Prostitution Crimes in Texas
In Texas, it’s against the law to offer sexual services in exchange for compensation. This applies to any type of sexual activity which is provided in return for payment, gifts or other types of compensation. In fact, it’s against the law to even offer sex in return for a fee, whether or not any sexual activity actually occurs.
A person who provides or offers these kinds of services may be arrested, prosecuted and convicted of a prostitution offense. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state regularly conduct prostitution stings to catch sexual service providers, their customers and their pimps. Being convicted of any type of prostitution related offense can lead to jail time and steep fines.
The Legal Definition of Prostitution
The Texas Penal Code clearly spells out the definition of prostitution. Under the law, it is a crime for a person to provide, advertise or promote sexual services in exchange for any type of compensation. Section 43.02 of the Penal Code states that is a crime to knowingly:
- Offer to engage in sexual conduct for a fee
- Agree to engage in sexual conduct for a fee
- Actually engage in sexual conduct for a fee
- Ask or solicit another person in a public place to exchange payment for sex
This law makes it a criminal offense to engage in prostitution in any capacity. A prostitute, his or her johns and his or her promoters can all be prosecuted and arrested under this law.
Marisa stands on a street corner wearing revealing clothing as she waves to passersby. A man pulls up to the curb and asks for a “date”. Marisa agrees and the man takes her to a hotel room. She states the price for her services and he produces cash to pay her.
At this time, a crime has already been committed even though no sexual activity has occurred and no money has changed hands. In fact, Marisa had already broken the law by standing on the street corner and agreeing to go along for a “date”.
Even if Marisa and the man never actually say the word “sex” or if they don’t discuss a price upfront, they are both guilty of a crime. A prosecutor can use the circumstances of their interaction to convince a jury that the two of them were agreeing to exchange sex for money, despite the fact that they don’t actually use explicit sexual language.
In Texas, it’s a crime to even offer sex for money or to agree to engage in this kind of transaction, no matter what code words are used or how the agreement is phrased.
Texas Prostitution Investigations
There are a number of ways in which Texas law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute prostitution offenses.
One of the most common methods is to simply rely on complaints or comments from citizens. When a citizen calls the police or files a complaint regarding prostitution activity, law enforcement officers will investigate the issue. They will typically step up patrols in areas that draw a lot of complaints or they might set up a stakeout to watch for signs of prostitution. Increasingly, police departments are using online ads and posts as evidence when they are trying to detect areas where prostitution may be occurring.
Along the way, they might make a few arrests if they see any blatant prostitution activities occurring in the area. They may also question suspected prostitutes or johns to find out more information. Once they are certain that prostitution is occurring in that area, they may set up a sting operation.
Sting operations are one of the most common methods used by law enforcement agencies to catch prostitution offenders. In these operations, an undercover officer posing as a prostitute or a john may try to set up an arrangement of sex for money.
The officer never has to engage in any sexual activities. Because of the way that prostitution laws in Texas are worded, sex doesn’t have to occur for an arrest to be made. If a prostitute agrees to exchange sex for money with an undercover cop, an arrest can be made. Similarly, a police officer posing as a prostitute can initiate an arrest as soon as a potential customer agrees to trade money for sexual favors.
A person who offers sexual services for a fee may be arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by:
- Up to 180 days in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000
The penalties for prostitution offenses may be enhanced if the person being charged has been previously convicted for similar offenses. In these cases, the charges can be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $4000
More severe penalties can apply for other prostitution related offenses. For example, compelling prostitution, or using force or threats to get someone to prostitute themselves, is a felony of the second degree.
This is punishable by:
- Two to 20 years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000