Prostitution Bill Passes Both House and Senate

May 4, 2015

Prostitution is a criminal offense in Florida, but visiting a prostitute is also a crime, and may soon become a more serious one. A bill increasing sentences for soliciting a prostitute has been passed unanimously by both the Florida House and Senate. The goal of the increased sentences is to crack down on prostitution in Florida by going after the customers who provide the market.

The Bill

House Bill 465 increases first offenses from second degree to first degree misdemeanors. A second offense would be a third degree felony, and a third or subsequent offense would be a second degree felony. For second or subsequent offenses, the bill creates a mandatory minimum sentence of ten days’ incarceration.

Additionally, for any solicitation conviction, the offender would have to:

  • Complete one hundred hours of community service, and
  • Pay for and attend a class about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking, such as a sexual violence prevention education program.

The bill would further provide that if the offender uses a vehicle in the commission of the offense, the judge could order the impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle for up to sixty days. However, the offender could request that the vehicle be released, and the court would have to release the vehicle if:

  • The offender’s family has no other private or public transportation,
  • The vehicle was stolen at the time of the offense,
  • The vehicle was sold after the offense, and the sale was not made to circumvent this provision and let the offender keep using it, or
  • The offender is the owner of the vehicle, but it is operated solely by the offender’s employees.

Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, sponsored the bill in the House to send the message that people are not commodities for sale.

Current Law

Current law prohibits the solicitation of a prostitute. To solicit a prostitute means to encourage, induce, persuade, or command another person to engage in prostitution, lewdness, or assignation. Prostitution is the exchange of sexual activity, between parties who are not married, in exchange for something of value. Lewdness is any obscene or indecent act, and assignation means making an appointment for prostitution or for lewdness, or any act furthering such an appointment.

In order for solicitation of a prostitute to have occurred, the person being solicited does not have to be considered a prostitute, outside of the offense. It is also unnecessary for money to actually be paid, or for a sexual act to actually be committed, or even for the person being solicited to be willing or able to commit the sexual act. The money must merely be offered, and the sexual act must only be solicited. This is how law enforcement officers are able to conduct undercover operations by posing as prostitutes. They do not have to actually engage in or be willing to actually engage in the sexual act for a crime to have been committed.

Currently, the first offense of solicitation of a prostitute is a second degree misdemeanor. A second offense is a first degree misdemeanor, and a third or subsequent offense is a third degree felony. Additionally, a civil penalty of $5,000 will be assessed for anyone found guilty of solicitation. Someone charged with a third or subsequent offense will be offered admission to a pretrial intervention program or to a substance abuse program. Sentences are enhanced if the person being solicited is a minor.

Sex crimes are serious offenses in Florida. If you have been charged with a sex crime, a lawyer’s advice and counsel are essential. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.