Recently, Texas has cracked down on prostitution and solicitation within its state borders. The primary goal is to reduce the demand in an attempt to mitigate human trafficking. If a law officer arrests you for either prostitution or solicitation, you face a felony charge that significantly impacts your life.
What is the difference between prostitution and solicitation? And what are the penalties if you are convicted?
Everything Is Bigger in Texas
The old Texas saying that everything is bigger here certainly holds true for prostitution and solicitation crimes. Even though the idea of reducing or eliminating human trafficking is laudable, harsh new laws can trap you within the criminal justice system.
The law says any sexual contract made in a public place for money or an agreement to engage in sexual conduct, regardless of how you discuss it or any code words you use, can result in a charge of prostitution or solicitation. It’s all up to the arresting officer.
As a first-time offender, you could find yourself serving up to two years in jail and paying up to $10,000 in fines. Furthermore, the state could require you to register as a sex offender. Between those two circumstances, you will find it harder to get a job, a loan, or an education. It’s even harder to find a place to live.
One more thing — if convicted of a felony in Texas, you forfeit your right to gun ownership. For some folks, that’s a big deal. It also means if you possess a gun after your conviction, the criminal justice system can revoke your parole and charge you with a new crime.
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Some Terms to Know
Before we go into more detail about these crimes, here are some terms you should know:
- Prostitute: an individual who performs sexual acts or conduct in exchange for money, goods, or services.
- Prostitution: the act of accepting money, goods, or services in exchange for sexual favors.
- Solicitation: the act of offering money, goods, or services in exchange for sexual favors.
- John: an individual who seeks or solicits the services of a prostitute.
- Pimp or madame: an individual who manages or engages in the organized promotion or aggravated promotion of a prostitute or prostitution.
Prostitution Classification and Penalties
The Texas Penal Code 43.02(a) says prostitution is any type of sexual conduct for money or items of value is a criminal offense. The penalties depend on the age of the participants:
- If everyone is over 18, you commit a jail felony. You serve a mandatory 180 days in jail and remain for a maximum of two years. Also, you can be fined up to $10,000.
- If one or more participants are between the ages of 14 and 18, prostitution becomes a third-degree felony worth up to 10 years in prison. The maximum fine is still $10,000.
- If anyone is under 14, the crime becomes a second-degree felony, which gives you a maximum sentence of 20 years.
To be clear, prostitution is the selling of sex, and you can be charged even if money never changes hands.
Solicitation Classification and Penalties
Solicitation is covered by Texas Penal Code 43.02(b). Solicitation involves offering money for hired sexual conduct. Note that the statement says “offering.” Solicitation is tricky because you don’t need to actually have paid anything, just the offer is enough.
You don’t even need to be there in person. You can solicit online, through text messages, or via email. All you need to do is ask a sex worker for the price of their services, and you commit a crime.
An offer or agreement to engage in paid sexual conduct includes:
- Having a sex worker enter your car
- Driving somewhere for paid sex
- Withdrawing money from an ATM (which you might use to pay for sex)
- Offering to engage in sex for money
If you stop to talk to a potential sex worker on the street, make a “date” online, or set up a time for paid sex using your smartphone, you aren’t being smart. You can be charged with solicitation, which carries the following penalties.
- A first-time offender faces a state jail felony and can receive 180 days to two years in jail, and the fine is quite steep.
- Repeat offenders can be charged with a third-degree felony and spend up to 10 years in prison.
- Circumstances could increase the crime to the second degree, and you can spend up to 20 years in prison.
Those are pretty severe penalties that you can incur just by offering (or appearing to offer to) pay for sex.
Other Prostitution Crimes
Texas can charge an individual for promoting prostitution, aggravated promotion of prostitution, or compelling prostitution.
The legal system calls promoting prostitution pimping or pandering. Pimps and madams knowingly profit from prostitution or solicitation and face felony charges if caught. Online promotion of prostitution is treated the same as in person, over the phone, or any other way of promoting sex for money.
Simple promotion is a state jail felony. You can get up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Repeat offenders or the involvement of minors increases the length of the prison sentence.
Aggravated promotion means knowingly owning, financing, controlling, or managing a prostitution enterprise with two or more prostitutes. Conviction means up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the prostitute is under 18, it becomes a first-degree felony worth five to 99 years (life) in prison.
Compelling prostitution uses force, threats, or fraud to compel another person to perform sexual conduct for hire and usually involves a prostitute under 18. It doesn’t matter if the person compelling the act knows the prostitute’s actual age or not. It’s a second-degree felony worth up to 10 years and $10,000. If a minor is involved, it escalates to a first-degree felony.
Any way you approach prostitution, you are committing a felony crime that could put you away for years.
Have you been charged with prostitution or solicitation in Texas? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »
Factors Influencing Sentencing for a Prostitution or Solicitation Conviction
The following can influence your sentence if convicted of prostitution or solicitation:
- A previous criminal record
- The age of the parties involved
- The use of threat, force, or fraud
- Other accompanying charges such as assault
The long-term effects of a prostitution felony charge include:
- Loss of employment
- Loss of the right to vote
- Reputational damage
- Loss of the right to gun ownership
- Potential immigration and naturalization problems
A convicted sex offender includes those individuals convicted of sex crimes like prostitution who must register as a sex offender for ten years. You lose educational opportunities, access to specific jobs and neighborhoods, and control over your life.
You must provide your name, photo, and address to the county. If you move, you must update your information every time.
A Final Note
If there was ever a time to just say no, offering or accepting money for sex is it. Texas escalated prostitution and solicitation to felony offenses, which are so severe they threaten your livelihood and quality of life. Soliciting or promoting underage prostitution is an even graver crime.
If you have been charged with prostitution or solicitation and believe you have been entrapped, unlawfully searched, or were under duress or the influence, you may be permitted to plead to a lesser charge or acquit yourself. An experienced criminal lawyer like Brett Podolsky can provide the best guidance to remain out of prison or reduce your penalties.