Compelling prostitution is a serious charge in Texas.
But what does “compelling prostitution” mean? And what are the penalties and punishments for compelling prostitution in Texas?
Houston prostitution defense lawyer Neal Davis explains below.
Texas law defines compelling prostitution as an act of forcing or convincing a person to engage in prostitution.
But what, legally speaking, is “prostitution”?
Texas Penal Code Sec. 43.02 defines prostitution in this way:
“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.”
“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person or another.”
As for compelling prostitution, Texas prostitution law holds that:
“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly: (1) causes another by force, threat, coercion, or fraud to commit prostitution; or (2) causes 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 term “by any means” is especially important in legal proceedings. This simple phrase means that prosecutors don’t have to prove that there were any threats of violence or actual acts of violence to compel a minor to engage in prostitution.
Rather, any means which are used to compel prostitution by a minor make this a first degree felony offense. Those means could include persuasion by lying or by some form of enticement.
And as the law states, claiming that you didn’t know the person was a minor at the time of the offense is not considered a legal defense in Texas.
Promoting prostitution is also commonly referred to as “pimping” or “pandering,” though those terms have different meanings and don’t necessarily involve the act of compelling prostitution. That doesn’t mean a pimp or a “madam” can’t be charged with compelling prostitution, which is a separate crime.
Pimping concerns taking a portion of the payment received by prostitutes in return for arranging meetings with their clients. As for pandering, it involves persuading or convincing someone to engage in prostitution, but it doesn’t necessarily involve receiving money.
A legal term which applies more directly to compelling prostitution is human trafficking, which concerns the illegal trade of humans — often for sexual exploitation but also for other forms of forced labor.
In fact, Houston is a hub for human trafficking, of which about 25 percent involves forcing young people into prostitution. The crime of human trafficking for sexual purposes is also sometimes referred to as sex trafficking.
That doesn’t mean everyone who is charged with such crimes is guilty. Persons who face a charge of compelling prostitution or related crimes in Texas should engage an experienced prostitution or sex crime defense lawyer to protect their legal rights.
Compelling prostitution in Texas is a second degree felony charge. However, if the person who was compelled into prostitution was a minor — which is anyone under 18 years old in Texas — then compelling prostitution becomes a first degree felony charge.
Punishment for the second degree felony of compelling prostitution of an adult can include:
Punishment for the first degree felony charge of compelling prostitution of a minor can include:
Beyond those penalties, a person who’s charged with compelling prostitution may lose their job, their standing or reputation in a community or their family, even if the charge later is dismissed. It is a stain which may be hard to erase.
Persons who face such serious penalties should talk to a compelling prostitution defense lawyer or skilled sex crime defense attorney right away to protect their legal rights. This is especially important if the charge is only one of several related charges against a defendant.
Perhaps charges of human trafficking, money laundering, drug possession or drug distribution are also involved. An experienced criminal defense lawyer is needed to determine appropriate defenses for these charges as well and how they pertain to each other.
As far as compelling prostitution goes, defenses can involve various legal strategies, depending on the circumstances of the case.
For starters, your prostitution defense lawyer can explore whether there was an illegal search involved in the charge. Your defense attorney can also ascertain if there were any violations of your privacy during surveillance. Also, was the arrest made properly, given constraints on law enforcement officers?
In addition, there is the possibility of plea negotiations or “plea deals,” by which you and your attorney may agree to accept a dismissed charge or a lesser charge leading to a lesser punishment.
One area which may be a problem for compelling prostitution defendants is witness testimony from those involved in the prostitution. If such persons can prove they engaged in the activity because they were a victim of human trafficking or compelling prostitution, then that is a defense against their arrest as a prostitute.
But it also means the prosecution may use their testimony against the person who is accused of compelling prostitution.
With the legal hurdles and possible penalties involved in a case of compelling prostitution, defendants should seek the best prostitution defense lawyer they can find.
Those charged with such a crime who live in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County should contact the Neal Davis Law Firm for a confidential legal review of their compelling prostitution case. Let us help.