A 2-day sting operation swept up 21 “sex buyers” as part of an anti-human trafficking operation that took place on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24.
Working together in the joint operation were the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and Beaumont Police. Targeting “sex buyers,” or those who solicit prostitution, authorities arrested 21 men for soliciting sexual relations from adults and, in some cases, minors.
According to KBMT Channel 12, more charges are expected.
Prostitution under 18 is a felony
Most of the 21 men were charged with prostitution, which is a misdemeanor.
However, 6 of the men were charged with prostitution under age 18, which is a second-degree felony. Some have been released on bond, ranging from $3,000 to $25,000.
Officials praised the Southeast Texas anti-human trafficking operation.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery — the exploitation of men, women and children for forced labor or sex by a third party for profit or gain,” Beaumont Police Officer Carol Riley said in a statement. “A person doesn’t have to be transported across borders for trafficking to take place — it can occur anywhere.”
Officer Riley said sex trafficking “is fueled by the demand that buyers provide. Without men who are willing to purchase sex, traffickers and pimps would not exploit victims.”
Texas prostitution punishments
Persons arrested for prostitution, which is a crime whether it’s committed by the buyer or by the seller of sex, face up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Multiple convictions could lead to up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000.
Persons arrested for prostitution under age 18 face far different punishments under Texas Penal Code § 43.02 – 43.06. If convicted, they can go to jail for 2 to 20 years and face a fine of up to $10,000.
Keep in mind that you can be charged with prostitution even if no sexual activity occurred. But if an offer of money or something else of value was made in exchange for sexual activity, that can constitute the crime of prostitution.
Not everyone is guilty of prostitution
Yet not everyone who is swept up in large-scale prostitution sting operations is guilty of the crime cited. Texans should know their legal rights and should know what to do if they’re arrested in a Texas prostitution sting.
Most important is to quickly consult an experienced, knowledgeable and skilled prostitution defense attorney or sex crime defense lawyer. He or she can advise you on how to protect your legal rights.
That includes the right to remain silent and not answer police questions unless your lawyer is present.
You also may be able to assert entrapment by police officers as a defense, which means police encouraged you to commit a crime that you otherwise would not have committed. Or you can maintain that there was interest in an exchange of money for sex, but not an agreement, depending on the words which were used.