Do you need an attorney for a prostitution charge?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Prostitution is an offense that is regularly charged throughout the Greater Houston area. Depending on whether a person is alleged to be the buyer or seller of sex, prostitution can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Although it is possible for a defendant in a prostitution case to defend himself, it is almost never a good idea. If you are charged with prostitution, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain the best possible result, and also ensure that the case is handled as smoothly as possible to minimize disruptions to your life.  

If you have been arrested for prostitution in the Greater Houston area, you will be given a court date soon after you are released from jail. One of the main things that happens at your first court date is that the judge will set bond conditions that you must follow while the case is pending. Although bond conditions in a prostitution case are typically not overly strict in the Houston area, it is a good idea to have a criminal defense attorney on your side to advocate for you regarding any problematic bond conditions that court may attempt to impose. For example, in a prostitution case, a court may place restrictions on your travel, which could be a major problem if you travel for work or live out of State. An experienced criminal defense attorney can talk with the prosecutor and judge and attempt to amend any bond conditions that could be a problem for you. In the Greater Houston area, a prostitution case can take six months or more to resolve, so a criminal defense attorney can help by ensuring that you will be able to work and live a normal life while your case is pending. 

Another reason that you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your prostitution case is that your attorney can obtain the evidence and evaluate your cases’ strengths and weaknesses.  To obtain the best possible result in a prostitution case, your criminal defense attorney should attack every element of the State’s case. In most prostitution cases, that means challenging the existence of a knowing agreement to exchange money for sex, which is what the prostitution statute requires. 

The vast majority of prostitution cases in Houston are filed after an undercover police investigation. In the Greater Houston area, undercover police stings take place in strip clubs, hotel rooms, or on the street. Some undercover police stings will target the buyers of sex and some will target the sellers. In either situation, the police will either audio or video record the conversation (or sometimes both) allegedly containing the deal to exchange money for sex. 

In order to challenge the existence of a knowing agreement, your criminal defense attorney will need to obtain a copy of the evidence from the District Attorney. This includes all audio and video, police reports and text messages. The police frequently misrepresent or exaggerate the facts in a prostitution case and it is possible that your case could be dismissed because a knowing agreement to exchange money for sex is not present. Without an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your prostitution case, it would be difficult to obtain complete evidence and also difficult to effectively challenge the evidence in a prostitution case.

Once the evidence in your case has been received, an experienced prostitution defense attorney can advise you on how to resolve the case. A prostitution case, like all criminal cases, will be resolved by either dismissal, trial, or an agreement of some kind. Of course, the goal of a prostitution case is to get the charges dismissed and the charge removed from your record. An experienced criminal defense attorney will first seek to get the charges dismissed due to insufficient evidence, or perhaps a violation of a defendant’s rights. If the evidence is not dismissed, then an attorney can advise you on the best course of action.

In the Greater Houston area, depending on the county, it is possible to get a prostitution case dismissed through a formal or informal agreement with the District Attorney’s office. This is usually known as a pre-trial diversion. In Houston, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office frequently offers some form of pre-trial diversion in prostitution cases, but that is typically not the case in other counties, particularly for cases where the buyer of sex is charged. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know if a pre-trial diversion program may be an option for you and advise you on whether it is the best strategy. Too frequently, criminal defense attorneys go into a case thinking that it will be resolved via pre-trial diversion and do not thoroughly challenge a case based on the facts.  

If your case is not dismissed, then you will have to choose between a trial or a plea agreement. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you decide what is the most logical course of action based on the facts, your chances of winning, and the damage to your record based on a potential plea agreement. In many prostitution cases, good things can happen when a case is set for trial.  Our office recently set a prostitution case for trial that was dismissed the night before trial (we feel strongly that we would have won the trial if it had not been dismissed). 

An effective criminal defense attorney can help at every stage of your prostitution case and make the difference between getting a dismissal or a conviction. If you have been charged with prostitution anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today. 

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.