If an individual is charged with prostitution or soliciting prostitution in Florida, he or she faces the possibility of criminal consequences if there is a conviction, in addition to the likelihood of personal and professional repercussions. After a recent online prostitution sting by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 80 people now face this possibility. Local deputies conducted the operation between Dec. 12 and 15.
Detectives used websites such as Backpage.com to lure the accused to a hotel where the sting operation had been set up. In a press conference the day after the sting ended, the sheriff focused on 22 of the accused, who receive some form of federal assistance. He wanted to make people aware that the accused were allegedly using taxpayer dollars to participate in prostitution activities.
Among those arrested was a 16-year-old whom detectives suspect is a victim of human trafficking. She is charged with prostitution along with 32 others. Twenty-four of the accused face charges of solicitation. Thirteen are accused of aiding and abetting or profiting from prostitution. According to reports, the accused have almost 400 prior criminal charges between them.
Given the media attention this prostitution sting has received, it may be difficult for the accused to get a fair hearing. However, in Florida, as with anywhere else in the nation, they all have the right to be presumed innocent unless or until they are found guilty. Each of them may benefit from obtaining representation that will defend their legal rights as they work out the best strategy for reaching a fair outcome.
Source: The Ledger, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies Arrest 80 Suspects in Prostitution Sting, Miles Parks, Dec. 16, 2013