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April 03, 2019

Free Speech Coalition Writes In Support of Scott Wiener's SB 233

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—One of the problems sex workers face under California law is that the mere possession of condoms can serve as the basis for the possessor to be arrested on suspicion of having committed various crimes, most notably under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act, including solicitation for purposes of prostitution. However, State Sen. Scott Wiener, along with Assemblymember co-sponsors Bill Quirk (principal co-author), Wendy Carrillo and Laura Friedman, have introduced Senate Bill (SB) 233, which would strike Sec. 782.1 of the Evidence Code, which deals with the use of condom possession in criminal proceedings, and add a new Sec. 782.1, which reads, "The possession of a condom is not admissible as evidence of a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647 of the Penal Code or Section 372 or 653.22 of the Penal Code."SB 233 would also add Sec. 647.3 to the Evidence Code, which, in its latest form, reads in part, "Possession of condoms in any amount shall not provide a basis for probable cause for arrest for a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647 or of Section 372 or 653.22."The effect of those changes to the Evidence Code, according to the Legislative Counsel's Digest, would be to protect sex workers who are found to possess condoms "if that person is reporting a crime of sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion, burglary, or another violent crime. The bill would also state that possession of condoms in any amount does not provide a basis for probable cause for arrest for specified sex work crimes."The full, current text of SB 233 can be found here. (Note: the bill is still being marked up, and some of its language may change.)Simply put, SB 233 is a giant step forward in the protection of California's sex workers, whose attempts to eliminate the state's anti-prostitution laws are still working their way through the state court system—and Free Speech Coalition has stepped up to support Sen. Wiener's bill. To do so, it has sent the following letter to the senator:"The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the national association of the adult entertainment industry, is in support of SB 233. This measure would protect sex workers from being arrested when reporting serious or violent crimes and would also prohibit using the possession of condoms as probable cause for sex work crimes."It is an unfortunate truth that sex workers in California are victims of violent crimes at a disproportionately high rate. This already fraught situation is exacerbated when these victims are arrested in the process of reporting these crimes. By shielding these victims, this measure will ensure that these kinds of crimes are reported and ultimately prosecuted, increasing public safety."Using condoms as probable cause of a sex crime only serves to dissuade sex workers from implementing safe sex practices. Current law has the unintended consequence of reducing public health and increasing the risk of disease transmission. SB 233 will relieve the fear that these vulnerable workers face when attempting to protect their sexual health."The full text of Free Speech's letter can be found here.

 
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