Discrete and Professional Prostitution Defense
Most prostitution arrests are made in connection with a “sting” or undercover police operation. Occasionally, a prostitution arrest is made as the result of a “raid” on a studio, club or massage parlor, but this is relatively rare. The prostitution stings are generally conducted by a special unit of police and the operation is usually conducted in one of two ways. Below is an explanation of the common police “sting methods” for prostitution employed in Texas. Do not plead guilty to a charge based on an investigation involving ECCIE, RubRating, or SeekingsArrangment until you speak with a defense attorney.
A conviction for prostitution can have a serious impact on a person’s criminal history, and multiple prostitution convictions can lead to serious prison time. We are criminal defense attorneys that are experienced and skilled in dealing with sex allegations and familiar with the Tarrant County policies and programs (i.e. RISE Program). We will do everything we can to keep you criminal record clean and keep you out of jail.
“We treat our clients with respect and our cases with great discretion. Our office is a safe place. We are protectors and advocates, not social workers or life coaches.”
– James Luster
Fort Worth or Arlington Stings
One common method for a prostitution sting is the undercover (plain clothes) officer pulls his unmarked car up to a suspected prostitute. The officer then says something to engage the suspect like, “I’m trying to do something, what’s up?” or “Hey, I’m looking to hangout.” After an initial conversation, most suspects try some method to screen the officer.
A common way suspects try to screen for police is by first asking if they are police and then asking the person to touch their breast. The police officer will then touch the suspect’s clothed breast and continue with the transaction. The police officer will continue to talk about the desired services until he believes the elements for prostitution have been met. Then the officer will give some signal to other officers and the officers will make an arrest.
Another method used by law enforcement is to contact a suspected prostitute from an internet site. The officer then arranges a meeting for an “incall” or “outcall.” Once the officer arrives on scene in plain clothes, he will discuss the arrangement and even have the suspected prostitute remove part or all of her clothes. Then the officer will provide some kind of signal or say something through a radio. Then other officers will bust into the hotel room or studio.
Do police have to tell you if they are the police?
No. This is a myth. Officers are not under any obligation to be truthful to a suspect.
Can police touch your breast or other private areas if they’re undercover?
Yes. It is common practice for officers to engage in this behavior in a prostitution sting in order to gain the suspect’s trust and carry out the sting operation in Texas.
Define Prostitution in Texas
A person can be charged with prostitution under Section 43.02 of the Texas Penal Code in two situations:
- A person offers or agrees to RECEIVE a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.
- A person offers or agrees to PAY a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct with that person or another.
For the Texas definition of prostitution:
- Sexual conduct includes deviate sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and sexual intercourse.
- Deviate sexual intercourse is touching of genitals of one person to the mouth or anus of another person.
- Sexual contact is touching of the anus, breast, or genitals of one person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying someone sexually.
- Sexual intercourse happens when a penis penetrates a vagina.
By law, it does not matter if any money (or other compensation) is actually exchanged. The mere offer or solicitation to engage in prostitution is enough for a charge of prostitution (sometimes also called solicitation). Speaking with one of our experienced Texas defense attorneys can help clarify your case and answer any questions you may have.
Important Definitions Related to Prostitution Charges
- “Deviate sexual intercourse” means any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person.
- “Fee” means the payment or offer of payment in the form of money, goods, services, or other benefit.
- “Sexual contact” means any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
- “Sexual conduct” includes deviate sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and sexual intercourse.
- “Sexual intercourse” means any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.
What type of crime is prostitution?
If you want to know whether prostitution is a felony or misdemeanor then read the next section. In Texas prostitution or solicitation is considered an “Offense Against Public Order and Decency.” More specifically, Texas considers prostitution as a form of “public indecency.” Whether prostitution is a crime of moral turpitude requires a somewhat complex explanation, especially when it could have immigration consequences. A more in-depth discussion is located at the bottom of the page.
Punishment for Prostitution
Misdemeanor Prostitution / Solicitation – A first offense for prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor (up to 180 days in jail and $2000 fine). If someone has been convicted one or two times before the current charge then prostitution or solicitation is a Class A misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail and $4000 fine).
Felony Prostitution / Solicitation – If someone has three prior prostitution convictions, then all convictions after that are State Jail Felonies. Like any State Jail Felony, this charge can be enhanced to more serious felony level charges based on a person’s criminal history. Prostitution / Solicitation becomes a Second Degree Felony if the person solicited is younger than 18 years old. A few years ago, the law made solicitation of someone 14 to 17 a Third Degree Felony, but this has changed in Texas.
What is Promotion of Prostitution?
Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.03, a person promotes prostitution if, acting other than as a prostitute receiving compensation for personally rendered prostitution services, he or she knowingly:
- gets money or other property pursuant to an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution; or
- solicits another to engage in sexual conduct with another person for compensation.
Promotion of prostitution is a State Jail Felony—potential $10,000 fine and 180 days to 2 years in jail. The charge becomes a Third Degree Felony if the actor has one previous conviction–potential $10,000 fine and 2 to 10 years in jail. The charge becomes a Second Degree Felony if the conduct involves a person younger than 18 years old–potential $10,000 fine and 2 to 20 years in jail.
What is Compelling Prostitution?
Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.05, a person commits compelling prostitution if the person knowingly:
- causes another by force, threat, or fraud to commit prostitution; or
- causes by any means a child younger than 18 years to commit prostitution, regardless of whether the actor knows the age of the child at the time the actor commits the offense.
Compelling prostitution under Subsection (1) is a Second Degree Felony – 2 to 20 years in prison. Compelling prostitution under Subsection (2) is a First Degree Felony – 5 to 99 years or life in prison.
Is prostitution a crime of moral turpitude?
Texas courts have defined “moral turpitude” as the type of crime involving grave infringement of the moral sentiment of the community. This kind of “moral” crime is supposed to be different than a crime that is “mala prohibita” – a term applied to any actions that are criminal strictly by statute and statutory law.
In the context of whether a conviction can be used as “impeachment evidence” against someone testifying in court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has identified prostitution as a crime of moral turpitude. You can find this in Holgin v. State, 480 S.W.2d 405, 408 (Tex. Crim. App. 1972).
Texas courts have applied the Holgin Rule about prostitution in other contexts. For instance, in immigration removal or adjustment proceedings, prostitution is considered a crime of moral turpitude. You can find this in Ex Parte Rodriguez, 378 S.W.3d 486, 490 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2012).
The lawyer defending your prostitution charge should make you aware of the variety of consequences stemming from a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude. This is not necessarily a subject every lawyer thinks to talk about with their clients, but it can make a lasting impact on jobs, immigration, professional licenses, or your credibility in court.
Sex Trafficking Investigations
Cases involving sex trafficking are getting a lot of attention in the media, which puts pressure on police and prosecutors to punish the alleged perpetrators swiftly and severely. The enthusiasm surrounding these cases may affect prostitution cases in two ways. One, if you are victim of sex trafficking, then law enforcement and prosecutors may be willing to work with your attorney to help you avoid a conviction and get you the help you need. Two, what once would have been handled as a misdemeanor prostitution case, could easily transform into a federal sex trafficking indictment.
In either scenario, we can help. If you are a victim, then let us speak for you and get your story heard. We do not want you to get swept away and re-victimized by the system.
If you have been accused or think you are under investigation for sex trafficking, you risk getting caught up in this frenzy. Overzealous law enforcement officials could violate your rights during the investigation and myopic prosecutors could fight for you to receive the maximum possible penalties (Life in Prison).
The best way to protect yourself and avoid any undeserved or unduly harsh penalties is to retain an experienced prostitution and sex trafficking defense attorney immediately. Cody Cofer has extensive experience in sex trafficking defense. He knows the law and we know exactly how to protect your rights. He can help you exercise your 5th Amendment rights during police questioning, prevent illegally obtained evidence from being used against you, and pursue your defense just as aggressively as any prosecutors are pursuing a conviction.