Texas Compelling Prostitution

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 Is Prostitution a Crime in Texas?

Prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment or some other form of compensation. It is often described as “selling sex” or “renting out one’s body.” People who participate in this activity are commonly referred to as prostitutes, sex workers, or escorts.

Prostitution is a crime in Texas. The Texas Penal Code Section 43.02(a) states that a person commits an offense if, in return for receipt of a fee, the person knowingly:

  1. Offers to engage, agrees to engage, or engages in sexual conduct; or
  2. Solicits another in a public place to engage with the person in sexual conduct for hire.

This means that both offering sexual services for money and soliciting or paying for such services are illegal activities. The penalties for prostitution depend on the number of previous convictions, ranging from a Class B misdemeanor for first-time offenders to a felony for those with three or more previous convictions.

What Is Compelling Prostitution?

Compelling prostitution in Texas, on the other hand, is a more severe criminal offense, which involves causing another person to commit prostitution through force, threat, or fraud or causing a minor (a person under 18 years old) to commit prostitution, regardless of whether force, threat, or fraud is involved.

Under Texas law, specifically Texas Penal Code Section 43.05, compelling prostitution is a felony offense. The statute provides that a person commits an offense if they knowingly:

  1. Cause another by force, threat, or fraud to commit prostitution; or
  2. Cause by any means a child younger than 18 years to commit prostitution, regardless of whether the actor knows the age of the child at the time of the offense.

The severity of punishment for compelling prostitution is higher than for prostitution itself. This offense is considered a second-degree felony if it involves adults, but if it involves a minor, it is elevated to a first-degree felony.

Let’s illustrate this with a hypothetical scenario:

Consider a man named John who, under severe economic stress, starts to manage a prostitution ring in Houston, Texas. His operation involves recruiting vulnerable women and coercing them into selling sex. In some cases, John uses threats of violence; in others, he manipulates them by promising a better life or exploiting their drug dependencies.

One day, a young runaway named Lily, who appears to be in her early twenties but is actually only 16, gets entangled with John. Seeing her desperate situation, John convinces Lily to join his operation, assuring her that this is the only way she can survive on the streets. Lily, seeing no other option, agrees.

In this situation, John is guilty of compelling prostitution. He is using force, threat, and manipulation to cause others to commit prostitution. More seriously, he is causing a minor, Lily, to commit prostitution. Whether John knows Lily’s true age or not is irrelevant under Texas law. This means John has committed a first-degree felony and could face severe penalties, including a long term in prison and hefty fines.

Is Promotion of Prostitution the Same as Compelling a Prostitute in Texas?

Promotion of prostitution and compelling prostitution, while both serious offenses under Texas law, are not the same thing. They represent different aspects of the broader crime of sexual exploitation.

Promotion of prostitution, as defined in Texas Penal Code Section 43.03, occurs when a person knowingly:

  1. Receives money or other property pursuant to an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution; or
  2. Solicits another to engage in sexual conduct with another person for compensation.

In simpler terms, the promotion of prostitution involves activities that enable or profit from prostitution but do not necessarily involve coercion or force. This can include running a brothel, pimping, or facilitating the provision of sexual services for money.

Compelling prostitution, on the other hand, involves using force, threat, or fraud to cause another person to engage in prostitution or causing a minor to engage in prostitution, irrespective of the use of force, threat, or fraud. It focuses on the exploitative means used to involve someone in prostitution.

Let’s illustrate the difference between compelling prostitution and promoting prostitution with a hypothetical scenario:

Consider two characters: Mike and Steve. Both are involved in the sex trade, but their roles and actions are quite different.

Mike runs a strip club in downtown Austin, Texas. After hours, he secretly allows some of his employees to offer sexual services to high-paying clients within the club’s private rooms. He takes a cut of the money these workers earn from such activities. Mike doesn’t force anyone to participate in these after-hours activities; he only makes the option available to those who choose to do so. The workers who agree to provide these services do so of their own accord, motivated by the prospect of making extra money.

In this scenario, Mike would be guilty of promoting prostitution. He is knowingly receiving money as a result of an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution, even though he isn’t personally engaged in sexual conduct for hire. Mike is enabling and profiting from prostitution but isn’t directly forcing or coercing anyone into selling sex.

Steve, on the other hand, operates differently. He preys on vulnerable women, using threats and manipulation to force them into prostitution. For instance, he might threaten physical harm or expose embarrassing information unless they comply. Additionally, Steve doesn’t care about the age of the individuals he exploits. He’s just as willing to coerce a minor into prostitution as he is an adult.

In this case, Steve would be guilty of compelling prostitution. He is knowingly causing others to commit prostitution through force, threat, or fraud. If Steve coerces a minor into prostitution, he is guilty of compelling prostitution, irrespective of whether he uses force, threat, or fraud.

So, while both Mike and Steve are involved in illegal activities related to prostitution, the nature of their crimes is different. Mike is promoting prostitution, while Steve is compelling prostitution.

The key difference lies in the methods they use: Mike provides an opportunity for willing participants, while Steve forces or manipulates people into sex work against their will.

Does the Punishment for Compelling Prostitution Depend on the Prostitute’s Age?

Now, let’s address the matter of punishment, particularly in relation to the age of the person being compelled into prostitution.

As per the Texas Penal Code Section 43.05, compelling prostitution is a second-degree felony if it involves an adult. If it involves a minor (a person under 18), the crime is elevated to a first-degree felony, regardless of whether the offender knows the age of the child.

So, the severity of punishment for compelling prostitution in Texas significantly depends on the age of the person being compelled into prostitution. In the case of a second-degree felony, the offender can face 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offense is a first-degree felony (involving a minor), the offender can face 5 to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. It is not classified as a Class A misdemeanor or a misdemeanor of any kind; compelling prostitution is always considered a serious felony offense.

Should I Contact a Criminal Attorney About My Compelling Prostitution Charge?

If you have been charged with compelling prostitution in Texas, seeking legal advice is critical. The charges and potential consequences can significantly impact your life. A skilled Texas criminal lawyer can guide you through the legal process, explain your rights, help build a strong defense, and potentially negotiate for a lesser charge or even a dismissal.

LegalMatch is an excellent resource to help you find a qualified criminal attorney in Texas. Our extensive network of experienced lawyers ensures that you can find a legal professional who is well-versed in handling cases related to compelling prostitution. These attorneys can provide comprehensive guidance and aggressive representation, which are crucial in dealing with serious charges like these.

An attorney can thoroughly evaluate your case, advise on the best course of action, and strive to defend your rights. They can help gather and analyze evidence, interview witnesses, and present the strongest possible defense on your behalf. They can also negotiate with prosecutors and potentially secure a plea deal, which may result in reduced charges or penalties.

Remember, time is of the essence in such cases. The sooner you get in touch with a lawyer, the more time they have to prepare a defense. Don’t wait—use LegalMatch to find a Texas criminal lawyer who can start working on your case right away.

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