What to do if You are Accused of Paying for Sex in Florida

April 12, 2022 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

Although prostitution has been highlighted or even glamorized in pop culture, we can guarantee that it is nothing like the hit film, Pretty Woman. In fact, getting caught engaging in prostitution-related crimes can lead to serious consequences.

Whether you are the person who is trying to use sex work to make money, have been accused of paying for sex, or simply the middleman, the penalties for engaging in any type of prostitution act can seriously impact your life.

Aside from potentially getting arrested, paying expensive fines, and even facing jail time, there are additional consequences that come with engaging in paid sex. One of them being, damaging your personal relationships with family and friends, and the effect this could cause to your career once your employer finds out if you are prosecuted and found guilty.

Even though the merits of paying for prostitution-related activities may be up for debate, it does not change the fact that it is illegal in the state of Florida. Anyone who is receiving or spending financial means for sex, convinces another person to engage in prostitution, or uses their space for other people to engage in prostitution, can face serious punishments.

This blog will give an overview of the Florida law on prostitution acts, as well as potential defenses in the case that you or a loved one have been accused of a prostitution-related crime.

Paying for Sex and Solicitation Crimes in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 796.07, prostitution and its related acts are prohibited in the state of Florida. “Prostitution” is referred to as the means of giving or receiving the body for sexual activities for hire. It is important to note that it does not include sexual activities between spouses.

It is unlawful for any person to own, establish, maintain, or operate in any place, structure, building, or conveyance for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution. “Lewdness” refers to any obscene or indecent act, and “assignation” is the making of any appointment or engagement for prostitution or lewdness. “Sexual activity” is oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or in union with, the sexual organ of another; or the handling or fondling of the sexual organ of another for the purpose of masturbation.

The following is an additional list of unlawful acts under the statute:

  • To establish, maintain, own, or operate any place, structure, building, or conveyance for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution.
  • To offer, or to agree to secure another person for the purpose of prostitution or for any indecent or lewd act.
  • To receive, or to offer or agree to receive any person into any place, structure, or building for the purpose of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation, or to permit any person to remain there for such purposes.
  • To direct, take, or transport, or to offer to take a person to any place, structure, or building with the knowledge or reasonable cause to believe that the purpose of the transportation is for prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
  • To solicit, induce, entice, or procure another person to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
  • For any person over the age of 18 to offer to commit or engage in prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
  • To reside in, enter, or remain in any place, structure, or building which is holding the purpose of hosting prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
  • To aid, abet, or participate in any of the above acts in the statute.
  • To pay for the services of any person who is engaged in prostitution.

If any person commits any of the above offenses (with exception to people who have illicit, induced, entice, or procured another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation) as a first violation, the penalty results in a second-degree misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. If the person has committed a second violation, the charge enhances to a  a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year of imprisonment. For a third or subsequent violation, the accused person would  be charged with a third-degree felony. This is punishable with fine up to a $5,000 and up to five years of imprisonment. (see Florida Statute Section 796.07(4))

Pimping and Pandering

Aside from getting in trouble for engaging in the paid sex, under Florida Statute Section 796.07(1)(f), a person can also get arrested for being the “middle man” or engaging in pimping and pandering. Below is a description of both prostitution-related crimes:

  • Pimping- A person can be accused of “pimping” for recruiting people to be customers for the person who is engaging in the prostitution. The “pimp” is the supposed person in charge of setting up both parties, and collecting the payment for the person’s services. Contrary to common belief or portrayals on television, someone who is actively pimping out someone for sex work may not be dressed in over the top clothing and standing on the side of the street looking for potential customers. They could very well be an educated professional who works with marketing through online advertisements, or makes phone calls to search for customers for the sex work.
  • Pandering- A person can be accused of pandering if they are involved in trying to recruit or encourage a person into engaging in prostitution. This would include making them available with the exchange of money for sex.

If a person is accused of pimping or pandering, they could face a fine up to $5,000 and up to five years of imprisonment. (See Florida Statute Section 796.07(6)) If the person involved in the sex work is a minor, then the penalties are even more severe, if they are considered a child that was forced into prostitution.

The punishments for people who are convicted of illicit, induced, enticed, or procured another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation are penalized differently than the other unlawful acts outlined by Florida Statute Section 796.07(5). A person who commits a first offense violation under this section is charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for this first offense may result in a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year of in jail. For a second violation under this statute, the charge is enhanced to a third-degree felony which could result in a fine up to $5,000 and up to five years of imprisonment. For the third or subsequent violation, the accused is charged with a second-degree felony which could result in a fine up to $10,000 and up to fifteen years of imprisonment.

Florida’s Zero-Tolerance Policy for Prostitution 

There are several ways that law enforcement is attempting to crack down on sex work in the state of Florida. The state has a zero-tolerance police on both prostitution and sex trafficking. The following are a few ways that police across the state are attempting to eliminate prostitution:

  • Sting Operations – A typical sting operation would be conducted by law enforcement decoys go undercover and dress as if they are working as sex workers to try to entice people to stop and agree to pay for sex. You can read about specific sting operations in our blog post here.
  • Campaigns – There are often online websites or advertisements for escort services, which law enforcement officers are working towards shutting down.
  • Infiltrating Suspected Businesses – Another type of sting would be when there is an undercover officer or decoy goes to a business that they believe is operating as a location for sex work. This may include strip clubs, massage parlors, or escort services.

Defenses to Sex Work Crimes

There are several defenses that can be used when a person is accused of engaging in sex work or pimping out sex workers. In the instance of a sting by police officers, they are often putting regular, law-abiding citizens into a compromising circumstance. In this case, the defense of entrapment may be used. Entrapment is when the government or law enforcement authorities 2have coerced a defendant into committing a crime, in which the defendant would not have committed that crime without the involvement of the authorities.

Aside from entrapment, there could also be the sufficiency of evidence pertaining to whether the person accused had or lacked the specific intent to engage in prostitution. The most important thing to do if you have been accused of a sex crime such as prostitution is to seek out the help of an experienced prostitution defense attorney. A defense attorney will be able to review any evidence, including audio or video recordings, testimonies from the police officers, and other evidence that could establish whether or not the accused person has agreed to engage in prostitution. To read more about human trafficking in Florida, visit our blog here.

Safe Harbor Laws in Florida

Under Florida law titled “Safe Harbor” laws, the government is meant to protect victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution. Unfortunately there are cases where people have been forced into sex work out of their own free will. This is considered human trafficking. Under the Florida Safe Harbor laws, the two main goals are as follows:

  • Providing legal protection to people who have been forced, compelled, or induced into committing a crime, and;
  • Providing access to the necessary services, such as psychological and medical treatment, housing, and rehabilitation services.

To read more about Safe Harbor laws and their too often shortcomings in the field of sex trafficking, you can find our blog here.

Finding a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of engaging in any acts related to prostitution, it is imperative that you seek out the legal advice of a defense attorney in your area. Navigating the legal world can be a stressful task, especially when it is involving a sex crime. Make sure that you have a defense team you can rely on to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Don Pumphrey and his legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience in representing clients for prostitution-related crimes. They understand the severity of a conviction, and will work non-stop to ensure the best outcome for your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation today.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top