The beginning of October 2016 brought several changes to Florida laws. In all, 26 different laws went into effect. Among these new laws is House Bill 545 which expands penalties for human trafficking and prohibits prosecutors from charging minors with prostitution.
What changes does HB 545 make to Florida’s prostitution laws?
As HB 545 takes effect this month, the state will no longer charge minors found to be engaging in prostitution for their offenses. The state will consider minors involved in prostitution victims rather than culprits.
This part of the law also heightens the penalties for anyone forcing a child into prostitution, deeming it an act of human trafficking.
The law also requires the Department of Health to suspend the license of a massage therapist or establishment if it violates specific conduct restrictions related to prostitution. Furthermore, if the state finds that a licensed massage therapist has conducted certain prostitution offenses in a massage establishment, he or she will not be able to receive a new or renewal license.
The law also includes elevated penalties for knowingly renting a space for lewdness or prostitution if the accused owned, established, maintained, or operated the space in question as a massage establishment. The penalties are as follows:
- First offense: First-degree misdemeanor
- Second offense: third-degree felony
- Third or subsequent offense: second-degree felony
What changes does HB 545 make to Florida’s human trafficking laws?
Under the new laws, human trafficking will be a predicate offense (i.e., part of a larger crime) for felony murder and prosecuted as such. If a victim of human trafficking dies due to the trafficking process, the person accused of trafficking can face first-degree felony or life felony charges.
The new law also prohibits the branding of a victim of human trafficking; branding is a second-degree felony.
The law defines branding as an act intended to leave a mark on the human body only repairable by medical intervention. The law clarifies this offense to include only branding done for the purpose of committing or facilitating trafficking (e.g., a tattoo artist creating a tattoo on a human trafficking victim would not face charges under this law change).
The conviction of anyone engaging in human trafficking with victims of any age will result in his or her classification as a sexual offender or predator.
Where do I go for help if I am accused of prostitution or human trafficking?
If you are facing prostitution or human trafficking charges in St. Petersburg, call the sex crimes defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel. We can examine your case and begin working on your defense right away. The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, the better prepared you can be to face these charges in court.
Contact us to schedule a free consultation today: 727-828-3900.