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    If you’ve ever wondered about the legal differences between prostitution services and escort services, you’re in good company. There’s a lot of confusion about the differences between the two.

    What is an escort?

    An escort is an individual whose companionship, social company, and time are available for hire in a commercial setting. The customer of an escort service pays a fee or contract rate to obtain the engagement of an escort. An escort typically provides non-sexual accompaniment to the client.

    What is a prostitute?

    In contrast, a prostitute exchanges sexual favors, such as copulation, intercourse, or penetration, in exchange for money, goods or services. The prostitute may be exploited by clients, also known as johns, as well as by the pimps who manage and/or offer some level of protection to him or her.

    Arrested for soliciting prostitution?

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    Attorney Matthew D. Sharp

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    Escort Services vs. Prostitution

    Escorts offer companionship to the client for a specific period of time:

    • He or she typically accompanies the client for longer periods of time. Unlike the prostitute who charges by the hour or service performed, the escort may work under contract for days or weeks.
    • The escort is often well-paid for services. For that reason, many escort services are extremely discriminating about the clients they cultivate.
    • The escort is usually an attractive, presentable, and socially adept person.
    • Most escorts are female, though male escorts are available.
    • The escort may attend social or work events with the client, such as a conference, party, or dinner engagement.
    • He or she may be engaged to impress others in the client’s company. For example, an older man may want to impress his friends or colleagues by appearing at a function with a gorgeous escort.
    • An escort is often well-educated and smart. He or she usually has good conversation skills.
    • In addition, the escort may offer intimate (but not sexual) services, such as cuddling or massage.

    A fine line separates some escort services from the prostitution enterprise:

    • An escort service may choose not to advertise or publicize sexual services offered by its escorts. However, in some instances, the escort may provide sexual services in exchange for compensation. In other words, the escort offers illegal services that are quite similar or identical to those of the prostitute.
    • Sting operations and investigations often bring the illegal activities of some escort services to light.
    • In contrast, the prostitute makes a living by providing sexual favors for compensation.
    • A client, or john, may seek out a prostitute for intimate company.
    • In most cases, the prostitute performs sexual services in exchange for a fee, such as an hourly rate or for specific services rendered.
    • After the prostitute performs the sexual service, the john leaves.

    Are Escorts Legal in Texas?

    Differences between escort services and prostitution

    Prostitution is illegal. If the escort doesn’t offer sexual favors for compensation, he or she doesn’t run afoul of Texas law. In Texas, it is illegal to accept compensation in exchange for sex or to offer compensation for sexual services from another person. Prostitution arrests often result from investigations and sting operations. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for an individual to contact what he or she believes is a legal escort service only to learn that the escort is actually an undercover law enforcement officer.

    After an agreement is made to exchange compensation of some kind for sex, the john is arrested. The undercover agent usually makes a recording or photos of the customer to be used as legal evidence.

    Police officers involved in a sting operation want the john to indicate the desire to exchange money or goods for sex. It’s unnecessary for the client to physically trade money or make explicit statements about his or her intent.

    Unfortunately, it’s common for police and investigators to mistake a buyer of legal escort services for a buyer of sexual favors. The escort may erroneously face prostitution charges.

    Prostitution Charges in Texas

    Defendants in Texas face two different types of prostitution charges:

    • An individual accused of selling sexual services for money, the prostitute, may face prostitution charges.
    • An individual who solicits a prostitute’s services, the client or john, may face solicitation charges.

    It’s certainly possible to be arrested for prostitution in Texas. If the police have reasons to believe that a person is selling sexual services for compensation, he or she may be arrested. The police or investigator doesn’t need to see him or her performing these services.

    An individual charged with prostitution may be guilty if he or she 1) offers to engage in sex for money, 2) agrees to offer sex for any type of compensation, 3) engages in any form of sexual activity for a payment, or 4) solicits another individual in a public area, offering sex for compensation.

    Under Texas Penal Code § 43.02 – 43.06, a person may face charges of prostitution even if a fee wasn’t received. As long as the actor agreed to exchange sex for any compensation, it’s possible to be charged with prostitution.

    Prostitution punishments

    In Texas, the prostitution defendant usually faces a Class B misdemeanor charge. If convicted of the charge, he or she may spend up to 180 days in jail and pay maximum fines of $2,000.

    Punishments for a prostitution convicted may be increased in some circumstances, such as:

    • If he or she has two or more prior convictions, he or she may face Class A misdemeanor charges.
    • If he or she has three or more prior convictions, the charge may be elevated to a state jail felony.
    • If he or she is convicted of soliciting a young person (between 14-18 years old), the charge is elevated to a third-degree felony.
    • If he or she engaged in the solicitation of a very young person (less than 14 years old), he or she faces a second-degree felony.

    Prostitute, John, or Promoter

    The laws of Texas distinguish between the prostitute, the john, and the promoter (a pimp or madam) who markets the prostitute’s services to others.

    A john or pimp is likely to face harsher legal consequences than the accused prostitute in greater Houston. However, it’s important to consult with an experienced Texas prostitution lawyer to protect your legal rights.

    In Texas, an individual accused of solicitation (without aggravating factors) faces a Class B misdemeanor charge. If he or she has one to two prior convictions for prostitution or soliciting, or for pimping (without aggravating factors), he or she faces a Class A misdemeanor. When he or she has at least three prior convictions for solicitation or prostitution, he or she faces a state jail felony.

    Promotion of Prostitution

    Promotion of prostitution and/or aggravated promotion of prostitution is considered a pimping offense. The laws of Texas say that an individual commits the crime if he or she promotes the sexual favors of another prostitute. He or she isn’t paid for providing sexual services to others.

    It is a serious crime to promote the sexual services of a prostitute as a madam, pimp, or panderer. Promotion of prostitution may include receiving part of a prostitute’s compensation as part of an existing agreement:

    • For example, if Dan agrees with Jim to split Barbara’s fees from prostitution activities, this may constitute the offense of promoting prostitution.
    • If Dan prompts Jim to have sex with Barbara for money or drugs, this is also evidence of the promotion of prostitution.
    • If Jim asks Barbara how much she charges for intercourse, this may also serve as evidence of Jim’s solicitation of prostitution.
    • If Dan asks Barbara to provide sex for money and Barbara is less than 18 years old, he may be guilty of compelling prostitution in Texas. (It doesn’t matter if Dan doesn’t know that Barbara is just 16 years old.)

    The ownership, finance, control, or management of a “prostitution enterprise” engaging at least two prostitutes, when one is under the age of 18, is a first-degree felony. If convicted of aggravated promotion of prostitution, the defendant faces five to 99 years (life) in prison plus a significant $10,000 maximum fine.

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    Consult an Experienced Houston Prostitution Lawyer

    It’s all too common for escorts to be arrested for prostitution.

    If you or someone you care about is facing a prostitution, solicitation, or promotion of prostitution charge, you need immediate legal representation.

    Don’t speak with the police after arrest. If anyone tells you a prostitution charge is no big deal, don’t believe it. You could face incarceration and severe fines if convicted. What’s more, a criminal record may affect your future education, access to loans for college, or getting a good job later on.

    You have the right to request an attorney before answering police or investigators’ questions.

    An experienced sex crimes attorney will defend your legal rights and may improve your case outcome. If you’re facing a prostitution-related charge in Texas, contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100 to request an initial case evaluation.

    Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your freedom and reputation.

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