Florida law sets criminal charges for a variety of prostitution-related offenses. For example, it is not only illegal to participate in prostitution as a sex worker, but also to meet up for the purpose of exchanging money for sex. One of the most commonly charged prostitution offenses is solicitation, which involves convincing or persuading someone else to participate in prostitution.

What Qualifies as Solicitation?

Under Fla. Stat. 796.07, solicitation is defined as soliciting, enticing, inducing, or procuring another person to commit prostitution, lewdness, or assignation. This could include any of the following activities:
  • Offering another person for a prostitution-related purpose
  • Engaging in prostitution
  • Purchasing the services of a sex worker
  • Aiding or participating in other prostitution-related acts
While the act of prostitution involves the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire, lewdness does not actually require sexual intercourse, but is a term used to describe any indecent or obscene act. Obscene, as defined in Fla. Stat. 847.001 means the kind of act that:
  • The average person, applying current community standards, would think appeals to an unwholesome or shameful interest in sex or nudity
  • Depicts sexual conduct as patently offensive
  • Lacks serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value
Indecent acts are described similarly as wicked, lustful, or licentious. Soliciting another person to commit assignation is also unlawful. Assignation alludes to the making of an appointment or engagement for prostitution or lewdness and includes any act committed to further such an appointment or engagement.

Permissible Evidence

When someone is charged with solicitation, prosecutors are permitted to introduce testimony about the reputation of any building, structure, or conveyance involved in the charge. This includes:
  • Buildings of any kind, whether temporary or permanent, as long as they have a roof and closely adjoining land that is enclosed by a wall or fence
  • Any motor vehicle, trailer, vessel, or ship
Prosecutors are also allowed to submit testimony about the reputation of someone who lives in, operates, or frequents the place where the offense allegedly occurred. Finally, testimony about the defendant’s reputation is also admissible to support a charge of solicitation.

What are the Penalties for Solicitation?

The penalties for solicitation offenses, and prostitution crimes in general, depend on how many prior convictions a defendant has on his or her record. For example, a first offense is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, which could mean up to one year in prison, but usually just requires the defendant to pay a fine. Second violations, however, are punished much more harshly because they are considered third-degree felonies, which could mean up to five years in prison. Furthermore, second-time convictions will result in a mandatory minimum of ten days in jail. Third and subsequent violations can be charged as second-degree felonies, which could end up leading to a 15-year prison sentence.

Solicitation also comes with unique penalties that are not applicable to other prostitution-related offenses, including:
  • Performing 100 hours of community service
  • Paying a mandatory civil penalty of $5,000 if the defendant is not acquitted or the case is not dismissed
  • Paying for and attending a sexual violence prevention education program, which could include a faith-based program
The trial court judge can also choose to impose probation and require the defendant to submit to a sexually transmitted disease screening within one month of conviction.

Using a Vehicle During Solicitation

Using a vehicle while soliciting a sex worker also opens defendants up to additional hurdles. For example, in these cases, judges are permitted to order the car impounded for at least two months. Although the vehicle’s owner is allowed to request that the court dismiss the order, judges are only required to lift the impoundment if the offender can prove that:
  • The family has no other means of transportation
  • The car was stolen at the time of the offense
  • The owner bought the car after the crime was committed and the sale was not made to get around the court’s order
  • Although the car is technically owned by the defendant, it is operated solely by his or her employees
According to Fla. Stat. 847.0135, defendants who are accused of soliciting a minor under the age of 18 years old will face either second or third-degree felony charges, depending on whether the solicitation took place online or in person. Furthermore, the fact that an undercover police officer was involved in the investigation and arrest of the accused cannot be raised as a defense by the defendant.
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