Toby Overdorf talks bill to beef up mandatory minimum for soliciting sex

Toby Overdorf trafficking news conference Capitol
The bill would also allow impromptu searches of strip clubs for underage workers.

“Today the Legislature took another step to limit the demand for sex trafficking victims.”

Those were the words of Rep. Toby Overdorf at a news conference in the Capitol Tuesday morning.

Overdorf, a Stuart Republican, was speaking on his bill (HB 219) to ramp up punishment against those charged with soliciting prostitution involving victims of human trafficking.

The legislation was also approved Tuesday morning by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Under the proposal, solicitation would carry a mandatory 10-day incarceration. Overdorf’s bill would tack on an additional 30 days if “the person solicited, induced, enticed, or procured is a victim of human trafficking.”

In addition, an amendment to the legislation expands the legal definition of “adult theater” to include strip clubs. Specifically, the definition would cover “any business that features a person who engages in specific sexual activities for observation by a patron, and which restricts or purports to restrict admission to only adults.”

Overdorf argued the amendment was necessary to allow law enforcement to enter strip clubs in order to check documentation showing the workers were of legal age. Law enforcement has that authority with regard to adult theaters. But strip clubs do not currently fall under that umbrella.

Failing to maintain proper identification for workers at those establishments would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

“My bill has the opportunity to curb the demand for sex trafficked victims, and will hopefully provide a small part in limiting the future spread of what we now know as ‘modern-day slavery,'” Overdorf said.

Overdorf’s measure is separate from a pair of companion bills put forth by Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen and Democratic Sen. Lauren Book. Those measures aim to cut down on the practice of human trafficking by training hotel workers to spot victims.

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But provisions in their legislation to set up a registry for “johns” who solicit sex appears to be on the outs.  An amended version of Fitzenhagen’s measure was also approved Tuesday morning by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. That amendment stripped the registry from the bill.

The same is expected to happen with Book’s version, which has already has been approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

With the “johns” database being removed, Overdorf’s bill is an alternate way to lawmakers to deter those who solicit sex work. Several experts testified at an earlier Senate hearing that such deterrence is necessary to reduce demand for sex work and, by extension, human trafficking.

“If we can lower the demand for this, we’ll actually have a real chance of fighting human trafficking and sex trafficking throughout our state,” Overdorf said.

Several sex workers advocates have disagreed with that assertion, however. They argue that going after buyers only dissuade those who care about negative consequences, leaving only the more reckless or violent clients.

Overdorf’s legislation would take effect on Oct. 1, if successful. It will be moving on next to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee.

On the Senate side, a companion bill (SB 370) has been introduced by Sen. Gayle Harrell.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


One comment

  • Larry Gillis

    March 26, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    The victims of human trafficking rightfully look to us for help. The full stroke of the criminal law should be applied to the bosses who profit from this vile traffic in human misery. The same applies to “Johns” who knowingly use or attempt to use victims of human trafficking.

    On the other hand, sex workers who freely engage in prostitution for profit know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. They have a right to contract for their own services. Johns have a right to agree to use these services

    For your information, the Libertarian Party of Florida (my party) supports their natural right to do so. Specifically, our State platform says: “ … (Part V) … Government should confine itself to protecting individuals from aggression, coercion and deceit. We oppose all laws and regulations that attempt to protect individuals from the consequences of their own behavior. While not necessarily condoning such activities, we advocate the repeal of all laws criminalizing … sexual relations between consenting adults. … “

    Many Libertarians view prostitution (and the use of prostitutes) as profoundly disgusting. I’m one of them. IMHO, it is demeaning for both people engaged in the transaction. However, criminal sanctions should not be imposed on behavior that is simply seen as disgusting or demeaning. If we go down that path, remember there is little in the way of human activity that does not offend someone somewhere.

    However, if there is “ … aggression, coercion [or] deceit … “, then of course the Government has a proper role.

    Thank you. Live Free or Die.

    Larry Gillis, Cape Coral
    Member of the Executive Committee, Libertarian Party of Florida

Comments are closed.


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