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Maintaining a Place of Prostitution

Florida law provides for harsh penalties for “maintaining a place of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation” under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(a). Officers are cracking down on ads in Backpage for massage services which are often listed in the "massage services" section of the website. Brick and mortar massage parlors have also become targets in these sting operations.

In 2017, officers with the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrested 12 people who are suspected of participating in posting ads for massage services on Backpage.com. Many expect these types of Backpage massage sting operations to become more common.

The undercover detective who answered the ad on Backpage for massage services asked the person to meet at a local hotel, Comfort Suites, where the arrest occurred. In some of these cases, the undercover detective waited for an offer for sex or another lewd act before making the arrest. 

The City Council in Tampa recently passed a city ordinance that imposed additional regulations on massage parlors or spas including a prohibition on sexual activity in spas or offering massages without a massage therapist license. Once the regulatory scheme is in place, more investigations will occur in Tampa, FL, for Operating a Massage Establishment for Prostitution.

Attorneys for Maintaining a Place of Prostitution in Tampa, FL

If you were arrested for any criminal offense involving prostitution, offering a massage without a license, or improperly managing a massage parlor, then contact a criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL.

The criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients charged with sexually motivated crimes throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Hernando County, and Polk County, Florida.

Call 813-250-0500 to speak with an attorney today.


Jury Instruction 23.1 for Maintaining a Place of Prostitution

The jury instruction number 23.1 for “maintaining a place of prostitution, lewdness, or assignation” under Florida Statute § 796.07(2)(a) was originally adopted in 1981. The jury instruction was subsequently amended in 2008 [995 So. 2d 476], 2010 [48 So. 3d  41], and 2013.

The standard jury instructions for this offense were last modified in 2017. See In re Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases-Report 2017-02, 42 Fla. L. Weekly S869 (Fla. Oct. 26, 2017).

The standard jury instructions provide for the following elements of the offense:

To prove the crime of Maintaining a Place of [Prostitution] [Lewdness] [Assignation], the State must prove the following element beyond a reasonable doubt:

(Defendant) [established] [owned] [maintained] [operated] any [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance] for the purpose of [lewdness] [assignation] [prostitution].

If you find the defendant guilty of Maintaining a Place of [Prostitution] [Lewdness] [Assignation], you must also determine whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the [place] [structure] [building] [conveyance] that was [established] [owned] [maintained] [operated] for the purpose of [lewdness] [assignation] [prostitution] was a massage establishment that was or should have been licensed by the Florida Department of Health.

All “massage establishments” must be licensed by the Florida Department of Health. A “massage establishment” means a site or premises, or portion thereof, wherein a massage therapist practices massage. A “massage therapist” means a person licensed as required by law who administers massage for compensation.

“Massage” means the manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body with the hand, foot, arm, or elbow, whether or not such manipulation is aided by hydrotherapy, including colonic irrigation, or thermal therapy; any electrical or mechanical device; or the application to the human body of a chemical or herbal preparation.


Punishments for Operating a Massage Establishment for Prostitution

In many cases, prostitution activity that occurs in a "massage establishment" that is or should be licensed under Florida Statute Section 480.043, are subject to harsher penalties if the place, structure, building, or conveyance that is owned, established, maintained, or operated for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution.

The statutory scheme provides for the following enhanced penalties:

  • 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; and
  • 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.

Definitions under Florida’s Prostitution Statutes

Under Florida law, the term “prostitution” is defined as “the giving or receiving of the body for sexual activity for hire but excludes sexual activity between spouses.”

The term “lewdness” is defined as “any indecent or obscene act. “Indecent” means wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious, or sensual intention on the part of the person doing the act.”

“Assignation” means the making of any appointment or engagement for prostitution or lewdness or any act in furtherance of such appointment or engagement.

A “structure” is 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. A “conveyance” means any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.

Under § 796.07(1)(d), Fla. Stat., the term "sexual activity” means 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.


Additional Resources

Florida Statute Section 796.07 - Visit the website for the Florida Senate to find statutes including Florida Statute Section 796.07. Find the definitions of various terms used in sexually motivated offenses.

Standard Jury Instructions under Chapter 23 for Prostitution - Visit the website of the Florida Supreme Court to find the standard jury instructions under Chapter 23 related to prosecution. The jury instructions are provided in Rich Text Format that can be viewed in a word processing application.

  • 23.1 Maintaining A House of Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(a), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.2 Soliciting for the Purpose of Prostitution or Lewd or Indecent Act § 796.07(2)(b), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.3 Receiving for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation § 796.07(2)(c), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.4 Transporting for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness or Assignation § 796.07(2)(d), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.5 Offering to Commit, Committing, or Engaging in Prostitution Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(e), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.6 Soliciting for the Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(f), Fla.Stat.
  • 23.7 Entering for the Purpose of Prostitution, Lewdness, or Assignation § 796.07(2)(g), Fla.Stat.

Finding an Attorney for Solicitation Crimes in Tampa, FL

If you were arrested for any prosecution or solicitation offense under Florida law, then contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

We represent clients on a variety of sexually motivated offenses from a simple solicitation misdemeanor charge to the most serious felony offenses such as sex trafficking. We also represent individuals accused of offering a massage for hire without being properly licensed as a massage therapists by the Florida Department of Health or Operating a Massage Establishment for Prostitution.

If your case is in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County or Hernando County, then contact us today to discuss the best ways to fight the charges. 

Call 813-250-0500.


This article was last updated on Friday, April 6, 2018.

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