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Soliciting for Prostitution in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 796.07(2)(2) it is a crime to solicit another for the purpose of prostitution or for the purpose of performing a lewd or indecent act. Many of these cases involve elaborate undercover sting operations. The sting operations are becoming more sophisticated and often use online internet ads on message boards such as Backpage.

These sting operations often target individuals who are the least experienced in soliciting for prosecution. The unusual tactics used by law enforcement also lead to the entrapment of an innocent person who was not predisposed to commit the crime.  The female law enforcement officers posing as "prostitutes" sometimes cross the 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. 

For most of our clients, the goal is to fight for an outright dismissal of the charges so that the person accused can quickly petition to expunge the criminal record and mug shot. If you were charged with soliciting for prosecution in Tampa or Plant City, Hillsborough County, FL, then contact a criminal defense attorney at the 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.

Read more about the myriad of prostitution Backpage stings in Polk County, FL, that are specifically targeting individuals who are gay, lesbian or transgender.


Entrapment 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:

  1. subjective entrapment, codified in section 777.201, Florida Statutes; and
  2. 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:

  1. The defendant either offered, offered to secure, or agreed to secure another purpose; and
  2. For the purpose of either prosecution or for the purpose of committing any lewd or indecent act.

Definitions in Florida's Prostitution Statute

Read more about the definitions under Florida's statutory scheme for prosecution related offenses.
  • 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 of any 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).

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.


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).


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.
 
If a person who violates paragraph (2)(f) uses a vehicle in the course of the violation, the judge, upon the person's conviction, may issue an order for the impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle for a period of up to 60 days.
 
The order of impoundment or immobilization must include the names and telephone numbers of all immobilization agencies meeting all of the conditions of s. 316.193(13).
 
Within 7 business days after the date that the court issues the order of impoundment or immobilization, the clerk of the court must send notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the registered owner of the vehicle, if the registered owner is a person other than the defendant, and to each person of record claiming a lien against the vehicle.
 
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.

Penalties for Operating a Massage Establishment for Prostitution

If the place, structure, building, or conveyance that is owned, established, maintained, or operated for the purpose of  lewdness, assignation, or prostitution is a massage establishment that is or should be licensed under s. 480.043, the offense shall be reclassified to the next higher degree as follows:

  • A misdemeanor of the second degree for a first violation is reclassified as a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
  • A misdemeanor of the first degree for a second violation is reclassified as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
  • A felony of the third degree for a third or subsequent violation is reclassified as a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

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.


Finding an Attorney to Fight Soliciting for Prosecution Charges

If you were charged with Soliciting for the Purpose of Any Lewd / Indecent Act or Prostitution then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. 

We represent clients charged with soliciting a prostitute and other sex crimes throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa in Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas of Pasco County, Polk County, and Pinellas County, FL.

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.


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:

  1. (Defendant) [received] [offered to receive] [agreed to receive]
  2. A person into a [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance]
  3. For the purpose of [prostitution] [lewdness] [assignation].

Alternatively, the prosecutor must prove:

  1. (Defendant) permitted a person to remain in a [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance]
  2. 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:

  1. (Defendant) [directed] [took] [transported] [offered or agreed to [direct] [take] [transport]] a person to [a place] [a structure] [a building] [another person].
  2. 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].

Prostitution Solicitation Attorneys 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 within the statute. 

Whether you are charged with a first, second, or third or subsequent violation, we can help. Call 813-250-0500 for a free and confidential consultation.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

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