A few years ago, the Florida Legislature mandated a $5,000 for solicitation of prostitution cases. Solicitation - the act of attempting to purchase sex in exchange for money - is a second-degree misdemeanor. However, due to the overwhelming epidemic of human trafficking in Florida, our lawmakers thought that by assessing a $5,000 against all persons who plea or are convicted of solicitation of prostitution would help deter people from soliciting prostitutes, as many prostitutes are victims of human trafficking.
The $5,000 fine was challenged as an unreasonable penalty and a violation of the Constitution's prohibition against excessive punishment. Just this month, a Florida appellate court ruled that the $5,000 fine was not unconstitutional and that it should remain as a mandatory penalty for the crime of solicitation.
What does that mean?
Depends. If you are arrested in Miami-Dade County, the best way to avoid the fine is to enroll in the Pretrial Diversion Program (PTD). This is not a guarantee, as only the prosecutor can decide who is accepted into the program and who isn't.
If you are arrested in Broward County, it does not matter whether you enroll in the Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP) or not. The State Attorney's Office in Broward has decided to make the $5,000 fine a condition of MDP.
In Broward, the only way to avoid a $5,000 fine is to get your case dismissed or be acquitted at trial.
For now, the $5,000 fine will remain in place. Only an act of the Florida Legislature will remove it. If you are accused of soliciting a prostitute, you face not only possible jail time, but a mandatory - meaning the judge cannot waive it - $5,000 fine that must be paid as a condition of your diversion program or probation. Failure to pay the fine could result in a violation of probation.
Eric Matheny is a Miami criminal attorney and Broward criminal attorney representing clients charged with prostitution offenses.