Prostitution is illegal in the State of Texas, but there are many questions people have regarding it, especially those persons who have been charged with a prostitution-related crime. Here, we answer some of the most common questions you may have.
If your questions are still not answered, contact our office to schedule a confidential and free initial consultation. Doug Murphy is a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer with an office conveniently located in Houston, Texas, but he represents clients throughout and beyond the Houston metropolitan area.
Are brothels legal in Texas?
In some states throughout the United States, notably Nevada, brothels are legal but only in certain jurisdictions and under certain conditions. Brothels, also known as bordellos, are technically any place where prostitution commonly takes place. In Texas, brothels are not legal.
The confusion may be with what is reportedly a sex robot brothel that had plans to open in Houston, Texas. Kinky S Dolls is a Toronto establishment making plans to bring its business model to Houston. But it has not been working out well for them. Houston City Council in October 2018 effectively banned the store by a unanimous vote.
At this time, no brothels are allowed in the State of Texas, not even sex robots.
What is the crime of prostitution?
The crime of prostitution is defined under the Public Indecency statute under Sec. 43.02 et seq. as:
- A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.
- A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person or another.
In other words, you commit the offense of prostitution regardless if you are the one offering to engage sexual conduct in return for a fee (the prostitute) or the person paying the fee to engage in sexual conduct (i.e., the client, also known as the john). According to these definitions, there are a few elements that must be proven beyond a doubt to convict you.
- Knowledge is an important part of the prostitution offense, and so to be found guilty, for instance as a john, the prosecutor must prove you knew the other person was a prostitute.
- A fee must have been exchanged in order for the act of prostitution to occur. A fee can be in the form of money or another item of value.
- An attempt or actual commission of a sex act must also have been performed. The mere attempt, like touching, is all that is required, and not the actual act.
You can also be charged with prostitution-related crimes for other acts, too, like for promoting it or what's known as pimping, among other things.
Is prostitution a felony in Houston?
It can be a felony. A first offense, according to Tex. Pen. Code § 43.02(c), is a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. A second offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
A felony comes in when a person is convicted of a third or subsequent offense. In such cases, the offense is a state jail felony, which can result in a state jail sentence between 180 days and one two years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
A person, however, can be charged with a felony in the second degree regardless of whether it is his or her first offense or subsequent offense if the other person with whom you agree to engage in sexual conduct:
- was younger than 18 years of age -- it does not matter if you knew the age of the person at the time the offense was committed;
- pretended to be younger than 18 years of age; or
- was believed to be younger than 18 years of age by you.
Is it illegal to be a pimp in Texas?
It is illegal to be a pimp under Texas law. According to Tex. Pen. Code § 43.03, a person commits a pimping offense if:
Acting other than as a prostitute receiving compensation for personally rendered prostitution services, he or she knowingly:
- receives 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.
A conviction for a first offense is a state jail felony, punishable by imprisonment in a state jail between 180 days and two years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
A second offense for the same is a felony in the third degree, which means possible state prison time between two years and ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If the pimp was “pimping” a person 18 years of age or younger -- regardless of knowledge of the age, then it is a felony in the second degree, which involves a potential state prison sentence between two and 20 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
I was tricked online for prostitution, is that entrapment?
There are law enforcement agents online all the time posing as johns, primps, and prostitutes, all with the intention to conduct a sting operation and make arrests. It is not entrapment when, for example, you are a person looking for a prostitute and offering money and the person you thought was a prostitute is actually an undercover agent online or in-person. The same is true if you are selling sexual acts for money and offer the same to someone online believing him or her to be a real, potential client, when in fact he or she is an undercover agent.
Entrapment occurs when a person is encouraged to do something he or she would not normally would but for the encouragement. So, if the other person online is an undercover agent and he or she uses tactics to convince you to participate in an act of prostitution, something you would not normally do, then you were likely entrapped.
An experienced prostitution defense attorney will be able to identify such cases and argue them successfully to get the charges dismissed before trial or you acquitted at trial.
What would a conviction of a prostitution charge do to my life?
A conviction of prostitution or related crime can have a serious impact on a person's life. First and foremost, there is the time behind bars you may have to spend and the fines you may have to pay. But then there is life after paying your so-called debt to society.
Life after a conviction can be hard. Your reputation now has a black stain. Friends, family, and co-workers who know about the conviction may act differently toward you. Other problems can arise, too, and these other problems are in part dependent on the nature and classification of the offense. These problems include:
- Problems finding or retaining a job -- you now have a criminal record and the conviction listed on it is one that employers can take as a liability is they were to hire you;
- Problems maintaining or acquiring a security clearance -- Guideline D specifically mentions sexual behavior involving a criminal offense as indicative of a personality or emotional disorder that would have a negative impact on your judgment or discretion;
- Problems maintaining or acquiring a professional license, like a medical license, nursing license, real estate license, CPA license, or another license because you are considered a person in a position of trust and taking money or giving money for sexual acts belies this trust;
- Problems with child custody -- the court may find your criminal conviction is not in the best interests of the child; and, among other matters,
- Problems finding decent housing -- private establishments can pass up applications where the applicant has a criminal record.
If you are charged and convicted of a felony, you may also lose your right to own and use a firearm and lose the right to vote.
Finally, depending on the circumstances, the State may even take your property in accordance with nuisance abatement laws.
Should I plead guilty to prostitution?
Given the potential for jail and the above-noted collateral consequences, pleading guilty is never in your best interests. You may think that the odds are stacked against, and they very well may be. You may also think that you just want the whole thing over sooner than later, but either way you plead, it'll continue to follow you.
The only difference: by pleading not guilty, you get to fight. And with a Board Certified prostitution attorney fighting alongside you, your chances of a positive outcome can dramatically swing in your favor.
By pleading guilty, it'll never be over -- the consequences of a criminal record and the stain to your name will follow you. By pleading guilty, you give up your right to fight.
In the end, your attorney -- someone like Doug Murphy -- may get your charges dismissed before trial. If not, then you go to trial, and again an attorney like Doug Murphy will hold the State and jury accountable to the principle that you are innocent unless proven guilty. That means: all elements of the crime must also be proven beyond a doubt.
Doug Murphy will challenge the State each step of the way with an intention of causing an acquittal. Even then, if you are charged, who you are and your remorse for making a mistake have been laid before the judge and jury. The judge gets to know you. The jury gets to know you. Even the prosecutor gets to know you. And in those kinds of situations, the court may be a lot more lenient with you than if you had initially pled guilty at the arraignment, and that means a lighter sentence.
But again: the aim is dismissal or acquittal of the prostitution charge.
How can I beat a prostitution charge?
You know, prostitution charges are made against women and men of all walks of life, rich and poor. It is not a crime that discriminates. In fact, in some circumstances, you wouldn't even think a crime took place and likely didn't but for overzealous police officers.
The good news is, you can beat a prostitution charge, though in many cases it may not be easy. The first thing you need to do is to retain a Board Certified prostitution attorney in Houston. Your attorney will review your case, the evidence, develop a strategy, and review all of it with you. An attorney like Doug Murphy is thorough and his experience in criminal law lends him coveted insight and understanding. He will advise you first if you have a viable defense, and then second, how to go about challenging the State's case against you.
Some possible defenses include:
- No agreement between the two parties was ever made.
- The police officers took improper measures.
- Undercover police officers entrapped you.
- You did not knowingly commit the offense.
What can a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer do for your prostitution case?
It's not necessarily what a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer will do for your case, but what his proven experience and skills will do for your case. And in the case of Doug Murphy, that's a lot.
First and foremost, Board Certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is not an easy thing to come by. It requires a certain amount of time in the specific practice, proven in-depth knowledge of the law via stringent testing, and an array of professional references by colleagues and judges who attest to the attorney's capabilities.
Doug Murphy is Board Certified in criminal defense. Defending his clients is his passion. He does not settle for plea deals that work against his client's interests but fights for them. He takes pride in his trial experience and uses that experience to ensure you get your day in court, too, if necessary. He understands the consequences of a criminal record and tirelessly perseveres. He has the resources. He has the knowledge. And he will speak with you during a free initial consultation to review your case and outline your options so you can make an informed decision about what to do moving forward.