Update: With the passage of FOSTA/SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act / Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act), Craiglist (and other sites likely to follow) has removed all personal ads from their website. So even completely legitimate personal connection ads, as well as thinly disguised consensual sex work offers will likely move further into the shadows.
Though county and local police have generally preferred Craiglist personal ads, it is extremely unlikely they will stop pursuing these things. With the laws getting tougher, we wouldn’t be surprised if they get even more aggressive.
Prostitution and sexwork will never go away, so we will have to see where the online marketplace moves. I fully expect the police to follow the crowd to wherever the listings for victimless consensual paid sex, and yes, trafficking too, end up.
Local and state police and law enforcement across Florida have been extremely aggressive in pursuing prostitution and sex work busts for years. Many of us in the criminal defense and criminal justice reform movement communities have long considering much of this behavior essentially entrapment.
If you have been accused of soliciting prostitution, please call for a consultation to discuss the best legal defense options.
How the police bust people for soliciting prostitution (and more serious offenses).
It starts with a personal or other sometimes innocuous ad placed on Craiglist* (see above) or other personal sites.
It may be a straightforward 1) arrange to meet 2) you meet at a motel, the woman is there, 3) you offer payment, 4) police burst into the room.
But sometimes it is a more sinister and elaborate setup to trap you into an extremely serious offense, like attempted child rape. for example:
1) You respond to the ad (personals, consensual encounters, women seeking men, w4m etc.)
It is perfectly innocent to reply to an email or send a text to someone who posted an advertisement about meeting people.
2) The initial response is often also innocent
Initially, the content of the conversation is between the law enforcement officer who is posing as the adult that originally posted the ad and the person who responded. The initial conversation will be about a meeting between two adults.
3) The trap is baited with hints of the presence and involvement of a minor
Eventually, the officer who posted that ad and is posing as an adult will try to steer toward sexual relations with a minor. It will start with statements that could be interpreted in 2 different ways. One innocent. The other sinister.
Often, the LEO posing as an adult will be the minor’s “mother.”
4) The LEO will try to coax you to make an incriminating statement
The officer may imply or directly state to you if you want to have some type of sexual relation with the minor. Again, this will start with statements that could be taken two ways, leading to more explicit statements. The hints may be vague to allow for plausibly deniability that they are entrapping you.
5) Once you’ve made a statement, they will set a meeting with you
Often they will then try to set an in-person meeting. Or they may try to get you to initiate, send or ask to receive illegal photos, such as nudes of a minor, or just thinking you are sending explicit images, possibly to a minor.
6) If a meeting is set, or pictures are exchanged, you are implicated in a crime and will be arrested.
Once the pictures are sent or received, or a person arrives at the pre-determined location, it is already too late. The crime has already been committed. There does not have to be any sexual act or even an attempt at a sexual act.
This is an online, law enforcement version of Chris Hanson’s former TV Show: “How to Catch A Predator.”
Prostitition Laws and Penalties
Florida criminal statutes for prostition (soliciting prostitution lewdness) is covered under FL Statute Section 796.07.
A first offense solicitation of prostitution is a first-degree misdemeanor.
The penalties can include:
- community service, educational programs about human trafficking and sexual violence prevention
- required submission to STD testing
- Fines up to $5000
Florida Sex with a minor laws
The age of consent for sexual activity is 18 in Florida. There are some very specific exception to this rule, but generally speaking, and adult of 24 years or older will be charged with Unlawful sexual activity, and an adult from 18-23 will be charged with Non-consensual sex with minors.
If you are accused of violating this offense, such as if you are entrapped by the police in the scenario above, you will be charged with Unlawful Sexual Activity with minors, FL Statute Section 794.05.
The penalty for this sexual battery offense is:
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Sex offender registry
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Call us for legal help
These charges are extremely serious, and it is disturbing how often entrapment is employed by the police. Even without entrapment, a consensual sexual activity that involves payment, but it not forced or doesn’t involve trafficking is an extremely difficult and embarrassing thing to explain on a criminal record.
Call to speak with an attorney who can guide to you mininize the consequences of this incident.