Busted for Solicitation? You Could Be Sentenced to “John School.”

The Texas legislature passed a bill in June 2021 that elevated sex solicitation to a felony in Texas. Following Governor Greg Abbott’s signature, the law went into effect at the start of September of the same year.

Harsher penalties for solicitation in Texas

Under the new Texas bill, 1st-offense convictions for solicitation of prostitution now come with a punishment of at least 180 days of jail time in a state facility. The maximum punishment for a 1st-time offender could go as high as 2 years in prison and a fine of as much as $2,000.

Second-time offenses and subsequent ones will see even harsher punishments under the new law. The sentencing minimum will be at least 2 years of incarceration, and fines will go up to $10,000. There also may be additional penalties if the case involves someone under the age of 18 or an individual the defendant believed to be a minor.

This bill represents only one of the many changes over the last decade to how the justice system in Texas treats individuals accused or convicted of solicitation—which also includes the possibility of courts sentencing convicted persons to what is known as “john school.”

A lesser-known alternative for solicitation punishment in Texas: john school

One of the more unique possible penalties attached to a solicitation conviction of any type in Texas is what has become known as “john school.” In this case, the term “john” colloquially refers to the customers of prostitutes.

Since 2011, Texas state law has allowed counties or municipalities to form john schools as diversion programs to avoid immediately sentencing people to fines or incarceration. Many of the “johns” who are sent to these schools were arrested as a result of police prostitution stings.

What is john school?

John schools are intended to discourage individuals from sex solicitation. Evangelical churches typically administer the programs, and the churches often host john schools in their basements.

Convicted parties have to pay hundreds of dollars for the program, where they receive instruction regarding penalties and risks associated with sex solicitation. Likewise, the program organizers encourage convicted parties to admit their activities.

The programs frequently tout forgiveness and kindness. However, program organizers are just as likely to scream at participants in a style familiar to anyone who has seen so-called scared-straight programs.

They also focus on the public shame factor of arrested people having their names on the news and being shunned throughout the community. Humiliation is often a common thread throughout the process and is used as a future deterrent.

Contact an experienced Houston sex crime defense attorney

Given the social stigma, the range of penalties and the accompanying humiliations like john school, anyone accused of sex solicitation should hire a prostitution defense attorney familiar with Texas prostitution and solicitation laws.

An experienced prostitution defense lawyer can investigate the case and look into the details of the arrest, such as whether there’s proof the defendant actually solicited someone for sex. They can also examine the evidence to ensure the proper procedures were followed leading up to the arrest.

If the state has a strong enough case, an attorney can help negotiate a plea that might not include solicitation and the attached penalties. The important thing is to not allow a solicitation charge to go unchallenged because your reputation and your future depend on it.

If you or a loved one was arrested for solicitation of sex in Texas, you’ll need a strong Houston prostitution defense attorney to protect your rights. Matthew D. Sharp is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who is committed to ensuring that those accused of sex crimes or other criminal offenses get treated fairly and receive the best possible outcomes in their cases.

Contact the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today for your free consultation.