CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An ordinance that would eliminate jail time for most first-offense prostitution crimes in Charleston was introduced in city council Monday night.
The change would be retroactive to affect all "pending, but not yet finally adjudicated charges."
Mayor Danny Jones said the change would save the city money by not having pay for incarceration costs or to arrange a jury trial.
"It's going to be treated like a traffic offense," he said.
Councilman Tom Lane, an at-large Republican, was the sponsor of the ordinance. He was up front about the impetus for the bill, citing media attention over a recent prostitution case involving Phil Reale.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported that Reale, a prominent state lobbyist and former high-ranking government official, was arrested by city police during a July 11 prostitution sting and charged with solicitation.
But Reale's name was intentionally left off a press release that named everyone else arrested in the sting. His charges were then dismissed without prejudice Aug. 13, meaning they could be brought up again if he has any other run-ins with law enforcement.
The day the Daily Mail published the story, Jones called a press conference to say he wanted the charges to be re-filed.
At that time, Jones said he didn't think anyone should go to jail for a first-time prostitution offense, which was reflected in Monday's ordinance.
Because the ordinance is retroactive, it would allow Reale -- and any else not yet sentenced on those charge to avoid jail
Currently, city code allows first-time prostitution offenders to receive up to a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail. The ordinance nixes jail time as a possible sentence, but leaves the fine in place.
"This simplifies our process," Lane said.
Offenses covered by the ordinance include engaging in prostitution, entry to a house of prostitution, enticing for prostitution and loitering for prostitution.