Although Texas has been punishing those participating in one of the world’s oldest professions for some time, the state recently increased the severity of all prostitution-related charges. What do these updates to the Texas prostitution laws change? And how do they affect those that have been charged with prostitution offenses? 

We can tell you two things right off the bat:

  1. Soliciting prostitution is now a felony offense in the state of Texas.
  2. The new Texas prostitution laws don’t change the book on how to beat a prostitution charge. 

Although prostitution offenses are not taken lightly in most places around the nation, no one is cracking down on Johns like the Lone Star State. If you or a loved one has been charged with solicitation of prostitution, you’ll need the best criminal defense lawyers in Houston if you want to walk away with your freedom intact. 

If you need aggressive and experienced criminal defense for a prostitution charge, call Mark Thiessen and the attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 and ask us to fight for you. 

When did Texas ban prostitution?

Prostitution has been illegal statewide since the Federal Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport any woman for “prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” If it sounds pretty dated, it’s because it is; the Mann Act (1910) and a few other pieces of legislation were passed in the early 20th century to combat prostitution specifically and brought an end to many of the famous red-light districts in the state. 

Although you may have heard differently, prostitution has been a serious criminal offense in Texas for more than 100 years, and although some places in the nation are reforming — Nevada is the only state in which prostitution is permitted in any form — there is no such reform in sight for the Lone Star State. In fact, things are heading in the opposite direction.

What is the new law in Texas about prostitution?

In a landmark move aimed at combating sex trafficking and reducing demand for prostitution, Texas implemented sweeping changes to its prostitution laws on September 1, 2021, becoming the first state to make the act of buying sex a felony. 

In doing so they have targeted the customer by increasing the punishment for solicitation of prostitution from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony, with a second offense for solicitation now representing a third-degree felony.

These new Texas prostitution laws also mean steeper punishment for those trying to recruit individuals for sex work. While combating systemic trafficking by targeting those soliciting prostitution has drawn widespread criticism, the problem is complex and the implications of the law are manifold. Texas simply hopes that in reducing the demand for prostitution they can also reduce the supply, where most of the more grievous crimes are taking place.

What is the TX Penal Code for soliciting prostitution?

The Prostitution Texas Penal Code is found under Chapter 43, which details crimes of public indecency. Texas Penal Code § 43 contains the statutory language about all prostitution crimes, which are detailed as follows.

  • A person commits a prostitution offense if they knowingly offer or agree to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.
  • A person commits a solicitation of prostitution offense if they knowingly offer or agree to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person or another.
  • A person commits a promotion of prostitution offense if they receive money or other property pursuant to an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution; or solicit another to engage in sexual conduct with another person for compensation.
  • A person commits a compelling prostitution offense if they cause another by force, threat, coercion, or fraud to commit prostitution.

Notice that you can be guilty of solicitation for an offer or agreement to an offer. This type of broad statutory language should give you some idea of how much latitude the state gives itself in prosecuting those accused of prostitution offenses.

What’s worse? Sting operations are an incredibly common method for law enforcement to make prostitution-related arrests in Texas. These sting operations are intended to make it even easier to arrest solicitors, who need not even offer or make payment to be arrested. More on that below. 

What is soliciting prostitution? 

People are often surprised that they can be arrested for solicitation before money has even been exchanged. They only have to offer or agree to engage in paid sexual conduct to be charged with solicitation. The exact terms by which this transaction is defined are exceptionally vague and are designed to aid the police in making arrests. You must only demonstrate the intent to solicit prostitution to be picked up and booked. Some examples of evidence that can be used to establish intent to solicit prostitution include:

  • Having a sex worker enter your car
  • Driving to a location wherein paid sex will take place
  • Withdrawing money from an ATM
  • Offering to engage in sex for money

The actions of solicitation do have to extend beyond availability or simple communications, which is why action is usually necessary for the police to develop probable cause or reasonable suspicion to arrest someone. Police may stage a sting operation if they have reasonable suspicion of prostitution, and this is often how prospective buyers are caught.

Continue reading about articulable suspicion and probable cause in Texas

What is the penalty for prostitution in Texas?

Is soliciting prostitution a felony in Texas? Thanks to the changes made to the Texas Penal Code for prostitution in the Fall of 2021, soliciting prostitution is always a felony in Texas. The new Texas prostitution laws have changed charges from misdemeanors into felonies and exponentially increased jail time associated with solicitation crimes. This is the breakdown under the updated law:

OffenseChargeMaximum fineJail time
Soliciting prostitution first offenseState jail felony$10,000180 days – 2 years
Soliciting prostitution second offenseThird-degree felony$10,0002 – 10 years
Soliciting prostitution from someone under the age of 18Second-degree felony$10,0002 – 20 years

These charges represent a dramatic change in Texas’ policy on how to handle would-be buyers, an aggressive stance meant to deter (or detain) those who were previously unmoved.

However, the real consequences can follow a person for the rest of their lives, endangering their reputation and livelihood for long after the length of the case. Solicitation of prostitution, like all sex-related offenses, will show up on a criminal background check in Texas for things like employment, housing, and loans — making it even more imperative that the accused get quality representation, and fast.

Continue reading: What does a background check show in Texas?

How to beat a soliciting prostitution charge in Texas

Remember: a charge is not a conviction. While a charge for solicitation of prostitution is serious, it is not the end of the road — if you’ve got a skilled Houston prostitution lawyer who can fight for your rights. While your solicitation charge will be defended based on the individual circumstances of your case, there are some common defense strategies for solicitation charges, which can include:

  1. You were unaware of the fact that the other party was a prostitute
  2. The evidence of specific action is insufficient
  3. The evidence is of untrustworthy provenance
  4. You were entrapped by the police
  5. You agreed to a sexual act but did not agree to exchange money
  6. You agreed to the proposed sex act under duress

As always, if you have been picked up for solicitation of prostitution, the less you say, the better. We don’t care how innocent you are or how much of a misunderstanding you were involved in, opening your mouth to the police can only end in trouble.

Don’t be a victim of the new Texas prostitution laws, hire a prostitution defense attorney from Thiessen Law Firm.

While the Texas prostitution laws are strict, and they have only grown more strict over the last few years, charges for solicitation of prostitution are beatable. Although the stakes are higher, the strategies for beating a prostitution charge remain the same, which makes hiring a dedicated and aggressive trial attorney to defend you in a court of law even more essential than before. 

Keep quiet and tell the police that you want to call your lawyer. The attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm will figure out the rest. Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to request a consultation and ask us to fight for your freedom.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.