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Prostitution is the act of offering, agreeing to, or actually engaging in sexual conduct for a fee. Most people are surprised to find out that merely an agreement – and not a sexual act – is sufficient to prove prostitution in Texas.
Prostitution arrests are not just made on the roadside. They are commonly made through online stings, undercover operations at strip clubs, and massage parlors. If you were arrested on a solicitation or promotion charge, call a Fort Worth prostitution lawyer for help. Our seasoned attorneys can explain your rights and guide you through the legal process.
With some regularity, North Texas law enforcement agencies, including the Fort Worth Police Department and Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, run sting operations to make prostitution arrests. They seek to arrest both “Johns” and prostitutes. While websites like Backpage and Craigslist have been shut down for human trafficking, sites like Escort Directory, ListCrawler, and Adult Search are crawling with police officers who posts ads or respond to ads.
When it comes to prostitution charges, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions:
1. Police officers have to admit they are police officers. Johns often call the numbers listed in the ad and ask if the person on the other end is in law enforcement. The answer will always be “no.” Officers will lie to you and this will not limit their ability to file a case against you
2. If you used coded language, the police can’t arrest you. Using phrases such as “around the world,” “half and half,” and “full service” doesn’t mean the officers won’t arrest you. They simply add a sentence to their report along the lines of, “Arrestee asked if undercover would go around the world, meaning arrestee was looking for vaginal, anal, and oral sex.”
3. The prosecutor will be sympathetic to someone with no criminal history. Prosecutors see thousands of cases a year. There were 2,320 misdemeanor prostitution cases filed in Texas in 2019. There were 2,827 felony prostitution cases filed. Many of prostitution cases are against first-time offenders. Prosecutors do not find the argument that this is a “first-time offense” a compelling one.
4. If you leave a “donation” that is not paying for sex. It is common for prostitutes, especially in online listings, to list services such as sensual massages or deep body rubs for a donation or for “100 roses.” While you may think this side-steps the law, be aware that officers use the same tactics to arrest would-be prostitutes or johns.
5. If money is not exchanged, or if there was no sexual contact, there’s no case. The law in Texas is that a person is guilty of prostitution if there is an agreement to exchange money for sexual services. It is the agreement that is illegal – not the act of exchanging money or the sexual act.
Under Texas law, prostitution occurs if a person agrees to receive a fee to engage in sexual conduct. The offense is generally a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. However, if you have a previous conviction for prostitution, the punishment is bumped up to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
Interestingly, people who solicit a prostitute – so called “Johns” – actually face harsher, felony punishment than prostitutes. Effective September 1, 2021, solicitation of prostitution became a felony (instead of a misdemeanor). The new law is part of sweeping legislation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking.
Solicitation of prostitution can range from a state jail felony to a second-degree felony depending on the facts and circumstances. Here’s a breakdown of punishments stemming from solicitation of prostitution:
According to Texas Penal Code 43.03, a person commits promotion of prostitution, commonly referred to as “pimping” if he or she:
Promotion of prostitution is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,o00 fine. However, the charge is elevated to a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine, if the person being promoted is younger than 18 – regardless of whether the defendant knew the age or not.
A person who owns, invests in, finances, controls, supervises, or manages a prostitution enterprise that uses two or more prostitutes commits the offense of aggravated promotion of prostitution. This is a first-degree felony, punishable by 5 years to 99 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Online promotion of prostitution is a relatively new charge in Texas that was passed in 2019 in response to online services that promote sex for profit. The law, which passed in 2019, makes it a crime to:
Online promotion of prostitution is a third-degree felony punishable to 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. If you have been convicted of this offense before or the enterprise involves someone under 18, the offense can be elevated to a second-degree felony punishable to up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
If the online enterprise involves at least five people, you can be charged with aggravated online promotion of prostitution, which is a second-degree felony unless you have been previously convicted of this offense or the enterprise involves someone under 18. In those circumstances, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
Although prostitution is a misdemeanor for a first offense, it is a crime that carries a stigma. Many people are under the impression that officers cannot lie to you, or believe there must be an actual sex act to face charges in Texas. Neither are true.
A case can be filed against you merely for discussing an exchange of money for sex – even if you never intended on acting on it. It does not matter if the offer was made in jest or if the actor never intended to carry out of the offer or verbal agreement. If you have been charged with prostitution, it’s important to speak to a Fort Worth prostitution defense lawyer as soon as possible. Our team of experienced attorneys have represented countless clients accused of sex crimes with exceptional results. We will aggressively defend you while handling your case with the highest level of professionalism and discretion. Call today for a free consultation.