Undercover Operations: Challenging Prostitution Sting Arrests

Law enforcement in the Houston area regularly run prostitution stings to bring charges against prostitutes and the buyers of sex. Large police agencies like the Houston Police Department have special divisions that focus on running stings in a variety of settings. But what happens when a person is arrested after a prostitution sting? What is the best defense after being arrested in a prostitution sting?

The Penalties for Prostitution in Texas in 2024

The punishment for prostitution in Texas can be severe. A conviction for prostitution can lead to a permanent criminal record, jail time and a fine, in addition to secondary consequences, like difficulty finding housing or employment. 

Texas punishes prostitution and the solicitation of prostitution differently, with the buyer of sex punished more harshly. Under Texas law, an alleged prostitute will face 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. The alleged buyer of sex (sometimes known as the “john”), will be charged with a State Jail Felony for a prostitution arrest, punishably up 180 days to two years in jail. 

Why Do The Police Use Stings in Prostitution Cases in Houston?

Virtually every prostitution arrest in the Houston area is the result of a police sting. This is due to the type of evidence that prosecutors need to prove a prostitution charge. Under Texas law, prostitution and solicitation of prostitution both involve an agreement to exchange sex for money (or something of value). In order to prove that there was an agreement, it is usually necessary that one of the parties to the conversation be a police officer who can record the conversation and later testify to the agreement. 

In Houston, prostitution stings take place in a variety of settings, including strip clubs, massage parlors and streets known for having high levels of prostitution activity. One of the most common stings involves an ad that is placed by law enforcement on websites known to have advertisements for prostitution. Anyone who replies to the ad will be lured to a hotel room, which is outfitted with cameras. Once the undercover prostitute (almost always a woman) reaches an agreement to engage in a sexual act for a fee, the police will enter the room and arrest the would-be buyer. 

What is the Best Defense Strategy After a Prostitution Sting Arrest? 

The key element of a prostitution case is whether there was a knowing agreement to exchange sex for money. Most defenses in prostitution cases are based on the lack of such a knowing agreement. For example, if a defendant did not understand what an undercover officer said because of the loud music in a strip club, then that person did not knowingly enter into an agreement that could form the basis of a prostitution charge. Similarly, if a man is lured to a hotel room to meet a woman, but there is no explicit discussion of exchanging money for a sexual act – or the man has not clearly agreed – then it is possible that there is not enough evidence for a prostitution conviction. On occasion, the defense of entrapment is used in prostitution sting cases, but entrapment is generally a difficult defense to successfully use in Texas

In order to thoroughly defend a prostitution charge – and challenge whether there was a knowing agreement – it will be necessary for a sex crimes defense attorney to obtain all of the evidence from the prostitution sting, including the offense report, audio recordings and video recordings. But even if it appears that a prostitution case can be proved, it is frequently possible for an experienced sex crimes attorney to negotiate a dismissal of a prostitution charge. 

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who regularly obtains dismissals of prostitution charges throughout the Houston area. If you are charged with prostitution, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.