Can you get a felony for giving a back rub?

Katie Warnack - alleged masseuse

Katie Warnack – alleged masseuse

What… that sounds preposterous, doesn’t it?  Well, 2 Fort Myers women were given felony charges, along with prostitution charges, for allegedly advertising and performing illegal massages and sex acts for money.  Thanks to my friend Gregory Goetz for pointing out the article in the News-Press, and for also pointing out the irony that the prostitution charges are the less-serious charges.

Maggie Warnack - alleged masseuse

Maggie Warnack – alleged masseuse

That struck me as odd as well, so I looked up the statute for practicing massage without a license, Florida Statutes section 480.047.  Lo and behold, that statute says it’s a 1st degree misdemeanor, not a felony.  So I wondered, why does the report say they are charged with felonies?  I review of their arrest pages on confirms that they are charged with felonies.  While the arrest page does not list the statute under which the sisters were charged, the shorthand seems to indicate that the felony counts are for Unlicensed Practice of a Health Care Profession, which is a felony under Florida Statutes section 465.065.  It has a mandatory sentence of at least one year in jail.  That’s pretty terrible for the facts: it’s treating the unlicensed masseuse the same as the unlicensed doctor!  And the big problem with charging the ladies with a felony, is that the earlier statute specifically says it should be a misdemeanor.  That’s good news for the Warnack sisters.

What about my initial question about back rubs.  Well, the definition of massage in Florida is very broad.  It is defined simply as manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body by hand or other means.  Nowhere in the statute does it require an exchange of money.  Under the broadest interpretation of the law, even a friendly back rub could be a criminal act.  And in Lee County, the Sheriff’s Office is liable to charge you with a felony. #sexcrime

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