Solicitation Of Prostitution In Florida

Although most Florida residents are aware that prostitution is illegal, few realize that this criminality extends beyond sex workers to those who solicit prostitution. The reality is that the solicitation of prostitution is a serious offense in Florida.

What Qualifies as Solicitation?

In Florida, a person can be charged with solicitation of prostitution if he or she induces, entices, bribes, requests, procures, or solicits someone else to engage in one of the following activities:
  • Prostitution, which is defined in Florida Statute 796.07 as the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity in exchange for compensation;
  • Lewdness, which is a term used to describe any indecent or obscene act; or
  • Assignation, which involves making an appointment to engage in sex for hire or another lewd act.
A person can even be charged with solicitation if the party being solicited is not actually a prostitute. In fact, the person being solicited does not have to be willing or able to commit to the sexual act at all. For this reason, many law enforcement agencies use sting operations with undercover police officers to find and arrest those who are attempting to solicit a prostitute. It is also not necessary for the parties to exchange money, as only the offer of payment is required to charge someone with solicitation.

Potential Penalties

Solicitation is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, especially if it is a person’s first violation. These types of misdemeanors are punishable by one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Second violations are charged as third-degree felonies, which carry the much more serious threat of a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. Third and subsequent violations are considered second-degree felonies and as such are punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In addition to these penalties, those who are convicted of soliciting a prostitute in Florida are required to:
  • Perform 100 hours of community service;
  • Pay for and attend an educational program about the effects of prostitution;
  • Undergo mandatory STD testing; and
  • Pay a civil penalty of $5,000, all but $500 of which will be donated to the Department of Children and Families to fund safe houses and foster homes.
Courts are also required to order anyone convicted of a second violation to spend at least ten days in jail. Furthermore, if a defendant used a car during the solicitation attempt, the judge can order the vehicle to be impounded for up to two months.

Soliciting a Minor

Purposely soliciting a minor is automatically charged as a second-degree felony. However, in cases where a defendant was not aware that the other party was underage or was not purposely seeking an underage sex worker, he or she can expect to receive a punishment that is enhanced by one level. This means that while someone who was convicted of soliciting a prostitute for the first time is usually charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, if the exchange involved a minor, the charge will become a third degree felony.

Using the internet to solicit or attempt to solicit a minor to engage in sexual conduct is also specifically prohibited by Florida Statute 847.0135. In fact, a person can be convicted of internet solicitation even if the other party was not actually a child, but was believed by the defendant to be a minor. It is also unlawful to solicit a child’s parent in an effort to receive consent to engage in sexual conduct on the child’s behalf. Internet solicitation is a third-degree felony, but will be increased to a second-degree felony if the defendant misrepresented his or her age to the other party.

Available Defenses

There are a number of defenses available to those who have been accused of or charged with solicitation of prostitution, the most common of which is entrapment. This defense is often raised in cases where an undercover law enforcement officer posed as a prostitute in an effort to identify and arrest offenders. If defendants can prove that they were enticed to commit a crime that they ordinarily would not commit, they may be able to avoid conviction. In situations where the solicited individual is not an undercover police officer, defendants may be able to assert the defense of mistaken identity, especially if there are no photographs or video surveillance records to substantiate the charge. Defendants can also introduce evidence of investigative mistakes made by officers if those errors affected and undermined the defendant’s rights in some way.
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