When Texas passed H.B. 1540 on September 1, 2021, it became the first state in America to make solicitation of prostitution a felony. Traditionally, Texas law enforcement’s focus on prostitution has been on the sellers, but these new penalties show a change to equally target buyers of sex. Texas hopes that the harsher soliciting prostitution laws will combat sex abuse and human trafficking.
Texas’ new solicitation of prostitution laws must be taken seriously. If you or someone you know faces solicitation of prostitution charges, you should contact Adam Capetillo, an aggressive Sugar Land criminal defense attorney.
What is Solicitation of Prostitution Under the New Texas Law?
Buying sex was never legal in Texas. Under both the old law and the new Texas Penal Code Section 43.021, it was and is illegal to knowingly offer or agree to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person or another. Sexual conduct is defined as “deviate sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and sexual intercourse.”
Under this law, it is illegal to merely ask for sex in exchange for payment. This means that you can be convicted of solicitation of prostitution, even if no sexual conduct occurred and no money (or another form of payment) was exchanged.
What are the Penalties for Soliciting Prostitution in Texas?
Before the passage of the new Texas law, soliciting prostitution was charged as a Class B misdemeanor for first offenses. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. It was not charged as a felony unless the defendant had been previously convicted three or more times or solicited sex from someone under 18.
Under the new law, the penalties for soliciting prostitution are much harsher. A first offense is charged as a state jail felony, punishable by a maximum of two years in state prison (with a minimum of 180 days) and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are convicted of soliciting prostitution for a second time, the charges are increased to a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The penalties are further enhanced to a second-degree felony if the person you agree to engage in sexual conduct is:
• Younger than 18, regardless of whether you knew their age at the time;
• Represented to you as being under the age of 18; or
• Believed by you to be under 18.
In addition to fines of up to $10,000, a second-degree felony is punishable by a minimum of 2 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years.
Not only will you face prison time and fines, but a conviction for solicitation of prostitution can ruin your reputation and career. A felony conviction will become part of your criminal record, and you may have to register as a sex offender with the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) and your local law enforcement agency.
What Should I Do If I am Arrested for Soliciting Prostitution in Sugar Land?
The first and most important step you should take if you are arrested for solicitation of prostitution is to hire an experienced Sugar Land defense attorney. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side will give you the best chance at beating your charges.
Potential defense strategies that your attorney could raise in your case include:
• The agreement was only for sex, and no money or thing of value was exchanged;
• You did not know the individual was a prostitute;
• The alleged solicitation or prostitution occurred over the internet and was merely a sexual conversation; and
• You were entrapped by law enforcement. Police officers often set up sting operations to make arrests for solicitation of prostitution. Your attorney can argue that the undercover agent used strong language and intimidation to compel you to do something you would not have otherwise done.
A skilled attorney will aggressively defend your rights and fight to get an acquittal or the charges dismissed.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one were accused of soliciting prostitution, you should reach out to a qualified Sugar Land attorney as soon as possible. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will evaluate your case and provide the best possible representation. As a criminal defense lawyer in Sugar Land, Adam Capetillo can effectively guide you through the entire process from start to finish. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.