If you’ve been arrested and charged with prostitution you are likely feeling scared and anxious. Although you are unlikely to face jail time after a first-time prostitution arrest, the personal and professional consequences of a prostitution conviction, or even an arrest, can still be severe. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep the arrest off of your record and put this brush with the law behind you.
What penalties am I facing if I am charged with prostitution?
If you are charged as a “john” – i.e., the alleged buyer of sex – you will be charged as a State Jail Felony. Prior to September 1, 2021, the alleged buyer of sex was charged with a misdemeanor, but Texas has become the first state to charge the alleged buyer of sex with a felony for a first-time prostitution arrest. A State Jail Felony is punishable by 180 days-2 years in jail plus a fine of up to $10,000. Regular probation or deferred adjudication are also possibilities.
If you are charged as the alleged prostitute, you are facing lower penalties for a first-time conviction. A first-time conviction as the alleged prostitute is a Class “B” misdemeanor, with a potential punishment of up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine. This can be elevated if there are prior prostitution convictions.
I got released by the police after a prostitution sting – what does that mean?
In the Greater Houston area, law enforcement agencies like the Houston Police Department and the Sugar Land Police Department have been stepping up enforcement of prostitution laws by running more stings, particularly against the alleged buyers of sex. In some instances, the men who show up at the hotels or spas to allegedly purchase sex are not arrested at the spot. Instead, law enforcement takes their information and puts a warrant out for their arrest at some later date. Historically, the police generally will arrest anyone charged with the felony immediately and take the person to jail to be processed. But law enforcement has the option of releasing a person at the scene, which they sometimes do during prostitution stings to devote manpower to the sting and not to processing defendants.
If you were released after being caught in a prostitution sting, you will likely have a warrant issued for your arrest at some point. Many defendants find out that they have a warrant when they start receiving notifications in the mail that they have an outstanding warrant. Bail bondsmen and criminal defense attorneys can also check for an open warrant, or you can check for yourself on the District Clerk’s website of the county that you were arrested in. In Houston currently, it is taking at least two or three weeks for people who were arrested for prostitution and released to have charges filed and an open warrant.
If you have an open prostitution warrant, you need to get the warrant resolved as quickly as possible. An open warrant can typically be resolved in two ways – either by turning yourself in at the jail or by doing a walk-through arrest. If you turn yourself in jail, sometimes it can take up to a day or longer until you are seen by a judge and can bond out. Depending on the court that your prostitution case is assigned to, you may be able to do a “walk through arrest.” A walk-through arrest refers to a defendant with an open warrant showing up when the judge is on the bench and getting the judge to set the bond on the spot. Then, rather than go into custody, the judge will permit the defendant to leave the courtroom with a bail bondsman to post bond. Unfortunately, many judges have policies against permitting walk-through arrests so you will have to check with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see if this is an option in your case.
What can I expect at my first court date?
Your first court date is nothing to worry about in a prostitution case. You will not be expected to say or do much – other than perhaps acknowledge your bond conditions. You will not be asked to say anything about the allegation against you and there is no reason that you will be taken back into custody, if your bond has been paid and taken care of. It is always a good idea to arrive early and dress well when you go to court. It is also a good idea to assume that you could be tested for drugs or alcohol anytime you go to court in a prostitution case.
What bond conditions can I expect?
The bond conditions you will be expected to follow in a prostitution case vary depending on the court your case is assigned to. Many judges will not impose any bond conditions for first-time prostitution cases, especially where there is no allegation that the offense involved drug or alcohol usage.
Some judges are stricter and will give more restrictive bond conditions, including possible random testing for drugs or alcohol or restrictions on travel. Under Texas law, bond conditions should have some relationship to the behavior alleged, but many bad judges in the Greater Houston area have little respect for the rights of people charged with criminal offenses (who should be presumed innocent and given no more bond conditions than necessary to protect the public). It is a good idea to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer the first time you go to court for your prostitution case so your lawyer can advocate for you regarding your bond conditions.
If I have been arrested for prostitution, what does my record show now?
If have been recently arrested for prostitution, your record will probably show the arrest, unfortunately. There is no way to prevent a record of the prostitution arrest from appearing on a criminal history search while your case is pending. Similarly, there is no way to take down your mugshot if your mugshot has been made public. The goal with a prostitution case should be to get your case dismissed or to obtain an acquittal (“not guilty”) at trial. If either of these things happens, you will be eligible for an expunction, which results in the literal destruction of records relating to your case.
How long will the case take?
To properly defend a prostitution case, your criminal defense attorney must first obtain the evidence. In the Greater Houston area, it can take 6 months or more to obtain the evidence in a prostitution case (some counties like Fort Bend County or Montgomery County tend to be quicker than Harris County). Once the evidence is received, then your criminal defense lawyer will be in a position to evaluate the case and figure out what the best defense strategy might be.
Is there anything I can do to help my case?
The main thing that you can do to help your case is to stay in contact with your attorney, show up to court, and stay out of trouble. Prosecutors understand that many people charged with first-time prostitution may have made a one-time mistake and should receive a second chance. However, if you get in trouble while you are on bond, or violate your bond conditions, then that will affect the way a prosecutor sees you and your situation. Other than staying out of trouble, there is generally nothing else that you should be doing to help with your prostitution case.
How can I keep the case off of my record?
Keeping a prostitution case “off your record” generally means receiving either an expunction or a non-disclosure (aka “getting your records sealed”). You are eligible for a non-disclosure if you successfully complete a deferred adjudication probation. A deferred adjudication is a special type of probation that does not result in a final conviction if completed successfully. Getting your records sealed is an acceptable result for some people since it means that private entities can’t see the arrest, but it is not nearly as good as an expunction.
As noted above, if your prostitution case is dismissed, or if you are acquitted at trial, you would be eligible to have your records expunged. Instead of just “sealing” your records, an expunction actually leads to the destruction of your records, so the records relating to the prostitution arrest are not available to anyone. The benefits of an expunction are why a dismissal or acquittal is clearly preferable than deferred adjudication probation.
What if I am not a United States citizen and have been arrested for prostitution?
If you are not a United States citizen and have been arrested for prostitution, you may be facing immigration consequences relating to a potential prostitution conviction. At Ceja Law Firm, we are criminal lawyers who focus on criminal cases. However, we understand that some of our clients may not be United States citizens and may be facing immigration issues. For this reason, we work with a variety of immigration lawyers to fully understand what the immigration consequences of a criminal case may be.
Immigration law can be very complicated. For example, even if your prostitution case is dismissed, it may be possible for a statement that you made to get your case dismissed (in a pre-trial diversion application, for example), could be treated as an admission of guilt in an immigration proceeding. The complexity of immigration law is one reason that a good criminal defense attorney should seek the advice of immigration attorneys, especially with so much at stake for a client. If you are not a United States citizen, it is crucial that your criminal defense attorney know this fact and seek to understand what the potential consequences to your immigration case may be.
At Ceja Law Firm, we regularly obtain dismissals in prostitution cases. Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who has devoted his career to criminal defense. If you are charged with prostitution anywhere in the Greater Houston area, Mr. Ceja would be honored to offer you a free consultation by phone, Zoom or in person. Get in touch with Ceja Law Firm today.