Woman in handcuffs

What is the penalty for prostitution in Texas?

Prostitution is illegal everywhere in Texas. Due to the evidence needed to prosecute a prostitution charge, most people who are arrested for prostitution in Texas are arrested after a police undercover sting. Being arrested for prostitution can be highly stressful due to the potential damage to a person’s background and reputation and the possibility of jail time. But what exactly is the penalty for prostitution in Texas?

In Texas, the penalty for prostitution is different for the alleged buyer or seller of sex. In 2021, Texas became the first state to make the buying of sex a felony, while an alleged prostitute only faces a misdemeanor.

What are the penalties for the alleged buyer of sex?

As a result of pressure to combat human trafficking, Texas increased the penalties for the alleged buying of sex to a State Jail Felony in 2021. That means that if a person is convicted of solicitation of prostitution under Texas Penal Code 43.021, they face 180 days to two years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. If the defendant has a prior conviction for prostitution then an additional prostitution conviction could be filed as a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years and a $10,000 fine.

At least in the Houston area, the reality is that for most defendants charged with solicitation of prostitution, the likely worst-case scenario would be ending up on probation with a conviction for prostitution. Even though jail is a possibility for a prostitution arrest, it is rare for a District Attorney’soffice or judge to take the position that jail is an appropriate sentence for prostitution. Therefore, in most cases, the goal of a prostitution arrest is to protect a person’s record.

What are the penalties for the alleged prostitute?

For an alleged prostitute, a first-time prostitution charge is a Class“B” misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, while a second or third conviction is a Class“A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

Again, although jail time is a possibility, in most cases it is not a likely outcome unless the defendant has a lengthy criminal history or multiple prostitution convictions. In Houston, the Harris County District Attorney’s office focuses its efforts on combating human trafficking and even has programs that lead to an automatic dismissal of a prostitution charge.

Is it possible to beat a prostitution charge?

Absolutely. When defending a prostitution charge, a criminal defense attorney must first challenge the facts. The offense of prostitution essentially requires a knowing agreement to exchange money for sex (which is why prostitution cases are usually filed after a sting, where police collect evidence of an alleged agreement). In a surprising number of cases, a knowing agreement may be lacking due to the fact that discussions are vague or due to a language barrier. On occasion, there may be a defense of entrapment, although the entrapment defense is difficult to employ in Texas in many cases. For an alleged prostitute, there is a statutory defense that the alleged prostitute was the victim of human trafficking or the offense of compelling prostitution.

Even if the facts are not in a defendant’s favor, it is often possible to negotiate a dismissal of a prostitution charge, particularly where a defendant does not have a significant criminal history. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be familiar with all the available options for obtaining a dismissal of a prostitution charge in a particular county.

The goal of a prostitution case should always be a dismissal or an acquittal. If a prostitution case is dismissed or you are found“not guilty” at trial, then you would be eligible to have your prostitution case expunged. In any criminal case, an expunction is the best possible result as it causes records relating to the arrest to be destroyed and the defendant would even be able to deny the existence of the arrest in most instances, including a work or housing application.

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who regularly assists clients in clearing their names after a prostitution arrest. If you have been arrested for prostitution anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja LawFirm today for a free consultation.