State Reps. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) and Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) today announced bipartisan legislation that would strengthen penalties for soliciting prostitution and increase funding for Ohio’s Victims of Human Trafficking Fund.
“The link between the opioid crisis and prostitution is clear—and one we cannot ignore,” said Rep. Miller. “Cracking down on those exploiting addicts is one step, but providing essential resources and connecting those struggling with addiction with treatment options will help Ohioans reclaim their lives and end this vicious cycle.”
Ohio’s ongoing opioid crisis has led to an increase in prostitution across the state. Over the past two years, the number of prostitution-related arrests have increased by more than 30 percent, according to police statistics.
More than two-thirds of women involved in human trafficking who were addicted to opioids became prostitutes after their opioid use began, according to the Polaris Project.
In Franklin County, a first-time offense of soliciting is a third-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. However, most offenders plea down to a small fine, typically around $150.
The proposed legislation would take solicitation offenses from a third to a first-degree misdemeanor, increasing fines for solicitation to up to $1,500, nearly half of which could go to court-sanctioned prostitution prevention or victim relief programs.
In addition, the bill would make solicitation within 1,500 feet of a school or place of worship a fifth-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $1,500, with up to $750 going to prevention and relief programs.