More Than Just One Night, the Impact of a Conviction for Soliciting Prostitution
Prostitution is one of the few crimes where there may be two defendants on both sides of a transaction: the person supplying the services and the person paying for the services. Texas law makes it a crime to offer or agree to pay for sexual services. For repeat offenders, a conviction for soliciting a prostitute could also require registering as a sex offender in the state’s registry. If you have been charged with solicitation, it is crucial to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Ceja Law Firm is a leading criminal defense practice in the greater Houston area. As a former prosecutor, founding attorney Jose Ceja has firsthand knowledge of the tactic the state uses to gain convictions in sex crime cases. When you work with us, we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and defend your freedom.
What Constitutes Prostitution Under Texas Law?
In Texas, it is a crime for a person to knowingly offer or agree to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct. Sexual conduct includes a broad range of conduct, including intercourse or other contact intended to provide sexual gratification. Either the person alleged to be the prostitute or the “john” (the one paying for sex) can be charged under this statute.
A person does not actually have to engage or complete the sexual act to be convicted of the crime. Under Texas law, the crime has been committed at the time of making an offer or agreement to engage in a sex act for something of value. The something of value does not have to be money, it could be other things of value, such as electronics or drugs. All that is required for an arrest and potentially a conviction is an agreement to exchange money for sexual gratification and taking steps to carry out the agreement.
Many arrests and charges for solicitation stem from police sting operations. Since the State does not have to prove a person actually committed a sex act to get a conviction for soliciting a prostitute, many arrests come from police stings. Someone affiliated with the police will pose as a prostitute and create a situation where it is known money may be exchanged for sexual acts. The police will then attempt to catch a person in the act of making an agreement to exchange money for sexual favors on a video recording.
The internet has also made it easier to set up scenarios where a prostitute and potential customers can meet. The police may post an ad on a website known for facilitating such transactions and use communications between the potential customer as evidence of knowledge of the exchange of money for sexual favors.
Penalties for Solicitation in Texas
A first-time conviction for solicitation is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. If a defendant has been convicted of soliciting a prostitute one or two times before, the punishment increases to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both.
If a defendant has been convicted of soliciting a prostitute three or more times, the punishment increases to a state jail felony punishable by between 180 days and 2 years in jail and possibly a fine of up to $10,000.
Enhancement of Punishment – Minors
If the person who is solicited for sexual acts is under the age of 18, believed to be under the age of 18, or represented as being under the age of 18, the charge (for the person soliciting the prostitute) increases to a second degree felony punishable by between 2 and 20 years in jail and possibly a fine of up to $10,000.
Sex Offender Registry
A third or more conviction for soliciting prostitution could require the convicted person to register as a sex offender with the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program.
Registration as a sex offender may restrict where a person may live and who a person has contact with. For instance, convictions involving minors may prevent someone from living near parks, schools, or other child-centered locations. The registration can also prevent the owning of a computer or having access to the internet.
In addition to these limitations, registering as a sex offender requires informing law enforcement of the location of one’s residence and place of employment and providing other information, such as fingerprints. Much of this information then becomes available to the public. Failure to register and provide required updates can result in additional criminal charges.
Defenses for Solicitation
Because so many arrests for soliciting a prostitute stem from sting operations, most defenses–other than mistaken identity–involve showing that the police lied or were mistaken about the discussion that allegedly offered an exchange of money for sex. Police in so-called “vice” units who investigate prostitution offenses are often over-zealous about arresting individuals for prostitution and are known to do so when the evidence is weak.
The defense of entrapment, which is relatively rare in criminal cases, is also sometimes used to defend prostitution cases. Entrapment occurs when the police persuade an individual – who was no already pre-disposed to commit the offense – the engage in criminal conduct, such as prostitution. Again, this can occur with over-zealous law enforcement who may be eager to make arrests. Other defenses involve the failure to protect your rights, such as failing to advise you of your right to an attorney or failing to provide an attorney upon request.
Prostitution cases will generally have some type of audio or video recording and it is critical that your criminal defense attorney obtain the evidence and challenge it. It is also important to look into the background of law enforcement and see if they have been accused of inappropriate behavior or reprimanded as a result of their investigation of prostitution cases.
Contact Our Experienced Houston Sex Crimes Attorney
Ceja Law Firm will represent your interests if you are faced with an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. Attorney Ceja has a proven track record of assisting people charged with sex-related crimes, helping these defendants have their charges reduced or even dropped altogether.
If you have been arrested for soliciting a prostitute, it is important that you contact our office today for an evaluation of your case.