Soliciting for Prostitution in Florida
Under Florida Statute Section 796.07(2) it is a crime to solicit another for the purpose of prostitution or for the purpose of performing a lewd or indecent act (often called “solicitation prostitution lewdness”).
Our attorneys also represent clients charged with city and county ordinance violations related to prostitution including:
- the City of Tampa Ordinance under Section 14-80 prohibiting “precursor acts facilitating prostitution”;
- the City of St. Petersburg Ordinance under Section 20-122 which allows impounding vehicles used to facilitate prostitution-related offenses.
If you drove to the scene and were seated in your vehicle at the time of the offense, then the State Attorney’s Office might seek a mandatory revocation of your driver’s license if you are convicted under Florida Statute Section 322.26(7).
Elaborate undercover sting operations take place throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. For example, hundreds of men have been arrested for soliciting a prostitute at one location in the City of Davenport in Polk County, on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, and on 34th Street in St. Petersburg, FL.
Sting operations were becoming more sophisticated and often use online internet ads on message boards such as Backpage (before it was shut down).
These sting operations often target individuals who are the least experienced in soliciting for prostitution. The unusual tactics used by law enforcement also lead to the entrapment of an innocent person who was NOT predisposed to commit the crime.
Because the officers are manufacturing this crime, the entrapment defense can often be used to fight the charges. The female law enforcement officers posing as “prostitutes” sometimes cross the entrapment line in order to build the case. To add insult to injury, local newspapers often publish details about these sting operations and feature the mug shots of people arrested.
Attorney for Soliciting a Prostitute in Tampa, FL
If you were charged with soliciting a prostitute or an undercover officer posing as a prostitute in Tampa or Plant City, Hillsborough County, FL, then contact a criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. We help men and women fight serious allegations for sexually motivated crimes such as soliciting another for a lewd or indecent act.
Our attorneys represent clients throughout the Tampa Bay area, including Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County and Hernando County, FL. During the initial consultation, we can explain the charges pending against you and the best ways to fight the charges.
We can help you fight for an outright dismissal or at least a reduction to a less serious charge such as disorderly conduct. We can also help you fight the charges to avoid the mandatory $5000 fine and possible driver’s license suspension or revocation under Florida Statute Section 322.26(7).
Recent Soliciting / Prostitution Sting Operation in Tampa, FL
A recent sting operation took place on April 18, 2019, in Hillsborough County involved officers with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. For this “hotel operation in reference to prostution”, the officers used a website called Escort Index. The website at Escort Index (escortindex[dot]com) has pictures of half naked individuals with their cell phone number. The conversation usually starts with the subject sending a text message or making a phone call to the undercover officer posing as a sex worker to arrange a meeting.
For this particular sting operation, the undercover officer will ask the subject to meet at a room at the Embassy Suites in the Brandon area located at 10220 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619. When the suspect gets to the hotel room, the undercover officer will ask questions to find out the amount of the “donation”. Then when the undercover officer leaves the room, officers come in to make the arrest. After the arrest, the officers will take the subject to a different room to interrogate the subject about the incident with the goal of getting a confession.
Then the officers will walk the suspect out of the backdoor of the Embassy Suites hotel to patrol vehicle before taking them to jail. Most of these cases involve an arrest for Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution under Florida Statute Section 796.07(2)(f) (PROS3204). The standard bond is $500.
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in fighting these types of cases involving the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Driver’s License Revocation for Prostitution Charges
Can the court suspended or revoke your driver’s license is you are charged with soliciting a prostitute? The short answer is “yes, maybe.”
In these cases, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office will send you a notice of intent and proposed order to forward the citation issued in the above entitled offense to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) if you are ultimately convicted of Solicitation for Prostitution.
Florida Statute Section 322.26(7) provides for a mandatory revocation of license upon conviction for any violation against prostitution, assignation, or lewdness, when the violation has been effected through the use of a motor vehicle. The DHSMV calls this a suspension / revocation for an “immoral act”.
Your attorney can fight that allegation by showing that the act of solicitation was NOT effected through the use of a motor vehicle. The most common scenario involves an allegation that the defendant drove to the scene of the offense and was seated in his motor vehicle at the time of the offense.
In State v. Raisor, CRC96-11146 (Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida 1996), the Circuit Court sitting in its appellate capacity over county court appeals, found that soliciting for prostitution can be effected through the use of a motor vehicle even through a sexual act does not occur within the vehicle and even through the prostitute never enters the motor vehicle. There are no decisions at the district court of appeals level upholding this ruling or any similar ruling.
Section 322.26(7) doesn’t indicate how long the suspension / revocation will last and does NOT provide for any specific requirements for early reinstatement. Instead, the DHSMV takes the position that the suspension length is recommended by the court. The courts often imposed a six (6) month suspension. The main problem, is that this notation remains on your driving record even if you are able to seal the criminal history report.
If your license is suspended or revoked for this reason, you must then petition the DHSMV Bureau of Administrative Reviews for early reinstatement after meeting any prerequisite condition and obtaining a positive determination by a hearing officer. Requests for early reinstatement may be received at the DHSMV BAR office in person, via telephone or via fax. Prior to conducting the hearing, the hearing officer will check the Florida Driver License Information System (FDLIS), the Commercial Driver License Information System, and the National Driving Registry (NDR) to make sure no other holds exist. The hearing officer will also check the Comprehensive Care Information System (CCIS) for any indication of continued driving during the sanction period.
The person must then submit an application for hardship license using the current revision form HSMV 78306 and pay the filing fee. The hearing must take place in person (or maybe via the phone) and may be scheduled up to 7 days in advance. The request for reinstatement of a first sanction related to lewdness or immoral acts use the procedures for non-egregious hearings which are intended to be quick hearings.
The hearing officer makes the decision as to whether early reinstatement will be allowed on a restricted basis and if reinstated, whether the driving will be restricted to driving for business purposes only or for employment purposes only. The decision of the hearing officer is based on “training provided, pertinent policies, and statutes.” To avoid the nightmare of your license being suspended or revoked, work with your attorney to avoid a conviction.
Forfeiture of Vehicles for Solicitation Charges in Florida
To add insult to injury, the law enforcement officers in these cases will often seize and impound the defendant’s vehicle under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (FCFA) section 932.701-.707, Florida Statutes. or a local ordinance that purports to authorize the seizure and impoundment of vehicles.
The seizure of the vehicle requires that the vehicle was used in the commission of the offense. If your vehicle was seized, you should hire an attorney to demand an adverse preliminary hearing within 15 days of the seizure.
Demanding the hearing immediately is often the best way to get the vehicle back. After the demand is filed and the hearing is scheduled, the city or county that seized the vehicle becomes much more motivated to return the vehicle quickly. If you fail to assert your rights it is nearly impossible to negotiate a fair resolution of the case.
Entrapment Defenses in Prostitution Solicitation Cases
Law enforcement officers throughout the Tampa Bay area use sting operations to lure a person into committing a crime. Prostitution sting operations create an appearance that the person has the possibility of a completely unexpected sexual encounter. Creating this kind of lure preys on fragile human emotions and the most sensitive of human frailties—the primal urge for a sexual encounter.
Florida recognizes two theories of defense based on entrapment:
- subjective entrapment, codified in section 777.201, Florida Statutes; and
- objective entrapment, definitively established in Munoz v. State, 629 So.2d 90, 99 (Fla.1993).
Subjective entrapment focuses on whether conduct by law enforcement induced, encouraged, or caused the defendant to commit a crime when he or she was not predisposed to do so. See § 777.201, Fla. Stat.; Jones v. State, 114 So.3d 1123, 1126 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013).
Objective entrapment occurs when egregious law enforcement conduct amounts to a violation of the defendant’s right to due process under article I, section 9, of the Florida Constitution. See Munoz, 629 So.2d at 99; Gennette v. State, No. 1D12–3407, slip op. at 9 n. 5, 124 So.3d 273, 2013 WL 4873490 (Fla. 1st DCA Sept. 13, 2013) (describing objective entrapment as “government action so egregious that even a predisposed defendant’s due process rights are violated”).
Other defenses to solicitation and prostitution cases include filing motions to challenge the constitutionality of prostitution charges either on its face or as applied to the particular facts of an individual case. Many of these challenges alleged that the statute or ordinance is overly broad or too vague.
Jury Instructions for Soliciting a Prostitute
This jury instruction for soliciting for prosecution or a lewd act was originally adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 2008 and 2013. The jury instruction under Section 23.2 provides that to prove the crime of Soliciting for the Purpose of Prostitution or Any Lewd or Indecent Act, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant either offered, offered to secure, or agreed to secure another purpose; and
- For the purpose of either prosecution or for the purpose of committing any lewd or indecent act.
- Prostitution – giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire but excludes sexual activity between spouses.
- Indecent – wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious, or sensual intention on the part of the person doing the act.
- Lewd act – any indecent or obscene act.
- Sexual activity – 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; however, the term does not include acts done for bona fide medical purposes.
- Lewdness – any indecent or obscene act.
- Assignation – making an appointment or engagement for prostitution or lewdness, or any act in furtherance of such appointment or engagement.
- Structure – any building of any kind, either temporary or permanent, which has a roof over it and includes any closely adjoining land enclosed by a fence or wall.
- Conveyance – any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.
Statutory Penalties for Solicitation for Prostitution in Florida
A first-time violation of solicitation of prostitution is now a first-degree misdemeanor. See § 796.07(4)(a). Ch. 2015–145, § 1, Laws of Fla. In addition to incarceration, the trial court can also impose probation, order the defendant to complete community service hours, and submit to a sexually transmitted disease screening within thirty days. The court must also assess a $5000 civil penalty pursuant to section 796.07(6).
Criminal defense attorneys in Florida have filed motions to declare section 796.07(6) unconstitutional because the $5,000 penalty is an excessive fine in violation of the Excessive Fines Clause in both the United States and Florida Constitutions. See U.S. Const. amend. VIII; art. 1, § 17, Fla. Const. Those issues are not well-settled under Florida law.
Under the 2013 version of the prostitution statute, a first violation of any provision of the statute is a second-degree misdemeanor, a second violation is a first-degree misdemeanor, and a third or subsequent violation is a third-degree felony, regardless of which subsection is violated. § 796.07(4)(a), (b), (c).
A defendant convicted of a violation of section 796.07(2)(f), prohibiting solicitation, inducement, enticement, or procurement of another person to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation—regardless of the degree of the offense—must be assessed the $5000 fine. § 796.07(6).
In other words, no matter whether the defendant committed a third-degree felony or a first-degree misdemeanor solicitation violation, the court is required to impose the $5000 fine (although a reduced charge such as “disorderly conduct” would not necessarily require a fine at all).
Why is the $5,000 Fine for Soliciting Prostitution So High?
Prior to January 1, 2013, section 796.07(6) mandated the imposition of a $500 fine for violations of section 796.07(2)(f). In 2012 the legislature adopted an amendment to the statute to increase the fine from $500 to $5000. Ch. 2012–105, § 7, Laws of Fla.
The increased fine was part of the Florida Safe Harbor Act, which was “intended to provide a more coordinated response to address the child welfare services needs of sexually exploited children who are dependent.” Fla. S. Budget Comm., Budget subcomm. on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations; Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Comm., CS for SB 202 (2012), Staff Analysis 1 (March 3, 2012).
The 2013 statute mandates that the first $500 of the fine be used to pay administrative costs of treatment-based drug court programs and the remaining $4500 be used for funding safe houses and safe foster homes for sexually exploited children. The Florida Safe Harbor Act is specific to sexually exploited children and “[i]ncreases the civil penalty for crimes related to prostitution from $500 to $5,000.” Staff Analysis, supra, at 2.
Effective October 1, 2014, those sections of chapter 796 pertaining to child-related prostitution crimes were repealed. Ch. 2014–160, § 10, Laws of Fla. Section 796.001 was added and provides that “[i]t is the intent of the [l]egislature that adults who involve minors in any behavior prohibited under this chapter be prosecuted under other laws of this state, such as, but not limited to, s. 787.06, chapter 794, chapter 800, s. 810.145, chapter 827, and chapter 847.
The [l]egislature finds that prosecution of such adults under this chapter is inappropriate since a minor is unable to consent to such behavior.” Ch. 2014–160, § 9, Laws of Fla.
Why is Prostitution a Crime in Florida?
“Forty-nine of the fifty states today prohibit all sales of sexual services. The federal government acknowledges the link between prostitution and trafficking in women and children, a form of modern-day slavery.” Coyote Publ’g, Inc. v. Miller, 598 F.3d 592, 600 (9th Cir.2010) (citing U.S. Department of State, The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking (November 24, 2004)).
“Solicitation of prostitution, lewdness, public indecency, and other sexual vice crimes of the types material to the subject litigation may impact adversely the health, safety, welfare, and morals of the affected neighborhood and the larger community.” Ross v. Duggan, 113 Fed.App’x 33, 45 (6th Cir.2004) (unpublished).
Despite these policy reasons, many people believe that prostitution should not be a crime at all, but instead, should be regulated and taxed by the government. During jury selection, it is important to select jurors that understand that law enforcement officers “manufacture” these crimes because they are profitable.
Penalties for Soliciting a Prostitute in Florida
Under § 796.07(2)(f), it is unlawful to solicit, induce, entice, or procure another to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation. Under § 796.07(5)(a), a person who solicits another to commit prostitution can be charged with:
- A misdemeanor of the first degree for a first violation, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
- A felony of the third degree for a second violation, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
- A felony of the second degree for a third or subsequent violation, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
In addition to any other penalty imposed, the court shall order a person convicted of soliciting a prostitute to do all of the following:
- Perform 100 hours of community service; and
- Pay for and attend an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking, such as a sexual violence prevention education program, including such programs offered by faith-based providers, if such programs exist in the judicial circuit in which the offender is sentenced.
A person who violates paragraph (2)(f) shall be assessed a civil penalty of $5,000 if the violation results in any judicial disposition other than acquittal or dismissal. Of the proceeds from each penalty assessed under this subsection, the first $500 shall be paid to the circuit court administrator for the sole purpose of paying the administrative costs of treatment-based drug court programs provided under s. 397.334.
The remainder of the penalty assessed shall be deposited in the Operations and Maintenance Trust Fund of the Department of Children and Families for the sole purpose of funding safe houses and safe foster homes as provided in s. 409.1678.
In addition to any other penalty imposed, the court shall sentence a person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (2)(f) to a minimum mandatory period of incarceration of 10 days.
The owner of the vehicle may request 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 to dismiss the order, the petitioner may request an evidentiary hearing. If, at the evidentiary hearing, the court finds to be true any of the circumstances described in sub-subparagraphs (d)2.a.-d., the court must dismiss the order and the owner of the vehicle will incur no costs.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Prostitution Crimes
For prostitution crimes in Florida, different time periods apply to the statute of limitations including:
- the statute of limitations is one (1) year for a first offense of prostitution charged under Florida Statute Section 796.07(4)(a)1 for giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire. A person who violates any provision of s.796.07, other than paragraph (2)(f) commits a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree for a first offense/violation;
- the statute of limitations is two (2) years for a second offense of prostitution charged under Florida Statute Section 796.07(4)(a)2 for a person who violates any provision of s.796.07, other than paragraph (2)(f) which is charged as a misdemeanor of the 1st degree for a second offense/violation;
- the statute of limitations is three (3) years for a third offense of prostitution charged under Florida Statute Section 796.07(4)(a)3 when a person is accused of violating any provision of s.796.07, other than paragraph (2)(f) which is a third degree felony for a third or subsequent offense/violation.
Related Sex Worker Charges
Although Soliciting for the Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation under § 796.07(2)(f), Fla.Stat., is the most common offense, Florida law also provides for more charges such as:
- Maintaining A House of Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(a), Fla.Stat.
- Soliciting for the Purpose of Prostitution or Lewd or Indecent Act § 796.07(2)(b), Fla.Stat.
- Receiving for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation § 796.07(2)(c), Fla.Stat.
- Transporting for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation § 796.07(2)(d), Fla.Stat.
- Offering to Commit, Committing, or Engaging in Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(e), Fla.Stat.
- Entering for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(g), Fla.Stat.
Maintaining a Place of Prostitution
Florida Statute Section § 796.07(2)(a), prohibits maintaining a place of prostitution, lewdness or assignation. The jury instructions for the criminal charge of maintaining a place of prosecution are found in Section 23.1. Those instructions were first adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 2008, 2010, and 2013.
To prove the crime of Maintaining a Place of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s office must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant either established, owned, maintained, or operated;
- any place, structure, building or conveyance;
- for the purpose of lewdness, assignation or prostitution.
Receiving for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation
Under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(c), it is a crime to receive a person for the purpose of prostitution, lewdness or assignation. Florida’s criminal jury instruction 23.3 was first adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 2008 and 2013. The jury instruction provides that to prove the crime of Receiving for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:
- (Defendant) [received] [offered to receive] [agreed to receive]
- A person into a [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance]
- For the purpose of [prostitution] [lewdness] [assignation].
Alternatively, the prosecutor must prove:
- (Defendant) permitted a person to remain in a [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance]
- For the purpose of [prostitution] [lewdness] [assignation].
Transporting for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation
Under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(d), it is a crime to transport a person for prostitution. Jury Instruction 23.4 was adopted in 1981 and amended in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
To prove the crime of Transporting for the Purpose of [Prostitution] [Lewdness] [Assignation], the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- (Defendant) [directed] [took] [transported] [offered or agreed to [direct] [take] [transport]] a person to [a place] [a structure] [a building] [another person].
- At the time, (defendant) knew or had reasonable cause to believe that such [directing] [taking] [transporting] was for the purpose of [prostitution] [lewdness] [assignation].
Offering to Engage in Prostitution in Florida
Under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(e), it is a crime to offer to engage in prostitution. Jury instruction 23.5 was adopted in 1981 and amended in 2008, 2010, and 2013. To prove the crime of Offering to Commit, Committing, or Engaging in [Prostitution] [Lewdness] [Assignation], the State must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The Defendant either offered to commit, committed or engaged in;
- prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.
Entering for the Purpose of Prostitution in Florida
Under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(g), it is a crime to reside in or enter into a place for the purpose of prosecution, lewdness or assignation. Jury instruction 23.7 sets out the elements of the offense.
To prove the crime of Entering for the Purpose of [Prostitution] [Lewdness] [Assignation], the State must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Defendant resided in, entered, remained in;
- a [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance];
- for the purpose of [prostitution] [lewdness] [assignation].
Read more about the myriad of prostitution Backpage stings in Polk County, FL.
Lawyers for Prostitution Solicitation in Tampa, FL
If you were arrested for solicitation for prostitution or related charges of offering to engage in prostitution (sometimes called “soliciting a lewd act”), then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Criminal charges include offering sex in exchange for money, offered money in exchange for sex, and driving prostitutes to the location deriving proceeds from the activity.
We defend clients charged with these offenses throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Bartow and Lakeland in Polk County, and Brooksville in Hernando County, FL.
Our attorneys fight charges under Section 796.07 which prohibits prostitution and related acts including:
- offering another person for the purpose of prostitution;
- engaging in prostitution;
- soliciting another to commit prostitution;
- purchasing the services of a person engaged in prostitution; and
- aiding or participating in any of the prohibited acts enumerated in the statute.
Whether you are charged with a first, second, or third or subsequent violation, we can help. We represent clients charged with soliciting a prostitute and other sex crimes throughout the greater Tampa Bay area.
We fight aggressively for the dismissal of the charges, the expunction of the criminal record and mug shot, and the return of any seized property. Call today to discuss your case.
Call (813) 250-0500 for a free and confidential consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, January 11, 2018.