Fines against "johns" who pay for sex with minors will now range up to $25,000 under an East Bay legislator's bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
AB 12, the Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation, and Sexual Slavery, or ACCESS, Act by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, also requires that the new fine -- which previously ranged up to $10,000 depending on the circumstances -- be directed to groups providing therapy, housing, shelter, and education to child victims of sex trafficking.
"Governor Brown has consistently recognized that the commercial exploitation of minors is a form of child abuse," Swanson said in a news release. "By signing the ACCESS Act, the Governor shows zero tolerance against the men who fund the underground exploitation of children."
The law "attacks child prostitution at its most wicked root: the men who pay to have sex with child prostitutes" by bringing fines against them into line with those levied against people convicted of statutory rape of children, Swanson said. "We need to protect all child victims, regardless of whether money was exchanged and regardless of where the abuse takes place."
Oakland Police Officer Holly Joshi testified at a state Senate Public Safety Committee hearing on AB 12 about her undercover work posing as a prostitute to bust "johns."
"Much attention has been paid to the pimps who coerce or force these girls into this lifestyle," she had said. "But the customers, commonly referred to as 'Johns,' are nothing less than sexual predators. After paying pimps to repeatedly rape our kids, they usually return to their lives undetected, unpunished, or with a slap on the wrist from law enforcement, while the victims suffer emotionally and physically, and we, as a society, are left to try and undo everything they've done."
The Assembly passed AB 12 on May 19 and the state Senate passed it June 27, both with unanimous votes.
Swanson has authored several related laws in recent years. His 2008 bill created a diversion program in Alameda County for child prostitutes; Brown last week signed his bill to extend that program. And AB 17 of 2009 increased fines on pimping, pandering, or procurement of a minor, dedicating those funds to help sexually exploited minors obtain education, counseling, and shelter.