Prostitution and its related activities are illegal in Florida, and involve harsh punishments. In many Florida jurisdictions, law enforcement conducts sting operations that aim to catch either prostitutes or their patrons red-handed. In some cases, these stings are videotaped, and the photos of the offenders are sometimes published in both print and online media. Thus, facing prostitution charges brings not only the risk of jail time and fines, but also places your privacy and reputation in serious jeopardy. When you need experienced representation, a skilled Sarasota sex crimes attorney can help you.
Prostitution Laws in Florida
Florida Statute 796.07 delineates exactly what is illegal under Florida’s prohibition of prostitution. According to the law, prostitution is “the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire” as long as the sexual activity is not between spouses. In other words, when anyone exchanges valuables (cash, drugs…) for sexual activity with someone other than his or her spouse, prostitution has occurred.
The statute further defines sexual activity as basically any contact between one person and the sexual organs of another that does not occur for medical purposes. The statute also defines lewdness as any indecent or obscene act, and so-called assignation as making an appointment or engagement for lewdness or prostitution—or any act in furtherance of such an appointment or engagement.
Under Florida Statute 796.07, many other activities besides prostitution are also prohibited, such as:
- Owning, establishing, or maintaining any place of assignation, lewdness, or prostitution.
- Offering one person to another for the purpose of lewdness assignation, or prostitution
- Receiving a person or allowing a person to remain in a place for the purpose of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation
- Directing or transporting any person to any place where you have reasonable cause to believe lewdness, assignation, or prostitution will occur
- Soliciting another person to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation
- Residing in or enter any place for the purpose of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation
- Aiding, abetting, or participating in any of these activities
Florida Prostitution Penalties
The extent of you punishment under Florida law for committing any of the acts prohibited by statute 796.07 (besides soliciting) depend on how many prior offenses you have:
- For a first offense — You’ll face a second-degree misdemeanor charge, which could result in a sentence of up to 60 days in county jail along with a fine of $500.
- For a second offense — You’ll get charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for which a conviction involves up to 1 year in county jail along with a $1,000 fine.
- For a third or subsequent offense — You’ll be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and fines reaching $5,000.
Another consequence of a conviction for prostitution is having to attend AIDS awareness training and to submit to STD screening during your probationary period. If there’s evidence in your case that you have exchanged sex for drugs, you may qualify for alternative sentencing for a third or subsequent offense. Instead of receiving a felony-length jail sentence, you may instead attend a drug abuse treatment program.
If you get caught soliciting a prostitute, the penalties are significantly harsher. The state of Florida wants to discourage people from hiring prostitutes, so it put in place disproportionately severe punishments for this offense, including a $5,000 mandatory fine.
Forced Prostitution and Pimping
Florida’s legislators aim not only to fight prostitution, but to also target perpetrators of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This is the rationale behind Florida Statute 796.04, which prohibits fording, compelling, or coercing another person into becoming a prostitute. A violation of this statute will result in third-degree felony charges for each person you allegedly forced into prostitution. So if you get convicted for forcing 4 people into prostitution, you could face up to 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
Pimping is prohibited by Florida Statute 796.05, which makes it illegal to profit from the proceeds of another person’s prostitution—so long as you knew or believed that person was actually engaged in prostitution. This offense is a third-degree felony, for which a conviction will involve up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Minors and Prostitution
These days, more and more minors are involved in prostitution. Florida legislators have reacted accordingly, and have defined harsh punishments for people who patronize or profit from prostitutes who are under the age of 18. According to Florida Statute 796.03, it’s a second-degree felony to procure a minor for the purposes of prostitution. A conviction could involve jail time as long as 10 years and fines reaching $10,000.
If you didn’t intend to procure a minor prostitute, or didn’t know that the prostitute you hired was underage, you will still face enhanced penalties. Florida Statute 796.036 dictates that the prostitution offender’s offense will be enhanced one level when the prostitute was a minor. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor charge will be bumped up to a first-degree misdemeanor charge, involving longer jail sentences and higher fines.
According to Florida Statute 796.035, it’s illegal for a parent, guardian, or any other person with legal custody of a child to sell or transfer the custody of that child to a person he or she knows—or should have known—will use that child for the purposes of prostitution. It is also illegal to be on the receiving end of this sort of transaction. A violation of this statute is a first-degree felony, and a conviction may result in 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Fighting Your Prostitution Charges
An experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney standing by your side can greatly improve your chances of obtaining a good result when facing criminal charges related to prostitution. Your lawyer may be able to defend your prostitution-related case by:
- Claiming police entrapment — The authorities cannot implant a criminal idea into the suspect’s mind, than charge the suspect for breaking the law. These days, however, the police are careful to plan their stings so they are arguably not committing entrapment.
- Showing that you didn’t know the prostitute was underage — If you get charged with soliciting a minor prostitute, you lawyer can demonstrate that there was a reasonable doubt as to whether you knew the prostitute’s age. This could result in a serious reduction of your fines and jail time.
- Suppressing the prosecution’s evidence — The authorities cannot use evidence against you if they obtained it by violating your constitutional rights. For example, if the police caught you committing prostitution by entering your property or hotel room without a warrant, emergency circumstances, or your consent, this evidence will be inadmissible at your criminal trial.
Attorney Erika Valcarcel has built her reputation on vigorously defending the rights of her clients as they pass through the criminal justice system. She approaches her cases with compassion, aggressiveness, and a deep experience of criminal law. If you’re facing prostitution charges, call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today for a free and confidential consultation of your case at (941) 363-7900.