Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would prohibit condoms being used as evidence of prostitution.
Assembly Bill 336, which Ammiano introduced Wednesday, February 13, would end the practice by which police use the possession of one or more condoms as a factor in prostitution arrests and prosecution.
“The police have plenty of other criteria they can use in determining who should be arrested as a prostitute, but condoms are the only effective deterrent to the spread of HIV,” Ammiano said in a statement. “We have to encourage safe-sex practices, not frighten people into spreading disease.”
The bill would not prevent the police from identifying or arresting suspected prostitutes. Law enforcement could still use factors such as presence in known prostitution areas and approaching cars as evidence.
“They can still arrest people under the law,” Ammiano stated. “They would only be prevented from using as evidence the one thing that protects public health: condoms.”
In San Francisco, Police Chief Greg Suhr had been prepared to announce a permanent ban on condoms being used as evidence of prostitution. However, he delayed that move after District Attorney George Gascón extended a trial period during which condoms won’t be considered in prostitution cases. That decision means prosecutors could decide to again use condoms as evidence, though it appears they’ve used such evidence only rarely in the recent past.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who’s said he wants the ban to be permanent, eventually agreed to the extended trial period, so attorneys in his office won’t argue the absence of condoms indicates innocence.
The trial period is set to end in mid-April.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center are sponsoring AB 336.