What is Prostitution in Texas? Prostitution, defined as the offering, agreeing to, or engaging in sexual activities for a fee, is a crime that can be proven in Texas merely by the existence of an agreement, even without the performance of a sexual act. This is a fact that often surprises many how easy it is to prove Prostitution in Texas.
Contrary to popular belief, arrests for prostitution aren’t limited to roadside incidents. While roadside prostitution sting operations were once the primary method for such arrests, today’s police work has evolved. Now, many of these prostitution sting operations are conducted online, though roadside stings still occur.
Prostitution Stings in Texas
In Texas, law enforcement agencies, including the metroplex areas in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, frequently conduct prostitution sting operations targeting both clients (“Johns”) and sex workers. Despite the shutdown of websites like Backpage and Craigslist for human trafficking concerns, other prostitution sites like Escort Directory, ListCrawler, and Adult Search remain active and are often monitored by undercover police officers who either post ads or respond to them. Even smaller areas like Lubbock, Midland, Killeen, Waco, San Marcos and Georgetown are participating in these efforts.
The significance of prostitution stings has grown, especially since solicitation of prostitution is now classified as a felony in Texas since September 1, 2001 with House Bill 1540. For a prostitution charge to be made, all that is required is an agreement to exchange something of value for sexual activities, irrespective of whether a meeting or actual exchange occurred.
To illustrate the current approach to prostitution enforcement in Texas, consider this: previously, a typical scenario might involve an undercover officer posing as a sex worker on the street. However, in today’s digital age, a simple online conversation agreeing to exchange value for sexual services can lead to a felony charge of Solicitation of Prostitution.
Here is an example of how an online conversation can lead to a felony arrest for Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas:
You: Noticed you at the store. Have 30?
Undercover Cop: 100 Roses
You: 1 hour GFE?
Undercover Cop: 3X Roses
You: Bet. Location?
The above conversation for Solicitation of Prostitution translates to:
You: I saw your ad online. How much would 30 minutes cost me?
Undercover Cop: $100 for half-an-hour.
You: How much would an hour cost me with the girlfriend experience included?
Undercover Cop: $300 for a full hour giving you the girlfriend experience.
You: We have a deal. Where do you want to meet?
“Five Widespread Misunderstandings about Prostitution Charges in Texas: Debunking the Misconception”
In the realm of prostitution charges in Texas, numerous myths and misconceptions abound:
Misconceptions of Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas
- Misconception #1: Undercover police officers are obligated to reveal their police status.
- Misconception #2: Utilizing vague or coded language can avert arrest by police.
- Misconception #3: Prosecutors tend to show more leniency towards individuals with no prior offenses.
- Misconception #4: Referring to payments as “donations” does not change the legal status of compensating for sexual services.
- Misconception #5: A Solicitation of Prostitution case is considered weak if there is no direct exchange of money or physical interaction.
The Five Realities of Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas
- Undercover police officers are obligated to reveal their police status.
As a criminal defense attorney, I must stress that when individuals, often referred to as “Johns,” contact numbers from advertisements inquiring if the respondent is in law enforcement, they will invariably receive a negative response. It’s crucial to understand that officers are permitted to deceive in this context, and such falsehoods do not hinder their capacity to pursue a case against you.
- Utilizing vague or coded language can avert arrest by police.
As a defense attorney, it is important to clarify that employing coded language like “around the world,” “half and half,” and “full service” does not preclude arrest by officers. In their police reports, officers often interpret and record such phrases explicitly, for example, noting that “around the world” indicates a request for various sexual acts. Similarly, terms like “in call” or “outcall,” which specify the location of the meeting, whether at the service provider’s place or the client’s, are also understood and documented by law enforcement. These coded phrases are not effective in circumventing legal consequences.
- Prosecutors tend to show more leniency towards individuals with no prior offenses.
Prosecutors handle a multitude of cases annually. In Texas, for example, a significant number of both misdemeanor and felony prostitution cases are filed every year. A considerable proportion of these cases involve individuals facing their first offense. However, the argument of it being a “first-time offense” is often not persuasive to prosecutors.
- Referring to payments as “donations” does not change the legal status of compensating for sexual services.
As a defense lawyer, I would advise that it’s a common practice for prostitutes, particularly in online advertisements, to offer services like sensual massages or deep body rubs in exchange for a ‘donation’ or ‘100 roses.’ While it might seem like this approach circumvents the Texas Penal Code, it’s important to be aware that undercover police officers employ similar tactics to apprehend individuals seeking to engage in solicitation of prostitution or those offering such services.
- A Solicitation of Prostitution case is considered weak if there is no direct exchange of money or physical interaction.
In Texas, the legal standpoint is that engaging in prostitution is defined by the existence of an agreement to trade money for sexual services. It’s the formation of this agreement that constitutes the illegal aspect, rather than the actual exchange of money or the sexual act itself.
We have an Increasing Frequency of Online Prostitution Stings
Undercover police officers are extensively using social media to organize sting operations. They are active on various platforms, including previously and currently popular apps like Whisper and Snapchat, as well as on message boards, listservs, and even on platforms like AirBnB and VRBO to conduct these prostitution sting operations.
Law enforcement across Texas including local Police Departments, Sheriff’s Offices, Texas Department of Public Saftey and Texas Rangers employ a range of strategies to detect, track down, and prosecute those engaged in unlawful activities online including prostitution stings and/or solicitation of prostitution. The following is a basic overview of law enforcements approach to online prostitution stings:
For a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to understand how law enforcement agencies identify and build cases against individuals involved in online prostitution stings. Here’s a concise overview:
- Website/App Monitoring: Police Officers keep an eye on platforms suspected of hosting illegal activities, like prostitution or child exploitation.
- IP Address Tracing: On noticing dubious activities or communications, efforts are made to trace the user’s IP address, revealing their rough location and their Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- ISP Collaboration: Law enforcement may then approach the ISP with the traced IP address for subscriber details, often necessitating a subpoena or court order. This can yield the user’s name, address, online activity and other pertinent info.
- In-depth Investigation: With this information, further investigative steps, such as surveillance or background checks, are undertaken to amass more evidence or confirm the suspect’s identity.
- Search Warrants: If enough evidence is gathered, they may seek a search warrant for locations linked to the suspect, requiring a judge’s approval based on probable cause.
- Tactical Searches: Searches, often in the early hours, are favored for several reasons: potential surprise, reduced confrontation risk, and psychological impact on the suspect, possibly leading to cooperation.
- Arrest and Interrogation: The suspect can be arrested and questioned during these searches, and others present might be interviewed.
- Prosecution Phase: Should the evidence be sufficient, the prosecutor takes over, deciding on formal charges and possible trial proceedings.
Understanding these criminal procedures is crucial for effective defense strategies in cases involving online prostituion stings.
Punishment for Prostitution in Texas is a Misdemeanor
As a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney who has handled prostitution cases in Texas since 1989, it’s important to explain the legal repercussions of prostitution charges in Texas. According to state law, a person commits prostitution by agreeing to accept a fee for engaging in sexual conduct. Typically, this offense is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine not exceeding $2,000. However, for those with a prior prostitution conviction, the charge escalates to a Class A misdemeanor. This heightened charge carries a sterner punishment, potentially leading to up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Punishment for Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas is a Felony
From the perspective of a criminal defense attorney, it’s crucial to highlight the severity of the legal consequences for those accused of soliciting prostitution in Texas. Notably, the individuals who solicit prostitutes, often referred to as “Johns,” face far stricter penalties than the prostitutes themselves. As of September 1, 2021, Texas law has elevated solicitation of prostitution from a misdemeanor to a felony. This change is part of broader legislative efforts to combat Human Trafficking in Texas.
The severity of the charge for solicitation of prostitution varies based on specific circumstances and the individual’s criminal history. The following outlines the potential legal repercussions:
- First-time Offenders for Solicitation of Prostitution: Those accused for the first time are charged with a state jail felony. This entails a possible sentence of six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Repeat Offenders for Solicitation of Prostitution: Individuals with prior solicitation convictions face a third-degree felony charge, carrying a penalty of 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Aggravated Circumstances for Solicitation of Prostitution: The charge escalates to a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine, under specific conditions. These include situations where the person solicited is:
– Under 18 years of age, irrespective of the solicitor’s knowledge of their age at the time of the offense.
– Represented as being younger than 18.
– Believed by the solicitor to be under 18 years of age.
Understanding these legal nuances is critical for a Felony Criminal Defense Attorney in effectively representing clients facing such charges of Solicitation of Prostitution.