Prostitution $5000 Fine

Did you know that if you are arrested and plea to a solicitation of prostitution the court can impose a $5000 fine in addition to the other fines and court costs, probation, and community service hours, AND the sexually transmitted disease test? $5000 seems excessive to me, but a Second DCA opinion from February 26, 2016 says it's not. 5000 The case from Manatee county is about a man who pled no contest to first time offense of solicitation of prostitution, a second degree misdemeanor. (the second offense is a 1st degree misdemeanor, third offense is a 3rd degree felony). Generally, a second degree misdemeanor is punishable by UP TO a $500 fine and 60 days jail. But the statute for prostitution allows for a $5000 fine regardless of the level of crime committed. Specifically:
"The increased fine was part of the Florida Safe Harbor Act, which was “intended to provide a more coordinated response to address the child welfare services needs of sexually exploited children who are dependent.” Fla. S. Budget Comm., Budget subcomm. on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations; Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Comm., CS for SB 202 (2012), Staff Analysis 1 (March 3, 2012). The 2013 statute mandates that the first $500 of the fine be used to pay administrative costs of treatment-based drug court programs and the remaining $4500 be used for funding safe houses and safe foster homes for sexually exploited children."
Mr. Cotton, received 5 months of probation, 25 hours of community service and the $5000 fine allowed by the prostitution statute. Interestingly, adjudication was with held, meaning there was no formal conviction of guilt. (This fact wasn't argued although the statute specifically says "conviction") He appealed the fine saying that the $5000 was excessive and amounted to an unconstitutional disproportionate punishment for the crime. The trial court agreed with him. The State appealed and the case was certified to the Second DCA as a case of "great public importance". In it's opinion the court goes through the long line of cases on excessive fines including the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits excessive fines. The Court found that in order for this fine to be unconstitutional it must "shock the conscious of reasonable men" and be unreasonable to address the wrong committed. Since the fine allegedly supports the legislatures intent of funding safe harbors for exploited children, the Court found it suitable to redress the wrong committed. (Even though there was no indication that Cotton sexually exploited a child). Often when I read cases such as these, I think about the political reasons behind the Court's opinion. Although the courts should have a clear separation of power and able to check and balance the other branches of government, recent attempts in the legislature to limit the terms of appellate judges may have intimidated them into this ruling. (Some in the Florida Legislature have argued that term limits on the appellate judges would prevent them from too much power and over reaching into acts of the legislature such as this one). Clearly, the fine is excessive in the context of a second degree misdemeanor which only carries a $500 fine.
Categories: Prostitution