The 2016 Legislature sharpened Florida's position on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, clarifying that there is no such thing as a "child prostitute." Minors cannot consent to commercial sex, thus they cannot be arrested and charged with prostitution. Children involved in commercial sex are as a matter of law sexually exploited and victims of human trafficking. We also saw the passage of legislation requiring individuals convicted on racketeering charges based on sexual offenses such as human trafficking and child pornography to register as sex offenders.
In 2015, understanding that buyers fuel Florida's sex trafficking industry, the Legislature increased penalties for buyers of women and men for sex. Buyers of children for sex were already subject to Florida's human trafficking law making that offense a life felony. We also saw important new exemptions to Florida's public records law, exempting location information for safe houses and exempting identifying information for trafficking victims.
During the 2014 session, HB 1017 contained a package of laws requiring adult club owners to verify the ages of dancers, eliminating the statute of limitations for trafficking offenses, and establishing the Florida legislature's intent that minors who engage in commercial sex are per se victims and buyers of minors for sex must be charged under the human trafficking statute or other sex crime statute. The bill passed out of both chambers, was signed by the Governor, and became law on October 1, 2014.
Governor Scott signed HB 1325 and 1327 into law on May 30, 2013. This law provided a new avenue for survivors to vacate convictions for certain offenses committed under the coercion of the trafficker, opening survivors' doors for, among other things, employment, housing, student loans, and volunteer and educational opportunities. West Florida Center attorneys have already filed petitions for survivors resulting in the expunction of several criminal history records and vacating two felony charges. Please contact West Florida Center for more information.