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Operating a House of Prostitution
(Keeping a House of Ill Fam
Penal Code 315
Law, Punishment, & Defense

Information on the crime of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame, also known as operating a brothel, or keeping a house of ill repute, is found at California penal code section 315. This article covers a brief overview of the law and punishment related to PC 315 crimes. For further information, contact our sex crimes criminal defense lawyers today.


Essentially, to keep a house of prostitution means to knowingly allow, manage, or operate a business where prostitutes are working, such as a brothel, strip club, massage parlor, or even residence, and with the defendant's knowledge.


Note: Prostitution is a crime in California and is basically defined as sexual services in exchange for compensation or other benefit (PC 647(b)).

PC 315 Law

PC 315: Every person who keeps a house of ill fame, resorted to for the purposes of prostitution or lewdness, or who willfully reside in such house, is guilty of keeping a house of ill fame (prostitution) [Abbrev.).


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

  • Willfully maintained, or is residing in, a place where prostitution occurs, and

  • at the time the house or building was used for prostitution, the defendant knew that prostitution was occurring (PC 315).


Note: In all prosecutions for keeping or residing in a house of prostitution, the use the reputation of the house 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 (PC 315 Abbrev.).

PC 315 Punishment

Jail or Probation: PC 315 is classified as a misdemeanor. If convicted of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame the defendant may face up to 180 days in the county jail.

A probation, with or without a jail sentence, may be allowed in some cases. Some probation sentences may also include a sentence of work release or electronic monitoring (house arrest). Also, probation terms for PC 315 convictions usually include restraining orders that restrict the defendant from visiting the place where the prostitution occurred. For more information. See Probation & Parole in CA Sex Crimes.

Red light abatement law: California has a Red-Light Abatement Law, which allows for special penalties against property owner defendants in PC 315 cases. Penalties include injunction against conducting business in the establishment where the prostitution occurred and forced sale of the business by the government.

Fines: The penalty fine for a first-time conviction of PC 315, keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame, may be up to $1,000.00. This amount does not include any penalty associated with Red Light Abatement Law penalties (See Above).

Massage Therapist License: If convicted of keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame, the defendant may lose his or her massage therapist license or business license (GC 51032 & CCR Title 16).

Immigration Consequences: If convicted of PC 315, a non-U.S. citizen 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.

Additional Penalties: In addition to the jail and other penalties listed above, if found guilty of operating a brothel (PC 315), the defendant could face civil lawsuits, harsh probation terms, military service consequences, criminal protective orders, and more.

Common Defenses

Every PC 315 case is different; therefore, the defense to every keeping a house of prostitution case is different. With that in mind, the most common defenses incorporated in penal code 315 cases include:

Police Misconduct & Miranda Violations: Evidence obtained by illegal searches or seizures, coerced confessions, or confessions that are received in violation of the defendant's Miranda rights, may be suppressed from the prosecution's case.

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 perform prostitution services while receiving a massage, the police officer may have entrapped defendant.

Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is a law (a statute) that limits the amount of time (limitations) that prosecutors otherwise must file criminal claims against defendants. For PC 315 crimes the statute of limitations is one year from the date of incident.

Jury Nullification: Jury nullification 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, but nevertheless, the jury, or a juror, votes not guilty. This occurs when a juror believes that the crime of keeping a house of prostitution is not morally wrong or that the defendant should not be punished for some reason beyond the fact that the defendant is guilty.


If you are charged with any prostitution crime, including keeping a house of prostitution or ill fame, contact our sex crimes criminal defense lawyers today. Our team of experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyers is always available. We offer free and discreet consultations, and our success rate is second to none. Call today!


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