Manatee County Prostitution Sting Nets 17 Arrests

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

The Manatee County Sherriff’s Department announced the arrest of 17 men and women in a prostitution sting that spanned several months.  In the sting, police detectives would pose as prostitutes or johns when responding to online ads for prostitution.  Once the detective and the suspect agreed to exchange sex for money, they would agree to meet and the suspect would be arrested.  Among those arrested was a Bradenton Police officer.

Prostitution in Florida is legally defined as people who are not spouses exchanging money for sexual activity.  Both a prostitute and a john can be charged with prostitution, the law does not punish only those acting as a prostitute or those purchasing services from a prostitute.  Advertising and negotiating services over the internet does not make prostitution any less illegal.

For first time offenders, prostitution is a second-degree misdemeanor.  This means that the sentence can be any combination of up to 60 days in jail, six months probation and a $500 fine.  A second time offender is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor and can get up to a year in jail, up to a year of probation and a $1,000 in fines.  For third or subsequent offenses, a person is guilty of a third-degree felony and can get up to 5 years in prison, five years probation and a $5,000 fine.

There are other penalties for those who are found guilty of prostitution as well.  Anyone convicted of prostitution must be screened for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.  If that person tests positive for an STI, they must undergo treatment before being released.  Even those who are arrested but not convicted must be offered the chance at screening.

There are additional penalties for prostitutes when they have sex for money knowing that they have HIV or another sexually transmitted infection.  The penalty for prostituting while knowing you have HIV is up to 5 years in prison while for other STI’s it is up to 1 year in jail.

Although prostitution that does not involve children is not an offense that requires someone to register as a sex offender, there will be lifetime consequences when it comes to some jobs.  A prostitution conviction bars someone from working as a teacher or otherwise employed in a school in Florida.  There are also some additional jobs that someone with a record of prostitution will not be able to hold.

The arrest of pimps is also common in many prostitution stings and that is something that would bring with it a whole different array of charges.  Pimping, which means forcing someone into prostitution and living off of prostitution, is a felony and carries with it a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.