers.

The prostitute can be running their own operation completely, but as long as the proceeds thereof are shared with the pimp, he is guilty under Penal Code Section 266h. 

A charge under Penal Code Section 266h for pimping is a straight felony under California law.  It cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor or an infraction. It also carries a stiff maximum penalty of 6 years in the California state prison if the defendant is convicted, as well as fines and fees.

The Crime of Pandering – Penal Code 266i

Pandering, on the other hand, is addressed by California Penal Code Section 266i. Unlike pimping, which focusses on the exchange of money derived from prostitution, pandering focuses on the defendant's role in encouraging another individual to either become or remain a prostitute.

If the defendant encourages, persuades, induces through promises, threats, or violence, arranges, or uses fraud or trickery to cause another individual to become or to remain a prostitute, the defendant is guilty of pandering under Penal Code Section 266i.

Whereas pimping could be charged even if the defendant had no involvement in setting up the actual prostitution activity but only received funds derived from that activity, pandering is the opposite. 

Even if the panderer receives no compensation at any point, they can still be guilty under Penal Code Section 266i provided that the defendant is providing the encouragement or inducement for the prostitution activity to occur. 

Note that the encouragement can be violent, fraudulent, or completely non-violent and merely consist of verbal encouragement. However, pandering is a specific intent crime, meaning that the prosecutor must prove that the defendant specifically intended the victim to become a prostitute. 

This may provide a defense for the defendant who merely discussed prostitution with the victim but had no intent to encourage further prostitution activity.

Penalties and Related California Crimes

Pandering is also a straight felony offense under California law with a maximum penalty of 6 years in California state prison plus fines and fees. 

A pandering charge cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor or an infraction. When the victim is a minor – a person under the age of 18 – the maximum penalty increases to 8 years in the California state prison.

There are several related California offenses for pimping and pandering, including:

  • Penal Code 653.23 - Supervising or aiding a prostitute
  • Penal Code 653.22 – Loitering for prostitution
  • Penal Code 647(a) – Lewd acts in public
  • Penal Code 647(b) – Solicitation of prostitution
  • Penal Code 236.1 – Human trafficking
  • Penal Code 272 - Contributing to the delinquency of minor

The penalties for a violation of Penal Code § 653.23 include up to six months in county jail and a fine up to $1,000. Informal probation might be available for this crime.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer

As you can see, in the stereotypical street prostitution context, the pimp is almost always a panderer and vice versa.  

The defendant will encourage the victim to become a prostitute either through promises, threats, violence, or some combination of the three and then obtain part or all of the financial proceeds from the victim's prostitution activity. This is why defendants charged with pimping are very often also charged with pandering. 

One can imagine hypothetical situations in which a pimp would not also be a panderer – the roommate who allows his prostitute friend to pay for the rent using prostitution proceeds knowing the money is unlawfully gained but has no role in the prostitute's activities otherwise – but these cases are few and far between.

If you, or someone you know, is charged with pimping and/or pandering under California law, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation. 

We can leverage our experience and knowledge of these serious felony crimes to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Contact our office for a consultation at (310) 328-3776.

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About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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