TALLAHASSEE, FL (December 13, 2019) — The Tallahassee Police Department announced that its investigators made five arrests during a recent prostitution sting. The Tallahassee Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit worked undercover to target street-level prostitution. Officers arrested five people on various charges related to prostitution and also charges others with drug possession.
An article appearing on the wtxl.com website reported that police charged a 55-year-old woman with possession of drug paraphernalia and also prostitution. Police sought charges against a 35-year-old woman for prostitution as well as possession of cocaine. Furthermore, officers arrested a 57-year-old woman and charged her with prostitution. Police also charged two 39-year-old women with prostitution. Finally, officers arrested a 51-year-old man and charged him with agreeing to get another person to commit an act of prostitution.
No information was available concerning the bond status of each person arrested. Police, however, did furnish the mugshot of each person arrested to the media for publication.
Crimes Relating to Prostitution in Florida
Soliciting a prostitute or acting as a prostitute are serious crimes in Florida. Both acts, along with eight others, fall under Section 796.07 of the 2019 Florida Statutes. Many law enforcement agencies conduct stings similar to the operation conducted by the Tallahassee Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit. Many officers will go undercover, looking to snag prostitutes or johns. Undercover officers could appear on the street as a prostitute and engage potential johns. Once the john offers money in exchange for a sexual act or lewd act, then a crime has been committed, and the police possess probable cause to arrest.
Similarly, the undercover operative could pose as a john looking for someone to offer a “date,” which is street code for sexual services. The police have probable cause to arrest at the point where the prostitute offers to perform a sex act for money.
Prostitutes often exchange their bodies for drugs or something else of value besides money. There is no legal requirement under Florida law that money is the only item of value that could be exchanged for sex to violate the state’s prohibition against prostitution.
Investigators frequently video record their clandestine operations. Video recording helps their case by eliminating the credibility of the police as a viable issue. It is hard to call a videotape a liar. However, reasonable people could disagree on what they believe they observed on the videotape.
Punishments for prostitution charges can vary depending on the prior criminal history of the person charged. A first-time offender will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. A person charged with a second-degree misdemeanor faces no mandatory jail time and could receive probation for up to six months. However, if a judge sentences a person to jail, then the maximum sentence will be 60 days. The judge must also order the person to complete 100 hours of community service and attend awareness classes.
A defendant convicted of a second offense of prostitution faces stricter penalties. A second conviction for prostitution is a first-degree misdemeanor. The sentence to jail cannot exceed one year. Additionally, the judge could order the person to be on probation for one year as well.
A third or subsequent offense for prostitution is a third-degree felony. The maximum sentence s five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.00.
It is important to note that 796.07(6) imposes a mandatory $5,000.00 fine on a person who solicits a prostitute in addition to the other potential ramifications enumerated in the statute.