The act of exchanging sex for money is strictly illegal in Texas. The crime is called solicitation of prostitution. If convicted of solicitation of prostitution, the offender faces significant fines and time behind bars.
Recognize that a conviction for solicitation of prostitution can affect the rest of your life. You will have a criminal record that can make getting a good job difficult or impossible. You may also face damage to your good name and public image in the community. Friends and family may also face shame as a result.
Typically, the person arrested is almost always the client (also known as the john). The individual paying for sex is likely to find himself or herself handcuffed in the back of a police car.
Texas Prostitution Laws
Texas laws define the issue of prostitution. The attempt to pay another person to perform sexual favors is considered a crime in Texas: a person doesn’t need to engage in sexual activity to be arrested. If an individual agrees to pay money for sex, and then attempts to follow through with the agreement, he or she can be arrested in Texas. The offer to pay for sex may be considered a solicitation of prostitution.
Importantly, though, the individual can only be convicted if he or she attempts to pay for sex and then tries to have sex as agreed:
- Law enforcement officers sometimes set up a sting operation to witness people in the act of solicitation of prostitution.
- They may target certain escort services, adult entertainment clubs, swingers clubs, massage outlets, etc.
- In such a scenario, the undercover police officer or actor poses as a prostitute to entice another party to offer to pay for sexual favors.
- When the individual follows through and attempts to have sex with the officer or actor, police make an arrest.
When a person drives through an area recognized for prostitution and requests sex from a woman on the street, it’s reasonable for law enforcement to assume that he or she intended to pay for sex. However, that might not be the case. The defendant may have been caught in the sting operation without offering anyone money for sex.
Solicitation of Prostitution in a Public Place
When law enforcement officers allege that an individual committed prostitution solicitation by “knowingly soliciting” another individual in a public place for the purposes of engaging in sexual conduct for hire, the offender may face a Class B misdemeanor. [Tex. Penal Code Ann § 43.02(a)(2)]
Certain places may be deemed public or not public. Texas Penal Code Ann. § 1.07(a)(40) says that public place refers to a place to which members of the public (or to which a significant portion of the public) has access, including hotels, streets, highways, apartment buildings, transportation facilities, such as bus-train stations or airports, schools, retail shops and establishments, and office buildings.
Penalties and Punishments Associated with Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas
Texas Penal Code Ann. § 43.02(a) states that it’s a crime to offer money for sex. In some cases, however, people convicted of prostitution are those who attempt to pay for sexual favors. Some law enforcement agencies have established rehab programs for prostitutes—but that’s not the case for clients:
- In Texas, the first conviction for solicitation of prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor that’s punishable by a maximum $2,000 fine and/or a 180-day jail sentence.
- For individuals with prior prostitution convictions, the punishments are more severe. He or she may face a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $4,000 fine and up to 12 months in county jail.
- Those convicted of a Class A misdemeanor may also be required to attend educational classes and perform community service.
Solicitation of Prostitution Legal Defenses
If you or someone you care about has been charged with solicitation of prostitution, your first important step is to engage an experienced Houston prostitution lawyer. He can guide you through the complexities of the criminal justice system.
The prosecution has the burden of proof. It must prove that the accused intended to exchange money for sex. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney may argue that the agreement between the parties was for sex—and that money wasn’t part of the arrangement.
If the defendant has never been charged with solicitation of prostitution, the prosecutor may offer to negotiate a plea deal. In that instance, the defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea for probation instead of a jail sentence. Although the judge isn’t required to accept the plea deal, he or she may accept the prosecutor’s suggestion. In that case, the defendant avoids incarceration.
Note that although Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 43.03 refers to the solicitation of prostitution as a criminal act, it doesn’t apply to the individual (prostitute) allegedly performing sex for money. For that reason, the party accused of sex work shouldn’t be charged under this section.
Promotion & Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution in Texas
Texas Penal Code Ann. § 43.04(a) defines a prostitution enterprise as a plan or design in which at least two persons agree, offer, or engage in sexual acts for money or goods. An individual may be accused of aggravated promotion of prostitution if he or she knowingly acts and/or supervises, controls, manages, owns, invests in, or finances a prostitution venture.
Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Texas
Several statutes have been passed by the Texas Legislature to protect children from sexual exploitation:
- Texas Penal Code Ann. § 20A.02 defines trafficking of a child under 18 years of age for the purpose of “compelling prostitution” or “sexual performance.”
- Texas Penal Code Ann. § 43.25(e) defines “inducing” a child younger than 14 years old to engage in sexual acts or performance.
- Texas Penal Code Ann. §§ 22.011, .021 defines aggravated sexual assault: when the child is less than 14 years of age.
- Texas Penal Code Ann. §§ 43.03, .05 defines “compelling a child” less than 18 years of age to commit prostitution.
A defendant accused of any of these crimes faces serious punishments, including significant jail time and fines.
It is a third-degree felony to solicit a young person between the ages of 14 to 17 years of age. If convicted, the offender faces two to 10 years behind bars and/or a $10,000 fine.
It’s considered a second-degree felony if the young person is less than 14 years of age. If convicted, the offender faces a two to 20-year prison sentence and/or a $10,000 maximum fine.
Prostitution and Patronizing
Prostitution and patronizing are both considered Class B misdemeanors carrying a maximum six-month jail sentence and/or a maximum $2,000 fine:
- It’s considered a Class A misdemeanor if the offender was previously convicted of the same offense on up to two prior occasions. If convicted, he or she faces a maximum one-year jail sentence and/or a $4,000 fine.
- If convicted of the offense at least three times, the offender faces a minimum six-month jail sentence to two years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
- If convicted of compelling prostitution of an individual older than 18 years of age, the offender faces a two to 20-year prison sentence and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.
- If convicted of compelling prostitution of an individual younger than 18 years of age, the offender faces a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Houston
If you have been charged with prostitution in Texas, there may be defenses to your case. You need an experienced prostitution attorney to investigate if you were arrested in a lawful sting operation or if entrapment was involved. Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100 to schedule an initial case evaluation now.