As Houston prostitution lawyers, we understand the stress that an arrest or potential conviction puts on defendants and their families. We also know that the nature of prostitution and solicitation charges might feel embarrassing. You are innocent unless proven otherwise and entitled to a vigorous defense.
An experienced Houston prostitution lawyer can defend you against possible jail time, fines, loss of reputation, and a permanent criminal record. When everything you value is on the line, call the Law Offices of Ned Barnett to protect your rights.
For a free, confidential case evaluation, call (713) 222-6767 or use our convenient online form. Everything you discuss with our legal team is privileged information that helps us pursue the best possible outcome.
Buying Sex Is Now a Felony Crime
Texas now has some of the harshest laws in the country for prostitution and solicitation. Previously a misdemeanor, anyone convicted of buying sex faces a felony charge.
Under HB1540, which took effect in September 2021, first-time convicted sex solicitors could spend up to two years in jail and pay a $10,000 fine. Even after you serve your sentence, the penalties of a prostitution conviction are far-reaching. You might have to register as a sex offender. Your felony status could be a barrier to specific jobs, scholarships, federal aid, gun ownership, and voting rights.
HB1540 is part of a statewide crackdown on sex trafficking. Unfortunately, the new law makes it easier for innocent people to become trapped in the criminal justice system.
Prostitution and Solicitation Crimes in Texas
Our goal is to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced or win acquittal if there is a trial.
Here are the most common prostitution crimes, penalties, and possible defenses.
Prostitution is illegal in Texas. Any type of sexual conduct for money (or items of value) is a criminal offense, according to Texas Penal Code 43.02(a).
Penalties for Prostitution
Prostitution charges involving an adult 18 years or older must serve a minimum of 180 days in jail, with a maximum of two years. The maximum fine for this state jail felony is $10,000.
Prostitution involving individuals 14 to 18 years old is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum of $10,000. If the individual is 14 years old or younger, it becomes a second-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Solicitation of Prostitution
According to Texas Penal Code section 43.02(b), simply offering money for hired sexual conduct is considered a crime. A sexual act does not have to take place, nor does money have to change hands. The alleged solicitation can be in person, online, or through text messages or email.
Penalties for Solicitation of Prostitution
Even for first-time offenders, soliciting sexual conduct for money is a class jail felony, with incarceration between 180 days and two years, plus a steep fine. For repeat offenders, the penalties could increase to the level of a third-degree felony (up to 10 years incarceration) or second-degree (up to 20 years).
Promotion of Prostitution
Under Texas Penal Code section 43.03, individuals (“pimps”) who knowingly profit from prostitution or profits from solicitation face felony charges. This law also applies to the online promotion of prostitution.
Penalties for Promotion of Prostitution
Promotion of Prostitution is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years jail time and a maximum fine of $10,000. There would be lengthier jail terms for repeat offenders or if the parties involved a minor.
Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution
Aggravated promotion of prostitution (Texas Penal Code section 43.04) occurs when an individual knowingly owns, invests, finances, controls, supervises, or manages a prostitution enterprise with two or more prostitutes.
Penalties for Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution
Anyone convicted of this crime faces up to a decade in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offense involves prostitutes younger than 18, it is a first-degree felony, which in Texas carries a punishment from five to 99 years (life) in prison.
Under Texas Penal Code section 43.05, an individual may be charged with this crime if they use force, threats, or fraud to force another person into sexual conduct for hire.
Penalties for Compelling Prostitution
Compelling prostitution is a second-degree felony, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. If the crime involves a minor, it becomes a first-degree felony.
Influencing Factors in Prostitution Crimes
Several factors influence an individual’s sentence if convicted of a prostitution or solicitation crime:
- Previous criminal record, if any
- Age of involved parties
- Use of threat, force, or fraud
- Accompanying charges, such as assault
Long-Term Damage from Prostitution Felony Charge
Prostitution charges in Texas are now felony level. Convicted felons face enormous challenges, including:
- Loss of employment
- Damage to reputation
- Loss of the right to vote
- Loss of gun ownership rights
- Potential issues with immigration and naturalization
Sex Offender Registration
Convicted offenders of any sex crimes, from prostitution to child pornography, must register on the state offender’s list. Registered sex offenders lose some aspects of control over their lives — certain neighborhoods, jobs, and educational opportunities are off-limits.
The state sex offender registry is public information. Employers, landlords, and neighbors can search for offenders by location or name. They will see the details of your offense.
Prostitution Convictions Require a 10-Year Registration
Some sex crimes require lifetime registration for Texas residents. People convicted for prostitution could be required to remain on the sex offender registry for 10 years.
If required by law, you will need to give your name, photo, and address to the Texas county where you reside. If you move or change jobs, you must update your information.
Defenses for Prostitution & Solicitation Charges
A Houston prostitution lawyer will review your case and the evidence against you to create an effective defense. Since police officers can try to build a case against you even without proof of sexual conduct or money changing hands, it is often your word against theirs.
An experienced defense attorney looks at inconsistencies and sometimes outright unlawful actions in the prosecution’s case.
Improper Undercover Operations
In a prostitution sting operation, officers pose as prostitutes, johns, or other facades to draw out criminal activity. Sting operations have come under scrutiny since they could appear to be promoting, creating, or encouraging crime.
In our experience as Houston prostitution lawyers, some arrests from a sting operation might not be valid. When undercover police officers coax individuals to commit criminal, it is entrapment.
Insufficient Evidence of Intent
There is no law prohibiting an individual from giving money to another person. The prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that a person offered money with an intent to solicit sexual conduct. Without sufficient evidence, it is possible to get the charges dropped or win an acquittal.
A similar defense is that the sexual conduct did not involve money or valuable items.
Lack of Credibility
Some prostitution cases rely heavily on the integrity of the arresting police officer’s statement or a video or audio recording. Inconsistent statements or incomplete recordings indicate a lack of trustworthiness in their contents.
Sting operations that involve alcohol could also be grounds for a lack of credibility.
Other Defensive Strategies
Evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure could be deemed inadmissible. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unlawful search and seizure.
Intoxication or Drug Use
An individual could claim that excessive drinking or drug use clouded their judgment.
Threat or intimidation forced you to engage in unwanted sexual conduct for money.
Plea Bargain to a Lesser Offense
Sometimes the best outcome is to plead guilty to a lesser offense. Since Texas now charges prostitution and solicitation as a felony, a defense attorney could seek a misdemeanor charge instead. Being charged with a lesser crime could mean probation, time served, or a diversion program not available at the felony level.
Alternatives to Incarceration
Not all prostitution or solicitation cases go through a formal court process. The court considers the nature of the charges and the defendant’s history to determine an alternative to incarceration.
Pretrial Diversion Programs
Harris County offers several pretrial diversion programs, such as Project 180, a prostitution diversion program. Other programs focus on substance abuse and treatment and a mental health program.
Specialty courts offer a path for specific populations facing a variety of charges. These courts focus on prevention, treatment, and education instead of strictly punitive measures.
Houston’s specialty courts include Veteran’s Court, Mental Health Court, and STAR Drug Court.
Prostitution Charges & Expungement
Expungement removes a criminal charge from your record. Sealing your record does not erase the conviction but hides it from public searches.
Although there are exceptions, many prostitution and solicitation crimes cannot be expunged.
- Cannot be a registered sex offender
- Many felony crimes are not eligible for expungement
- Repeat or chronic offenders are usually ineligible
Prostitution & Solicitation FAQ
Will I Go to Jail for Prostitution or Solicitation?
Some defendants qualify for a pretrial diversion program instead of jail. You could also be eligible for probation, community service, house arrest, or a combination of these alternatives to jail time. Sex for money in Texas is now a felony, making avoiding jail more difficult.
You could improve your chance to avoid incarceration by consulting a Houston prostitution lawyer.
Can I Handle Prostitution & Solicitation Charges Without My Spouse Knowing?
Everything that you tell an attorney is secure and confidential. No one, not even your spouse, needs to know about discussions protected by the attorney-client privilege. An experienced solicitation lawyer can handle your case effectively and discretely.
Will I Have to Register as a Sex Offender?
A person convicted on prostitution or solicitation charges might be required to register as a sex offender. You would give your name, photo, home address, and work address to your local police department. Employers, landlords, college admission boards, and the general public can search the registration by location or name.
Can I Get Prostitution/Solicitation Charges Expunged?
Texas has complex regulations about expungement. In general, ex-felons might not be eligible for expungement. Individuals on the state sex offender registry are not qualified. A Houston expungement lawyer can help you understand your rights and legal options.
Call a Houston Prostitution Lawyer about Your Case
If you’re facing prostitution or solicitation charges, don’t take chances with your reputation and freedom. Since 1994, the Law Offices of Ned Barnett have helped countless clients take control in criminal cases. Our founding attorney, Ned Barnett, is a former prosecutor who knows what it takes to defeat felony charges.
What You Should Know About Prostitution and Solicitation Charges
- Dismissing Solicitation of Prostitution Charges in Houston Is Getting Harder
- Are Prostitution Sting Operations Considered Entrapment?
- Police Misconduct at Bachelor Party Stings
- Online Solicitation Across State Lines
- 5 Things You Should Know if You’re Arrested on Prostitution Charges
- What to Expect if You’re Involved in a Massage Parlor Arrest in Houston