Sarasota, Florida, police have begun mailing letters to the homes of drivers allegedly seen in areas known for prostitution.
The officers of the Sarasota Police Department have allegedly been watching as cars come into areas known to be frequented by suspected prostitutes (those with prior prostitution records).
This is a different approach to law enforcement, more proactive than reactive.
The content of the letters is to alert - and possibly embarrass - drivers whose cars have been seen in prostitution areas. Namely those who were seen stopped and talking to either known prostitutes or undercover cops posing as prostitutes.
Talking to a known prostitute or an undercover pretending to be one is not a crime. Only if a sex for money exchange or solicitation is made has a crime been committed.
However, this effort may be directed at putting prospective violators on notice. It also gets the word out that the police are watching.
This effort seems to be more effective and less harmful than simply sitting by and arresting people.
Prostitution, either soliciting or offering to procure it, are misdemeanor offenses. Each subsequent offense can become a higher degree misdemeanor. A third offense (with two prior convictions) can be filed as a felony.
Recently, anybody who pleads guilty or no contest to prostitution in Florida will have to pay a statutory $5,000 fine.
That is why it is good to try to negotiate for Pretrial Diversion, which does not carry a fine since you are not required to plead guilty in order to enter the program.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Eric Matheny represents clients charged with prostitution offenses.