If you or a loved one has been accused of prostitution, soliciting a prostitute, or promoting prostitution (pimping/pandering), there is no question you require experienced defense counsel.
Facing this charge may be the most dangerous and life-altering moment in your life. If you or someone you love has been accused of this serious offense, it’s expected and natural for you to be petrified at this moment thinking your life is ruined. What you need is to pull yourself together and start fighting for your life. However, you should not fight this alone. You don’t just need a lawyer, you need a team of experienced sex crime defense lawyers and staff. Schiffer Law Firm is that team.
With over 45 years of combined defense experience, as well as working in both state and federal prosecutors’ offices, both prosecuting and defending sex crimes cases, our attorneys have found that investigation and intensive preparation are the keys to a successful resolution.
The Texas Penal Code covers prostitution and all related crimes in Section 43.02 – 43.06. In those statutes, prostitution is defined as a person knowingly offering to engage in, agreeing to engage in, or physically engaging in sexual conduct in return for a fee, or based on the payment of a fee. Soliciting another person in a public place for sexual conduct for hire is also included in the definition. Finally, solicitation of prostitution, like asking about a prostitute’s rates, is also punishable under this statute.
It should be noted that the statute states that an offense is committed regardless of whether a fee is actually exchanged, so no money needs to be physically handed over for you to be charged with prostitution or solicitation.
Another part of the laws against prostitution has to do with pandering or pimping. According to the Texas Penal Code, a crime is committed if a person knowingly takes money or property from a third person based on an agreement for the other to engage in sexual acts with a prostitute, or if they solicit a person to engage in a sex act with a third party for some form of compensation. Similarly, you could be in violation of this law if you knowingly finance, control, manage, supervise, own, or invest in a “prostitution ring” with two or more prostitutes.
Another related crime is compelling prostitution. This is when a person knowingly causes a child under the age of 18 to commit prostitution by any means. Being unaware that the person is a child is not a defense.
Since 2020 and the rise of the sex trafficking industry into mainstream public awareness, local and federal law enforcement agencies have been ramping up undercover sting operations with the goal of nabbing high level individuals in the sex trafficking industry. Working in places like massage parlors, strip clubs, and other areas where prostitution is a known and commonly purchased service, law enforcement and the district attorney of Harris and surrounding greater Houston counties are pursuing high conviction rates and steep felony penalties.
The goal of this sudden push for crackdowns is to set an example worldwide with a clear message: Do not try it in our city, or we’ll max you out if we catch you.
The problem with this is that, even though the intent is well-grounded, inevitably innocent people, scapegoats, or bystanders get swept up in the net and get treated and prosecuted like the worst of the worst.
This is where our defense team steps in. Thorough intense discovery analysis of the state’s case against you, we begin to craft our strategy based on current state and federal case law, persuasive arguments, novel defense concepts, and other methods to pursue and secure the greatest possible outcome for your case.
A prosecutor must present enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed one of these crimes. Keeping the definitions of all of the outlined crimes in mind, a prosecutor has to prove the following:
As in many other criminal cases, there has to be intent or knowledge regarding the act. For example, in solicitation, it has to be proven that you believed you were engaging a prostitute for a sex act.
This doesn’t mean you had to physically participate in a sex act in exchange for a fee. Here, you can be convicted for offering the exchange either as the prostitute or solicitor. A prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that the actual sex act occurred. In regard to pandering/pimping, the receipt of the fee for the act has to be proven or the request of the agreement has to be proven.
A prosecutor has to prove that money or something of value was offered in exchange for a sex act. This is not always easy, since establishing the value of something other than money may be difficult. For example, if you paid for a massage but got more than a massage, this might not meet the statute since you only paid for a standard massage.
A prosecutor must present strong evidence of each element. Since the commission of this crime is usually done in secret, it’s hard to find witnesses to testify to the crime. That is why sting operations are often used to infiltrate prostitution rings and to catch johns (solicitors).
Many of the prostitution cases we handle in our office are the result of a prostitution sting operation. A sting operation is where an undercover police officer or an actor hired by law enforcement poses as a prostitute or a john in order to see if someone will either offer sex for payment, or will agree to engage in sex for payment. When an agreement for payment is made, officers jump in and make an arrest.
For example, a police sting operation looking to round up johns will have an officer or an actor pose as a prostitute, and see if they are solicited to provide sex in exchange for payment. An officer or hired actor can also pose as a john in an attempt to lure prostitutes or pimps to offer sex in exchange for payment.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office takes part in the annual National Johns Suppression Initiative—an effort coordinated by Illinois’s Cook County Sheriff’s Office to crack down on sex buyers. In the 2018 operation, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office arrested 103 men during their month-long operation (from January 7 to February 4). This arrest number was the highest in the nation, proving that Harris County does not take the offense lightly.
There is a common misconception that a sting operation of any kind is entrapment, but that simply isn’t true. The short answer is generally no, entrapment is almost never the best defense because law enforcement is so well coordinated now on avoiding falling victim to such a technical defense argument. And it makes sense why – they spend countless government dollars a year on sting operations, and if they were not careful and systematic about their operations, every arrest would be thrown out by the district attorneys and it would be a complete waste of time, money, and political credibility for local candidates.
Entrapment occurs only when a member of law enforcement coerces you to engage in a criminal act, effectively overcoming your natural will. Entrapment does not occur when law enforcement merely affords a person who is predisposed to commit the offense the opportunity to commit the act. In the case of a general sting operation, the offenders are already presumably intending to participate in a crime, so there is no entrapment.
If you’ve been arrested as a part of a sting operation, having an experienced defense attorney can make a all the difference in the resolution of your case. There is a chance that evidence obtained during a sting operation has not been properly gathered. If mistakes or oversights are present in your case, the likelihood of a dismissal or a reduced charge is higher. Potentially, time is of the essence in determining and identifying these mistakes. Only a solid defense team, like ours at the Schiffer Law Firm, can spot these smallest of errors, which can be the crux of your winning legal argument.
There is a range of crimes that fall under prostitution and solicitation. Here is a breakdown of how each is classified under the Texas Penal Code, along with their possible penalties:
|Prostitution or solicitation without any aggravating factors||Class B misdemeanor||As much as 180 days in jail and fines up to $2,000|
|Prostitution or solicitation with 1 or 2 prior convictions for the same crime or pimping without any aggravating factors||Class A misdemeanor||As much as 1 year in jail and fines up to $4,000|
|Prostitution or solicitation with 3 or more prior convictions for the same crime or repeat offense of pimping||State jail felony||Anywhere from 6 months to 2 years in a state prison and fines up to $10,000|
|Owning/financing/controlling/managing prostitution ring with 2 or more prostitutes||Third-degree felony||As much as 10 years in jail and fines up to $10,000|
|Knowingly or unknowingly soliciting a minor (under 18), pimping a minor (under 18), compelling a child (under 18) to commit prostitution||Second-degree felony||Anywhere from 2 to 20 years in jail and fines up to $10,000 as well as 10 years to life as a registered sex offender|
|Owning/financing/controlling/managing prostitution ring with 2 or more prostitutes where 1 or more are under 18||First-degree felony||Anywhere from 5 years to life in prison and fines up to $10,000|
Whenever you’re convicted of a crime, the consequences often stretch beyond than the initial punishment determined by the court. Oftentimes, your criminal record can prevent you from living a normal life. By having a criminal record, especially a sexual offense conviction (even a misdemeanor), you can expect it to cause difficulties beyond your sentence. These issues can possibly include:
While not all prostitution or solicitation convictions will require you to register as a sex offender, there are two that will lead to a registration requirement. If you’re convicted of compelling prostitution under Statute 43.05(a)(2), you will be required to register as a sex offender for life, because the crime involves a minor under the age of 18. If you’re convicted of prostitution under Statute 43.02(c)(3)—prostitution involving a minor under the age of 18—you’ll have to be registered as a sex offender a period of 10 years.
A defense attorney has a few different options when it comes to defending a prostitution charge or one of the related charges. He can try to prove that there was no intent to commit a sexual offense. Using the previous example of paying for a massage, a defense attorney can show that you paid only for a massage and didn’t intend to pay for a sexual act. Additionally, if there was sexual conduct but no money was exchanged and no arrangement was made or offered for an exchange, a good defense attorney can seek to prove that you engaged in consensual sex, not an illegal sexual transaction.
Another possible defense is that the crime was committed under duress (threat of bodily harm). Errors made by law enforcement during the sting operation can also be used as part of your defense.
You should never fight such a serious charge as prostitution or solicitation of prostitution alone. If you or someone you love is being accused of this crime, call our firm immediately. Our sex crimes team has over 45 years of combined defense experience, and has successfully defended prostitution and solicitation of prostitution cases before. We know what it takes to protect your rights.
It is also important that you have a defense attorney who will treat you with respect despite the charges against you. At the Schiffer Law Firm, you will be welcomed openly and treated with dignity from the moment you contact us. We know that these are difficult times, and we will handle your case sensitively to make sure that you get through the process with the best possible result. Don’t wait any longer. The sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can begin to build your defense.
That’s a great question, but you won’t find the answer here. While there is nothing inherently secret about a great defense, some attorneys are simply better prepared, more creative, and more experienced than others. It’s that combination that makes our sex crimes defense team so successful in defending these cases. A professional sports team, or an army preparing for battle, doesn’t disclose its strategy to the opposition. It is only through a confidential, in-person, meeting with our attorneys, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege and away from any prying wire taps or snooping law enforcement investigators, that we will discuss potential strategies that are tailored specifically for you.
Call today to set up a confidential in-office or virtual meeting.
The first thing you need to do is accept the situation. You have been charged with a crime, and yes, this is really happening. Having worked with thousands of clients throughout our attorneys’ careers, we understand thoroughly the storm of emotions that you may be feeling right now. Accepting the situation you are in will allow you to make rational decisions moving forward.
Now that you’ve accepted the reality of your situation, it is imperative that you maintain a clear head and stay in control of your emotions. In far too many situations, we see clients betrayed by their emotions which negatively impacts their own defense. Panic, anxiety, and second-guessing everything is the soil where bad legal strategy and decision making grows.
If you find yourself stressing about your situation, do what you can to calm yourself down. If you find that you need to talk with someone, please call us. We’ll discuss what’s going on and help you get a clear picture of your situation.