Houston Criminal Defense Blog

Accused of Prostitution? Know Your Rights

Cop pulling someone over

You will frequently hear it referred to in an almost light-hearted manner as the world’s oldest profession, but prostitution is a serious criminal charge. Police departments in Houston and other Texas cities commit money and other resources to sting operations that focus solely on prostitution and other criminal offenses related to it.

Prostitution laws are unique because the police can arrest the prostitute for taking money in exchange for sex while also arresting the person paying for it. Patronizing a prostitute and prostitution can result in fines and imprisonment along with public humiliation and embarrassment.

The best defense to prostitution charges begins by knowing the laws pertaining to public order and decency in Houston. Only by understanding what conduct can get you into trouble will you be in a position to protect your rights against such charges.

Engaging in prostitution or patronizing a prostitute under Texas laws

Most people associate prostitution with receiving for engaging in a sex act. This is only partially accurate. Houston prostitution charges include:

  • Offering, engaging or agreeing to engage in sex in exchange for money or something else of value; or
  • Soliciting sex from another person in a public place in exchange for money or other fee

In a typical prostitution prosecution, the law gives prosecutors the right to force one of the parties to testify against the other. For example, a prostitute who solicited money from another person by offering to commit a sex act can be compelled to testify against the person who paid. Prosecutors have the power under state law to grant immunity from prosecution to the witness.

This can be a potent weapon for prosecutors who want to gain a conviction against one of the parties. Texas law allows a conviction to be based solely upon the uncorroborated testimony of one of the people committing the crime.

Promoting and compelling prostitution

You do not have to be a prostitute or someone who patronizes one to be charged with a prostitution-related offense in Houston. You can be prosecuted and convicted of promotion of prostitution if you commit any of the following acts:

  • Receive something of value, such as money or property, from prostitution without being the person actually performing the services; or
  • Solicit someone else to engage in sex for money

Enterprises that employ two or more prostitutes can result in serious criminal charges for someone involved in that enterprise. You commit the crime of aggravated promotion of prostitution if you do any of the following regarding such an enterprise:

  • Invest
  • Finance
  • Control
  • Supervise
  • Manage

Besides the promotion of prostitution, you can also come to the attention of Houston law enforcement officials by causing another person to engage in prostitution through force, threats or fraud. This is the crime of compelling prostitution.

If the person is under 18 years of age, you could be charged with compelling prostitution regardless of the methods used to get that person to commit prostitution. This applies even if you did not know the person was a minor.

Severe penalties associated with prostitution

A conviction for prostitution or for any conduct associated with it is punishable by severe penalties including imprisonment and fines. Some of the sentences Houston judges are authorized to impose include:

  • Prostitution and patronizing a prostitute: Both are class B misdemeanors punishable by a jail sentence of 180 days and a fine up to $2,000 for a first offense. A second conviction increases the charges to class A misdemeanors and doubles the fines and jail time. A third conviction could result in your imprisonment for six months to two years and a $10,000 fine for committing a state jail felony.
  • Promotion of prostitution: This is a class A misdemeanor for which you may be sentenced to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, but aggravated promotion of prostitution is a felony that could send you to prison for a minimum of two years up to a maximum of 20 years and a $10,000.

Defending against prostitution charges in Houston

The use of undercover police officers running sting operations to catch people committing prostitution crimes is a common law enforcement technique. Such operations may employ perfectly lawful and legitimate tactics, but they also pose a risk that undercover officers may entrap someone.

Entrapment is when police induce a law-abiding individual to commit a criminal they would not have otherwise committed but for the persuasion or inducement of the undercover officer. For instances, a person approached by a police officer posing as a prostitute may decline the offer to engage in sex in exchange for money. The extent to which the undercover officer continues efforts to entice the unsuspecting individual could give rise to an entrapment defense.

A Houston criminal defense attorney might help

Prostitution and prostitution-related crimes are not something to be ignored or treated as minor infractions of the law. They are serious criminal charges that can leave someone with a criminal record. Consulting with a Houston criminal defense lawyer to obtain legal advice and skilled representation is the best way to protect your rights by ensuring that all possible defenses are used to your advantage.

Have you or someone you know been charged with prostitution?  Call the Law Offices of Billy Skinner at 713-600-7777 for experienced legal representation.
Photo Tony Webster | Used under Creative Commons image attribution license 2.0

Categories: Criminal Defense