New Laws Make Soliciting Sex in Texas a Felony
Legislators passed Texas House Bill 1540 on September 1, 2021. Texas was one of the first states to focus on harsher sentences for crimes involving prostitution.
The new law allows the state to charge solicitation of prostitution as a felony. It was previously charged as a misdemeanor offense before the bill passed.
You should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately following your arrest. A felony conviction can lead to significant jail time and expensive fines. You need an experienced legal team to defend you against the charge you face.
An Overview of Solicitation of Prostitution
According to Texas Penal Code § 43.021, a person commits solicitation of prostitution if they knowingly agree to or offer to pay another person to engage in sexual conduct with them or someone else. Sexual conduct includes sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, and sexual contact.
Law enforcement can arrest you even if you never engage in sexual conduct. Simply asking for sex in exchange for money constitutes solicitation under state law.
Before HB 1540, the state charged soliciting prostitution as a class B misdemeanor. A conviction resulted in up to a $2,000 fine and no more than 180 days in jail. It was only considered a felony if the defendant solicited sex from a minor or had three or more prior convictions for the same crime on their criminal record.
Sentencing for Soliciting Prostitution in Texas
The new law charges solicitation of prostitution as a state jail felony. A conviction can lead to penalties, such as:
- 180 days to two years in state jail
- Up to a $10,000 fine
Enhanced sentencing might apply if the crime involves aggravating circumstances. State jail felony solicitation of prostitution increases to a third-degree felony if the defendant:
- Used or exhibited a deadly weapon while committing the crime or while immediately fleeing the scene after the offense and used or displayed the deadly weapon or was a party to the crime and knew someone would use or exhibit a deadly weapon; or
- Has a previous felony conviction for continuous trafficking of persons, continuous sexual abuse of a young child or disabled person, or an offense listed under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.054, or the judgment contains an affirmative finding under Article 42A.054(c).
A second conviction of soliciting prostitution is also a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony is punishable by two to ten years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a maximum of a $10,000 fine.
A second-degree felony solicitation of prostitution occurs if someone agrees to engage in sexual conduct with a person who is:
- Under 18 years old, regardless of whether the defendant knew the age when they committed the crime;
- Represented as being younger than 18 years old to the defendant; or
- Believed to be under 18 by the defendant.
Second-degree felony sentencing can include:
- Between two and 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- No more than a $10,000 fine
What to Do After an Arrest for Soliciting Prostitution
You should take immediate action to protect your rights and improve your chances of a desirable outcome. You have the same rights as others even following an arrest for solicitation of prostitution.
The arresting officer might ask you questions about the alleged crime. You have the right to remain silent. You are not legally obligated to speak to them about what happened. You can politely inform them that you don’t want to talk to them and ask for your lawyer.
The police can’t continue questioning you if you tell them you want to speak to your attorney. They must stop and allow you to contact your attorney by reasonable means. If they keep asking questions, they violate this particular right.
If law enforcement violates your rights somehow, your defense lawyer might be able to use that violation as a defense strategy in your case.
Contact Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Today
The Collin County criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian have experience defending clients against criminal charges. We will advocate for your rights and fight for your freedom. You don’t have to go through the overwhelming legal process alone. We will remain in your corner from the beginning and tirelessly work to try to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.
If you were arrested for or charged with solicitation of prostitution in Texas, call us at (972) 369-0577 immediately. You can discuss the details with us during a free consultation and learn about your available legal options. Let us help you secure your reputation and future.