Houston Defense Attorney Explains Prostitution
After an arrest for engaging in prostitution in the greater Houston area, including all of Harris County and the Woodlands in Montgomery County, contact experienced sex crimes defense attorney. Call attorney Matt Horak to discuss your case today.
Law enforcement officers engage in elaborate sting operations targeting adult entertainment establishments, clubs, massage businesses, swingers clubs, and escort services. Numerous defenses can be used to fight the charges including the entrapment defense.
The statutory scheme in Texas for such offenses makes a distinction between:
- the person who engages in the sexual conduct for compensation ("the prostitute"); and
- the person who solicits the prostitution (commonly called "the john"); and
- the person who engages in the promotion or aggravated promotion of prostitution (the "pimp" or "madame") as an organized activity.
Penalties for Prostitution under Texas Law
The prostitution statute in Texas, Section 43.02(a) provides:
(a) A man or woman commits an offense of prostitution if the person knowingly:
(1) offers to engage, agrees to engage, or engages in sexual conduct for a fee; or
(2) solicits another in a public place to engage with him in sexual conduct for hire.
Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 43.02(a) (Vernon 2003). For the prostitution statutes, Texas law defines the term knowingly to mean that "[a] person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct ... when he is aware of the nature of his conduct.” § 6.03(b).
Solicitation for Prostitution in a Public Place
When it is alleged that the person committed prostitution by knowingly soliciting another in a public place to engage in sexual conduct for hire then the offense can be charged as a class B misdemeanor offense. See Tex. Penal Code Ann § 43.02(a)(2) (Vernon 2003). This subsection requires the prosecution to prove that the conduct occurred in a public place, whereas subsection 43.02(a)(1) does not so require.
Depending on the particular facts of the case, certain places can be considered either public or not public depending on whether the public has access to the area at the time of the alleged offense. Texas law defines the term “public place” as any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to the common areas of:
- apartment buildings;
- schools (including colleges and educational institutions);
- office buildings;
- retail establishments and shops;
- transport facilities such as airports or bus stations; or
- the streets and highways.
See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 1.07(a)(40) (Vernon Supp.2008).
Solicitation of Prostitution
Texas Penal Code section 43.03 criminalizes the solicitation of prostitution, and it expressly does not apply to the prostitute who is the person who engages in the sexual conduct for compensation. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 43.03. Therefore, the person accused of being merely a prostitute should not be charged under section 43.03 because the statute does not apply in those cases.
Promotion and Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution under Texas Law
Texas law defines prostitution enterprise as a design or plan for a venture or undertaking in which two or more persons agree to, offer to, or engage in sexual conduct in return for a fee. A man or woman can be accused of the criminal offense of aggravated promotion of prostitution if he or she:
- knowingly acts;
- supervises, manages, invests in, owns, finances or controls a prostitution enterprise;
- when the enterprise uses two or more prostitutes.
See Tex.Penal Code Ann. § 43.04(a).
Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation Related to Prostitution
The Texas Legislature has passed a number of statutes providing greater protection against sexual exploitation for underage children. By enacting these statutes, the Texas Legislature has expressed both the awareness that children are more vulnerable to exploitation by others even in the absence of fraud or explicit threats or fraud and the extreme importance of protecting children from sexual exploitation.
Texas law provides for misdemeanor penalties when an adult promotes prostitution involving another adult, without the use of fraud, threat or force. However, the penalties are much harsher for criminal offenses regarding the sexual exploitation of children for prostitution related offenses include:
- trafficking a child under eighteen for purposes of compelling prostitution or sexual performance also carries harsher penalties under Tex. Penal Code § 20A.02;
- inducing a child under fourteen to engage in sexual conduct or performance also carries harsher penalties under Tex. Penal Code § 43.25(e);
- sexual assault of a child under fourteen is considered “aggravated sexual assault” and is subject to the same consequences as the rape of an adult involving serious bodily injury or other aggravating circumstances under. Tex. Penal Code §§ 22.011, .021; and
- compelling a child under eighteen to commit prostitution is treated as a crime equivalent to using “force, threat, or fraud” to compel an adult to commit prostitution, and is a second-degree felony under Tex. Penal Code §§ 43.03, .05.
Finding a Defense Attorney for Solicitation Charges
If you are charged with prostitution or soliciting a prostitute, then contact an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney. Matt Horak represents individuals in prostitution cases throughout the greater Houston area including all of Harris County and The Woodlands in Montgomery County, Texas.