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California bill would increase penalties for soliciting minors for sex

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - Adults convicted of soliciting underage prostitutes for sex will spend a minimum of two days in jail and face fines of up to $10,000 under a bill passed by the California legislature on Thursday.

The bill, which passed the State Senate on a vote of 32-0, is the latest effort by lawmakers and prosecutors to stem human trafficking in the most populous U.S. state, which officials say is one of the nation's top four destinations for gangsters and smugglers setting up commercial sex rings.

"Sex with a minor is not consensual sex, it is rape,” said state Senator Ted Lieu, a Democrat who authored the bill with support from law enforcement agencies. “If you purchase sex, especially from a minor, then you will be prosecuted, fined and put in jail because our children are not for sale."

If signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, the measure would increase fines from $20,000 to $25,000 for placing a minor into prostitution or providing a minor to someone for sex. It also allows judges to impose on someone convicted of soliciting sex from a minor a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of two days to one year.

The fines and jail term apply only to those who know, or should have known, that the person from whom they are soliciting sex was a minor.

Prostitution is a misdemeanor in California.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Eric Beech)

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