Nearly thirty new laws went into effect in the state of Florida on October 1st, 2015, involving no contact orders in domestic violence cases, prohibitions on "revenge porn", and tougher penalties for those who solicit another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation. This post outlines the legislative changes related to prostitution offenses.
The new law does not change the nature of the proscribed conduct; it is the penalty provisions that have been enhanced. In Florida, "prostitution" means "giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire but excludes sexual activity between spouses". "Lewdness" means "any indecent or obscene act" and "assignation" means "the making of any appointment or engagement for prostitution or lewdness, or any act in furtherance of such appointment or engagement". It is unlawful to solicit, induce, entice, or procure another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
Under the pre-October 1st version of the statute, a person who solicited another to engage in an act of prostitution committed a misdemeanor of the second degree for a first offense. In Florida, a second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to sixty days in jail and/or six months of probation (the total sentence cannot exceed six months). A second offense constituted a misdemeanor of the first degree which is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or one year of probation (the total sentence cannot exceed one year). A third or subsequent offense constituted a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in state prison.
Under the new version of the statute, a first offense constitutes a first degree misdemeanor. A second offense now constitutes a third degree felony. Yes - for a second offense involving the solicitation of a prostitute, you can (and will) be charged with a felony. A third or subsequent violation now constitutes a second degree felony. In Florida, a second degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in state prison. There are some important limitations on a court's authority to withhold adjudication of guilt on a second degree felony, which you may want to be aware of (see the client solutions section of our website). Also, a diversion program is less likely for this level of offense.
In addition to increasing the degree of offense, the new law requires that a person convicted of solicitation for prostitution complete 100 hours of community service, pay for and attend an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking and, for a second or subsequent offense, the court must now sentence the person to a minimum mandatory period of 10 days in the county jail. To make matters worse, if the convicted person used a vehicle in the course of committing the violation, the judge may issue an order for the impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle for up to sixty days. However, if the court enters an order of impoundment or immobilization, the owner of the vehicle may petition the court to dismiss the order. The court must dismiss the order, and the owner of the vehicle will incur no costs, if the owner of the vehicle alleges, and the court finds to be true, any of the following:
- The owner's family has no other private or public means of transportation;
- The vehicle was stolen at the time of the offense;
- The owner purchased the vehicle after the offense was committed, and the sale was not made to circumvent the order and allow the defendant continued access to the vehicle; or
- The vehicle is owned by the defendant but is operated solely by employees of the defendant or employees of a business owned by the defendant.
If the court denies the request, the petitioner may request an evidentiary hearing (this usually involves sworn oral testimony before the court and the presentation of any and all relevant documents for the court's consideration).
You should also be aware that the court must assess a $5,000.00 civil penalty against a person who solicits, entices, or procures another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation if the violation "results in any judicial disposition other than an acquittal or dismissal". This assessment does not, however, represent a change in the law. The court was required to make the same assessment under the pre-October 1st, 2015 version of the statute.
In an article published on October 1st, the Tampa Tribune reported that the St. Petersburg Police Department is prepared to enforce this new law. According to the article, the department announced that it "will start enforcing the new law in an effort to curb prostituion in the city" and thereby combat "drug addiction, human trafficking and related crimes which affect the quality of life of law abiding citizens, and the prosperity of local businesses". That being said, I would expect to see a marked increase in the number of arrests for prostitution related offenses in the upcoming days, weeks, and months throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. To read the article in its entirety, please click on the following link: "St. Pete Police ready to enforce new prostitution laws".
If you have been arrested or charged with a prostitution related offense, an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer can help. Attorney Donald Kilfin has handled numerous prostitution offenses as both a Pinellas county state prosecutor and local criminal defense attorney. Feel free to contact The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. at any time.