Prostitution in Texas
In Texas, prostitution is legally defined as knowingly offering or agreeing to receive a fee from another person in exchange for engaging in sexual conduct. Specifically, according to the Texas Penal Code, a person commits an offense if they knowingly:
- Offer or agree to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct; or
- Solicit another in a public place to engage with them in sexual conduct for hire.
The law does not require the sexual act itself to take place for a charge of prostitution to be brought. The agreement or offer, coupled with a clear intention to engage in sexual conduct for a fee, is sufficient for the offense to be charged.
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. There was a time when roadside sting operations were how the police primarily made these arrests. While that still happens, maybe to the dismay of vice officers everywhere who had a little too much fun with those, now many sting operations are conducted online.
Fort Worth Prostitution Stings
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 post ads or respond to ads. Even smaller jurisdictions like Lake Worth (pop. 35,000) are jumping on the bandwagon.
Prostitution stings are becoming even more common because solicitation of prostitution is now a felony.
As we explain in this post, all that is required is an agreement for the exchange of something of value for sexual activity. It doesn’t matter if there was never a meeting, much less an actual exchange of something of value to be charged.
Example of Prostitution in Texas
Gone are the days when the example would be a female officer standing on a corner in a short skirt waiting for someone to come by and ask how much to go around the world. Nowadays, the following conversation is enough to have you charged with a felony offense:
If you need that translated:
Message: I saw you online [website, app, etc] How much for a 30-minute session?
Message: How much is it for an hour, and with the girlfriend experience?
Message: You bet. That’s great. Where can I meet you?
5 Common Myths about Prostitution Charges in Texas
When it comes to prostitution charges, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions:
- Myth 1: Police officers have to admit they are police officers.
- Myth 2: If you used coded language, the police can’t arrest you.
- Myth 3: The prosecutor will be sympathetic to someone with no criminal history.
- Myth 4: If you leave a “donation” that is not paying for sex.
- Myth 5: If money is not exchanged, or if there was no sexual contact, there’s no case.
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.” These phrases are no different than using something like “in call” versus “outcall” to designate if the meeting is at the service provider’s address or yours.
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 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.
Online Prostitution Stings are on the Rise
Law enforcement is all over social media setting up stings. Popular apps (or once popular apps) like Whisper, Snapchat, message boards, listservs, and AirBnB (yes, AirBnB) are all places law enforcement sets up to conduct sting operations.
Law enforcement agencies can use various techniques to identify, locate, and prosecute individuals involved in illegal activities on the internet. Here is a general outline of the process:
- Monitoring websites or apps: Law enforcement officers monitor websites or apps where they suspect illegal activities are taking place, such as platforms that facilitate drug trafficking or child exploitation.
- Tracing IP addresses: When suspicious communication or activity is identified, law enforcement may try to trace the IP address of the user(s) involved. An IP address can provide information about the user’s approximate location and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) they are using.
- Requesting ISP cooperation: With the identified IP address, law enforcement can request subscriber information from the ISP. This may require a subpoena or court order, depending on the jurisdiction and the specific case. The ISP can then provide details about the subscriber associated with the IP address, such as their name, billing address, and other relevant information.
- Further investigation: Law enforcement may use the subscriber information to conduct further investigation, such as surveillance or background checks, to gather additional evidence or confirm the identity of the suspect.
- Search warrants: If sufficient evidence is obtained, law enforcement may request a search warrant for the suspect’s residence or other locations tied to the suspect. The warrant must be based on probable cause and approved by a judge.
- Early morning searches: Law enforcement often prefers to conduct searches in the early morning hours (e.g., around 4 am) for several reasons. First, it increases the likelihood that the suspect will be at home and caught off guard, making it easier for officers to secure the premises and prevent the destruction of evidence. Second, the element of surprise can reduce the risk of confrontation or violence. Finally, early morning raids can have a psychological impact on the suspect, making them more likely to cooperate with the investigation.
- Arrests and questioning: During the search, law enforcement may arrest the suspect and question them, either at the scene or after taking them into custody. They may also interview witnesses or other individuals present at the location.
- Prosecution: If law enforcement gathers enough evidence to support criminal charges, the case will be turned over to a prosecutor, who will determine whether to proceed with formal charges and a trial.
What is the Punishment for Prostitution in Texas?
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.
Prostitution with Prior Convictions
|Type of Charge
|A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.
|Class B Misdemeanor
|Up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine up to $2,000
|Prostitution with Prior Conviction
|Same as basic prostitution but with the added condition of the individual having a recorded prior conviction for prostitution.
|Class A Misdemeanor
|Up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine up to $4,000
|Prostitution with 3+ Prior Convictions
|Same as above but the individual has three or more recorded prior convictions for prostitution.
|State Jail Felony
|180 days to 2 years in state jail and/or a fine up to $10,000
Prostitution vs. Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas
|Solicitation of Prostitution (State Jail Felony)
|Prostitution (Class B Misdemeanor)
|Offering to pay for or engaging in sexual conduct in exchange for a fee
|Engaging in sexual conduct in exchange for a fee
|180 days to 2 years
|Up to 180 days
|Up to $10,000
|Up to $2,000
Solicitation of Prostitution in Texas is Now a Felony
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:
- First-time offenders face a state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail facility and a maximum $10,000 fine.
- Defendants previously convicted of solicitation face a third-degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
- Defendants face a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine, if the person with whom they agreed to engage in sexual conduct is:
* younger than 18, regardless of whether the actor knew the age of the person at the time of the offense; or
* represented to the actor as being younger than 18; or
* believed by the actor to be younger than 18 years of age.
What is Promotion of Prostitution? (Pimping)
According to Texas Penal Code 43.03, a person commits promotion of prostitution, commonly referred to as “pimping” if he or she:
- receives money or property in an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution; or
- solicits another to engage in sexual conduct with a third party for compensation
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.
What is Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution?
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.
What is Online Promotion of Prostitution?
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:
- Own, manage or operate an interactive computer service with the intent to promote prostitution to another person or facilitate another person to engage in the act of prostitution.
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.
Call a Fort Worth Prostitution Defense Attorney for Help
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.