Penal Code 266h PC – California’s Pimping Laws


Penal Code 266h PC is the California statute that defines the crime commonly known as pimping. A person commits "pimping" if he receives all or part of the revenue from another person's work as a prostitute. 

The code section states:

“Any person who, knowing another person is a prostitute, lives or derives support or maintenance in whole or in part from the earnings or proceeds of the person's prostitution, or from money loaned or advanced to or charged against that person by any keeper or manager or inmate of a house or other place where prostitution is practiced or allowed, or who solicits or receives compensation for soliciting for the person, is guilty of pimping, a felony…”


  • receiving money from a “call girl” after she gave oral sex to “a client.”
  • using all of a prostitute's money, that she received as a loan from a brothel, to pay rent.
  • asking a prostitute for $20 after referring a friend to her for “services.”


A defendant can fight a 266h PC by asserting a legal defense. A few common defenses are:


A violation of this code section is a California felony. This is opposed to an infraction or a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

prostitute speaking with john
It is a crime for a person to: receive money or other form of compensation, from someone he knows is a prostitute in CA.

1. When is pimping a crime in California?

A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a person under California's pimping statute:

  1. the defendant knew that a certain person was a prostitute, and
  2. one or more of the following was true:
  • the money that the prostitute earned supported the defendant (either in whole or in part),
  • the money loaned to the prostitute, by someone who ran a house of prostitution, supported the defendant (either in whole or in part), or
  • the defendant asked for or received payment from the prostitute for soliciting prostitution customers.1

Penal Code 647b PC defines a “prostitute” as a person who:

  • engages in sexual intercourse or any lewd act,
  • with another person in exchange for money (or other compensation).2

A “lewd act” means physical contact of the:

  • genitals,
  • buttocks, or
  • female breast

of either the prostitute or customer with some part of the other person's body. This contact must be for the purpose of sexual arousal.3

Solicit” under this statute means to:

  • tempt someone,
  • lure someone, or
  • try to obtain something from someone.4

2. Are there legal defenses?

A defendant can try to beat a pimping charge with a legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. entrapment,
  2. falsely accused, and/or
  3. no knowledge.

2.1. Entrapment

In many PC 266h cases, suspects are often arrested and accused after an undercover sting. Any later charges, though, must get dropped if the officer lured a suspect into committing the crime.

This “luring” is known as entrapment. It applies when police try to get a person to commit a crime by using:

  • pressure,
  • harassment,
  • fraud, or
  • threats.

Entrapment is an acceptable legal defense if:

  • the accused only committed the crime,
  • because of the entrapment.

2.2. Falsely accused

This is a common defense when the accused was in a romantic relationship with a prostitute. In this situation, the prostitute may have falsely accused the defendant of pimping to:

  1. get back at him for some reason, or
  2. reduce her own criminal liability.

No matter the reason, this is a good defense if the accused can show the prostitute lied.

2.3. No knowledge

Recall that a defendant can only be guilty under PC 266h if he had knowledge. This means he must have known that he was receiving money from a prostitute. Therefore, it is a defense for an accused to show he did not have this knowledge.

man behind bars
A conviction of this crime can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. What are the penalties?

A violation of Penal Code 266h is a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • custody in the state prison for up to six years, or
  • felony (or formal) probation.

Note that if a defendant is convicted of pimping a minor under the age of 18, then:

4. Are there immigration consequences?

A conviction of this law may have negative immigration consequences.

United States immigration law says that certain kinds of criminal convictions can lead to:

A category of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes includes “aggravated felonies.”5

This means that:

  • if the facts show that the accused committed an aggravated felony,
  • then he could be deported or get marked inadmissible.

5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?

A person convicted of this crime is entitled to an expungement if he:

  1. successfully completes probation, or
  2. completes a jail term (whichever is relevant).

If a party violates a probation term, he could still possibly get the offense expunged. But this would be in the judge's discretion.

Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases an individual from virtually "all penalties and disabilities" arising out of the conviction.6

6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?

A conviction under this statute will have a negative effect on the defendant's gun rights.

According to California law, convicted felons are prohibited from:

  • acquiring, or
  • possessing

a gun in California.

Since pimping is a felony, a defendant will lose his gun rights if convicted of the offense.

7. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to pimping. These are:

  1. pandering – PC 266i,
  2. supervising or aiding a prostitute – PC 653.23, and
  3. human trafficking – PC 236.1.

7.1. Pandering – PC 266i

Penal Code 266i PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. pick up, or acquire, a prostitute, or
  2. convince or persuade another person to become, or continue to be, a prostitute.

Note that unlike pimping, the receipt of money is not a part of pandering. The focus is on the convincing or persuasion.

7.2. Supervising or aiding a prostitute – PC 653.23

Penal Code 653.23 PC makes it a crime to supervise or assist someone else who either:

  • engages in prostitution, or
  • loiters for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

While pimping looks more at the receipt of money, this offense focuses on assistance or supervision.

7.3. Human trafficking – PC 236.1

Under Penal Code 236.1 PC, the crime of “human trafficking” in California is defined as:

  1. depriving someone of their freedom with the intent to obtain forced labor or services from them,
  2. depriving someone of their freedom with the intent to violate certain California laws concerning commercial sexual activity and the sexual exploitation of children, or
  3. persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act.

This is a more serious crime than pimping and carries harsher penalties than the same.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

For information on pimping charges in Nevada and/or Colorado, please see our articles on:

Legal References:

  1. CALCRIM No. 1150 – Pimping. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).

  2. See same. See also People v. Hill (1980) 103 Cal.App.3d 525; People v. Romo (1962) 200 Cal.App.2d 83; and, Wooten v. Superior Court (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 422.

  3. CALCRIM No. 1150 – Pimping. See also Wooten v. Superior Court (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 422.

  4. People v. Smith (1955) 44 Cal.2d 77.

  5. See INA 237 (a) (2) (A).

  6. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

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