This week attorney Jose Ceja was set for trial in a prostitution case in Houston. The defendant was a stripper at a popular club who got arrested after an undercover police investigation. The investigation resulted in two arrests. Our client was offered an easy dismissal, but refused to accept the deal out of principle. We set the case for trial and it was dismissed the night before trial.
In the investigation that led to the prostitution arrest, two law enforcement officers posing as strip club patrons entered the club and had drinks with the strippers (using city of Houston money). The couple got friendly with one stripper and after a short while, the conversation turned sexual. According to the police, the first stripper made an explicit offer and agreement with law enforcement to engage in sexual acts in the strip club’s VIP room for money. The conversation as recorded, but the audio was almost completely inaudible due to the loud music being played at the strip club.
Our client was also a stripper at the club. She is alleged to have also talked to the couple, and the entire case against her was built on her essentially knowing what went on in the VIP area. She never made a clear offer or an agreement with law enforcement. Nevertheless, she was arrested and charged with Class “B” prostitution.
From the day she hired Ceja Law Firm, it was clear she wanted to fight the case until the end. Once we obtained the evidence, we reviewed it with her. Meanwhile, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office offered her participation in a special program that would result in the dismissal of the charges against her. The program involves an interview talking about the circumstances of the incident, and also provides the alleged prostitute information about resources available for sex workers and potential victims of human trafficking. Although the program was a guaranteed way of keeping a prostitution arrest off of her record and did not require an explicit admission of guilt, she refused to participate in the program, saying that it was an admission of guilt to her and that she knew that she didn’t do anything wrong.
When a person is charged with any criminal offense, it is the job of the criminal defense attorney to defend and investigation the case aggressively, and to inform the client as fully as possible of the risks and consequences of going to trial, as well as the likelihood of winning. If a criminal defense attorney does those things, and a client wishes to go to trial, a criminal defense attorney should respect the client’s wishes, and that is what we did here. After we received and reviewed the evidence, this prostitution case was set for trial in a Harris County Criminal Court.
Luckily for our client, we were able to find major problems with the case. Not only was there not a clear offer or agreement, there were also legal problems with the case that would have increased the likelihood of winning at trial. The night before jury selection was scheduled to begin, we were notified that the District Attorney’s Office had filed a dismissal in the case.
Although many people in this client’s position would have likely taken the safe way out, this case illustrates that good things happen when you set cases for trial. When looking for a criminal defense attorney to handle a prostitution case, or any other criminal charge, it is critical to hire an attorney who is experienced in handling trials. Unfortunately, too many attorneys are “plea attorneys” who are too busy, lazy or inexperienced to take cases to trial.
Prostitution cases are good cases to set for trial. The reality is that many people do not think that the police should make arresting prostitutes a high priority, especially when the arrests frequently involve significant police resources (in this case, there were over 10 police officers involved in the “operation,” which resulted in the arrests of two strippers for misdemeanors). In a prostitution trial, unlike many other types of cases, many jurors might actually come into the case against the prosecutors and on the side of the defense. During jury selection in a prostitution trial, one goal of a defense attorney should be to identify the jurors who do believe that prostitution is a serious crime that should be enforced aggressively.
Because it is the goal of law enforcement to have a successful prostitution sting, too often they will make weak arrests that will not withstand a close look, and are unlikely to prevail at trial. That is what happened here. Although being wrongfully arrested and charged with prostitution is a terrible thing to go through, our client will now be able to get her records expunged and clear her name.
Ceja Law Firm successfully defends prostitution charges in Harris County, Galveston County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Chambers County, Waller County and Brazoria County. Call today to schedule a free consultation.