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Prostitution: Red Light District Abatement Laws


(a) Every building or place used for the purpose of illegal gambling as defined by state law or local ordinance, lewdness, assignation, or prostitution, and every building or place in or upon which acts of illegal gambling as defined by state law or local ordinance, lewdness, assignation, or prostitution, are held or occur, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented, and for which damages may be recovered, whether it is a public or private nuisance.
Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to apply the definition of a nuisance to a private residence where illegal gambling is conducted on an intermittent basis and without the purpose of producing profit for the owner or occupier of the premises.
(b) Every building or place used as a bathhouse which as a primary activity encourages or permits conduct that according to the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control can transmit AIDS, including, but not limited to, anal intercourse, oral copulation, or vaginal intercourse, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented, and for which damages may be recovered, whether it is a public or private nuisance.
For purposes of this subdivision, a "bathhouse" means a business which, as its primary purpose, provides facilities for a spa, whirlpool, communal bath, sauna, steam bath, mineral bath, mud bath, or facilities for swimming.


Whenever there is reason to believe that a nuisance as defined in this article is kept, maintained or is in existence in any county, the district attorney, in the name of the people of the State of California, shall, or the city attorney of an incorporated city, or any citizen of the state resident within the county, in his or her own name may, maintain an action in equity to abate and prevent the nuisance and to perpetually enjoin the person conducting or maintaining it, and the owner, lessee or agent of the building, or place, in or upon which the nuisance exists, from directly or indirectly maintaining or permitting it.
The complaint in the action shall be verified unless filed by the district attorney or the city attorney.


Whenever the existence of a nuisance is shown in an action brought under this article to the satisfaction of the court or judge thereof, either by verified complaint or affidavit, the court or judge shall allow a temporary writ of injunction to abate and prevent the continuance or recurrence of such nuisance.


Actions brought under this article have precedence over all actions, excepting criminal proceedings, election contests and hearings on injunctions, and in such actions evidence of the general reputation of a place is admissible for the purpose of proving the existence of a nuisance. If the complaint is filed by a citizen, it shall not be dismissed by the plaintiff or for want of prosecution except upon a sworn statement made by the complainant and his attorney, setting forth the reasons why the action should be dismissed, and the dismissal ordered by the court. In case of failure to prosecute any such action with reasonable diligence, or at the request of the plaintiff, the court, in its discretion, may substitute any other citizen consenting thereto for the plaintiff. If the action is brought by a citizen and the court finds there was no reasonable ground or cause therefor, the costs shall be taxed against such citizen.


Any violation or disobedience of an injunction or order expressly provided for by this article is punishable as a contempt of court by a fine of not less than two hundred dollars ($200) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than one nor more than six months, or by both.


If the existence of a nuisance is established in an action as provided in this article, an order of abatement shall be entered as a part of the judgment in the case, directing the removal from the building or place of all fixtures, musical instruments and movable property used in conducting, maintaining, aiding or abetting the nuisance, and directing the sale thereof in the manner provided for the sale of chattels under execution, and the effectual closing of the building or place against its use for any purpose, and that it be kept closed for a period of one year, unless sooner released. While such order remains in effect as to closing, such building or place is and shall remain in the custody of the court. For removing and selling the movable property, the officer is entitled to charge and receive the same fees as he would for levying upon and selling like property on execution. For closing the premises and keeping them closed, a reasonable sum shall be allowed by the court.
In lieu of ordering the building or place closed, the court may order the person who is responsible for the existence of the nuisance to pay damages in an amount not to exceed the fair market rental value of the building or place for one year. The actual amount of rent being received for the rental of the building or place, or the existence of any vacancy therein, may be considered, but shall not be the sole determinant of the fair market rental value. Expert testimony may be used to determine the fair market rental value.
Damages collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the Restitution Fund in the State Treasury, the proceeds of which shall be available for appropriation by the Legislature to indemnify persons filing claims pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 13959) of Chapter 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.


The proceeds of the sale of the property, as provided in Section 11230, shall be applied as follows:
1. To the fees and costs of removal and sale;
2. To the allowances and costs of closing and keeping closed the building or place;
3. To the payment of plaintiff's costs in the action;
4. The balance, if any, shall be paid to the owner of the property so sold.
If the proceeds of the sale do not fully discharge all such costs, fees and allowances, the building and place shall also be sold under execution issued upon the order of the court or judge and the proceeds of such sale applied in like manner.


If the owner of the building or place is not guilty of any contempt of court in the proceedings, and appears and pays all costs, fees and allowances which are a lien on the building or place and files a bond in the full value of the property, to be ascertained by the court, conditioned that the owner will immediately abate any nuisance that may exist at the building or place and prevent the nuisance from being established or kept thereat within a period of one year thereafter, the court, or judge thereof, may, if satisfied of the owner's good faith, order the premises closed under the order of abatement, to be delivered to the owner, and the order of abatement canceled so far as the order relates to the property. The release of the property under the provisions of this section does not release it from any judgment, lien, penalty or liability to which it may be subject by law.


Whenever the owner of a building or place upon which an act or acts constituting a contempt as defined in this article has been committed, is guilty of a contempt of court and fined therefor under this article, the fine shall be a lien upon the building and place to the extent of the interest of such person therein, enforceable and collectible by execution issued by the order of the court.


"Person" as used in this article means individuals, corporations, associations, partnerships, limited liability companies, trustees, lessees, agents and assignees.


"Building" as used in this article means so much of any building or structure of any kind as is or may be entered through the same outside entrance.

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Last updated 12.7.2014