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Florida law makes it a crime to offer to commit or solicit any act of prostitution. Also referred to as “sex work,” prostitution is defined as the act or practice of engaging in sex acts, including sexual intercourse, for money.
The most common charges for such sex crimes include soliciting for prostitution, soliciting another to commit a lewd act, deriving support or proceeds from prostitution, aiding or abetting prostitution, maintaining a house of prostitution and transporting another for prostitution. Pimping and pandering for sex are also both against the law.
The state of Florida does not take these types of charges lightly, as prostitution can be a form of sex trafficking. Even though prostitution is not an inherently violent act, a person convicted of soliciting or engaging in prostitution can be sentenced to pay expensive fines, imprisonment, and other penalties. If you or someone you know is being accused of soliciting an act of prostitution, it is in your best interest to reach out to a skilled defense attorney in your area.
Prostitution Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, FL
In many sex crime cases, law enforcement officers will stage elaborate sting operations. Important defenses exist in these cases including the entrapment defense. If you have been charged with soliciting for prostitution or a related offense, contact a Tallahassee prostitution defense lawyer at Pumphrey Law.
Our attorneys represent sex workers and those accused of soliciting their services throughout Tallahassee, Leon County and the surrounding areas in Florida. The team at Pumphrey Law is understanding about your situation and wants to help you understand the charges you face. Additionally, the team at Pumphrey Law will be working to get the charges dismissed or dropped.
In Florida, a person can be charged with a crime if he or she is caught soliciting for prostitution. Solicitation is the encouraging, bribing, requesting or commanding a person to commit a crime. In the case of solicitation for prostitution, solicitation is literally asking a person to commit sexual activities for the exchange of money or another form of payment.
For purposes of the statute prohibiting prostitution in Florida, section 796.07(1)(a), defines the term “sexual activity” to mean oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another; anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; or the handling or fondling of the sexual organ of another for the purpose of masturbation. . .”
Under Florida Statute § 796.07, solicitation is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor for the first offense and a third-degree felony for a second or subsequent offense.
What is Required to Prove Solicitation of Prostitution in Florida?
Florida law considers prostitution to be the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire, with an exception for married couples. In these cases, sexual activity can mean several different things, such as the penetration of a sexual organ by another or any object, or the handling or fondling of a sexual organ for the purpose of masturbation.
A person may also be charged with solicitation if he or she attempts to get someone to perform a “lewd act,” which is considered an indecent or obscene act.
One interesting aspect of the sex crime of soliciting for prostitution is that money does not have to be exchanged to be considered solicitation. Only the offer of money needs to be made. In addition, a sexual act does not have to be committed for it to be considered soliciting.
For example, law enforcement officers often set up sting operations to catch people soliciting prostitutes. In these cases, no sexual act is actually performed, but the person who is charged with soliciting, often called “the john”, still can face criminal penalties.
A conviction for prostitution or solicitation can result in large fines, probation, jail time and mandatory counseling programs. The penalties for this type of criminal offense can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony depending on the defendant’s prior convictions along with the specific details of the offense. A conviction can also have extreme repercussions on your social and professional life. The penalties can increase dramatically for repeat offenses.
A first-time solicitation of prostitution offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable with up to one year in jail, up to one year of probation, and up to a $1,000 fine.
A second solicitationof prostitution offense is considered a third-degree felony in Florida. This type of offense is classified as a Level 1 offense of severity rank under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. A person convicted of a second solicitation offense will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. In addition, the penalties for a third-degree felony include up to five years in prison, up to five years of probation, and up to $5,000 in fines. If a vehicle is used during the course of this violation, the court can also issue an order of up to 60-day impoundment or immobilization of the defendant’s vehicle.
A third or subsequent solicitation of prostitution offense is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. This type of offense is also classified as a Level 1 offense of severity rank under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. A person convicted of a third or subsequent solicitation offense will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum 10-day jail sentence. In addition, the penalties for a second-degree felony include up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, up to $10,000 in fines, and up to a 60-day impoundment or immobilization of the defendant’s vehicle.
The Florida Legislature also amended the prostitution statutes to add faith-based programs on the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking to the educational programs that a person convicted of soliciting prostitution must attend if such programs exist in their respective judicial district.
Renting Spaces for Prostitution
Additionally, the Florida Legislature recently increased penalties for a violation of Florida Statute Section 796.06, relating to the renting of space to be used for lewdness, assignation, or prostitution. A first violation of this rule constitutes a First-Degree Misdemeanor in Florida. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable with up to one year in jail, up to one year of probation, and up to a $1,000 fine.
A second or subsequent violation of this rule results in a felony of the third degree. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to five years in prison, up to five years of probation, and up to $5,000 in fines.
Mandatory Screening for Sexually Transmissible Diseases
Under Florida Statute Section 796.08(3), any person who is convicted of prostitution or procuring another person to commit prostitution must complete 100 hours of community service, attend a human trafficking and prostitution awareness course, pay a $5,000 civil fine, and undergo a screening for sexually transmissible diseases.
A “sexually transmissible disease” is defined as a bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic disease, determined by the rule of the Department of Health to be considered sexually transmissible, a threat to the public health and welfare, and a disease for which legitimate public interest is served by providing for regulation and treatment.
The defendant must undergo screening for a sexually transmissible disease under the direction of the Department of Health. If the testing comes back positive for an infection, the defendant must undergo treatment and counseling prior to their release from probation, community control, or incarceration.
In addition, any person who has committed prostitution or the procurement of prostitution who tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease beforehand and did not communicate such information with the other person engaged in the sexual activity can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The defendant can be convicted and sentenced separately for this type of violation in addition to the conviction and sentence for prostitution or the procurement of prostitution.
Any individual who commits or offers to commit prostitution or procures another person to commit prostitution by engaging in sexual activities likely to transmit HIV and who, prior to the commission of such acts, tested positive for HIV can be charged with a third-degree felony. The defendant can be convicted and charged separately for this violation in addition to the conviction and sentencing for prostitution or the procurement of prostitution.
Distinction Between Soliciting and Offering to Commit Prostitution
In 2015, the Florida Legislature amended ch. 796, F.S., to increase the penalty for “solicitation” from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony for subsequent violations. The legislature also added requirements for community service, a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail, and attendance of an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking. Ch. 2015-145, Laws of Fla.; s. 796.07(2)(f) and (5), F.S.
The changes were touted as a way to thwart human trafficking by providing harsher penalties for the individuals who solicit prostitutes. The Florida legislature also recognized that minors cannot consent to prostitution and should be treated as victims which followed the trend in other states and at the national level. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, for example, recognizes all prostituted minors as victims of sex trafficking as explained in 22 U.S.C. § 7102(9)(A).
As a result fo these changes, adults who use minors in any act prohibited under ch. 796, F.S., are not prosecuted under ch. 796, F.S., but should rather be prosecuted under other criminal laws, such as, but not limited to:
Chapter 827, F.S. related to the abuse of children;
Chapter 847, F.S. related to obscenity;
Section 810.145, F.S. for video voyeurism;
Section 800, F.S. for lewdness and indecent exposure;
Section 794, F.S. for sexual battery; and
Section 787.06, F.S. for human trafficking.
Since Florida’s Prostitution laws are no longer being used to prosecute crimes involving minors, the following statutes were repealed by Florida Statute Section 796 in 2014:
When a person is accused of committing a sex crime such as soliciting prostitution, the burden falls on the State to prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. When it comes to fighting charges for solicitation, a skilled defense attorney can help strategize possible defenses to your case. Aside from the general pretrial and trial defenses, the following is a list of potential defenses to use in a solicitation of prostitution case:
Insufficient evidence – The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is enough evidence to convict the defendant of soliciting another to commit prostitution. If law enforcement does not have enough sufficient evidence, this can be used as a valid defense.
Entrapment – If law enforcement improperly persuaded, coerced, or induced the defendant to commit the crime of solicitation, then entrapment can be used as a defense in the case.
No request for prostitution – If there is no proof of the defendant requesting or soliciting for prostitution, a defense attorney can use this defense.
No agreement or financial exchange – Without proof of an agreement or financial exchange for engaging in sexual activity, it can be difficult to prove the defendant is guilty of soliciting for prostitution.
Bona fide Medical Purpose – In some circumstances, a defendant can raise the affirmative defense that the acts were done due to a real medical reason. If such a defense is raised, it is up to the judge to decide who has the burden of persuasion and what the burden is, i.e. preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have been accused of soliciting of prostitution or any other type of sex crime, it is imperative that you seek out advice from a legal professional.
Finding a Prostitution Defense Lawyer in Leon County, FL
The state of Florida takes criminal offenses of prostitution or soliciting for prostitution very seriously. Getting convicted of a sex crime can lead to harsh consequences such as paying expensive fines, imprisonment, and probation. Speaking with a skilled Tallahassee criminal defense attorney in your area is the best way to ensure that you receive top-quality legal guidance for your case.
If you or a loved one has been charged with soliciting another to commit an act of prostitution, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee. Pumphrey Law has years of experience representing clients charged with prostitution crimes throughout Leon County and the surrounding areas. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message to discuss your case.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.