Harris County prosecutors are taking a tough stand on prostitution “Johns,” or customers, in part due to public hysteria over human trafficking, which can involve sex crimes such as forced prostitution.
If you have been charged with soliciting prostitution, experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis may be able to get your charge dismissed.
One element of the county’s tough stand is that it’s no longer offering “pretrial diversion” for Johns in prostitution cases.
What is Pretrial Diversion?
As for what is pretrial diversion in Harris County, it’s a means of avoiding a trial and conviction for a first-time offender. Before trial, if a person admits guilt in exchange for pretrial diversion status, and that is granted, a program of community service can be ordered.
Once completed, a charged person’s criminal case will be dismissed and they will have a chance to have their criminal record expunged, or completely removed.
However, to qualify for pretrial diversion the charged person must have a clear criminal record. If they had a previous criminal case – even if it was dismissed – that would not allow them to be treated as having no criminal record, and they would not qualify for pretrial diversion.
A first-time prosecution charge is a class B misdemeanor. For misdemeanor cases, about 16 hours of community service can be performed to satisfy a program of a pretrial diversion.
However, some defendants in Harris County are not being offered that opportunity due to overzealous prosecutors feeding off human trafficking hysteria.
Prostitution Laws & Penalties
Under Texas law, a first-time charge for soliciting (also known as “patronizing”) a prostitute is a class B misdemeanor. Upon conviction, penalties include fines of up to $2,000 and jail terms of up to 180 days (six months).
If one or two previous prostitution convictions were on a person’s record, the most recent case would be changed to a class A misdemeanor. Its punishments would include fines of up to $4,000 and serving up to one year in county jail.
A person with three or more prior convictions can have their charge raised to a state jail felony. It involves punishments of six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Persons convicted of prostitution also may be ordered to attend mandatory educational classes or perform community service.
Prostitution Charge Defenses
Knowledgeable defense attorney Neal Davis is aware of multiple defenses against prostitution charges.
For one thing, he can hold the state accountable for proving its case that money was exchanged for sex. He also can defend your rights on the basis of “entrapment,” which means undercover officers cannot have urged or encouraged you to commit the sex crime of prostitution.
An additional defense against a prostitution charge in Texas is to establish that no money changed hands for a solicited or performed sexual act, which then occurred between consenting adults.
A prostitution charge, even for soliciting or patronizing a prostitute, can have serious consequences, from heavy fines and lengthy jail terms to public shame and loss of reputation and income.
Engage a skilled prostitution defense lawyer like Neal Davis. Contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for your free, confidential and no-obligation legal review.