Texas Sex Sting Operations
A guide to sex stings in Houston, including why they’re on the rise and
what you can do to protect yourself
Did you know that law enforcement officials across the U.S. and Texas are being enticed with financial rewards to make sweeping child sex stings with large numbers of arrests?
In recent years, a national network of law enforcement agencies known as the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force has handed out more than $200 million in federal grants to police departments for making arrests in cases such as:
- Online solicitation of a child
- Sexual performance of a child
- Sex assault of a child
According to USA Today, sex stings can cost up to $100,000 each, and that’s without counting the cost of incarcerating and prosecuting defendants.
While child predators must be held accountable, not all of those arrests have been valid, and many innocent people have faced the stain and strain of false child sex accusations.
But when millions of dollars in federal funding are dangled before law enforcement agencies, the incentive to cast a broad net and catch vast numbers of arrests in child sex sting operations becomes compelling.
It’s easy to see why sex stings fueled by federal money have led to countless innocent persons being swept up in the process.
More arrests mean more money for police
It’s believed that some police departments aggressively push for more arrests to pump up their arrest numbers and receive more federal grant assistance. (Note the recent rise in sex sting arrests in Houston and the rest of Harris County, as well as in Fort Bend County and Montgomery County in Southeast Texas.)
The fact is, there’s no inexhaustible supply of sex crime offenders. But police departments won’t let that stand in their way. They’re eager to cast wide nets to inflate their arrest numbers, thus enabling them to get more grants—even if it means making accusations against people who may be innocent.
As USA Today reported about some police: “The tactics they’re using to put alleged sexual offenders in jail are sweeping up large numbers of law-abiding men, too.”
Recent Fort Bend sex trafficking sting nets 17 arrests
In July 2021, authorities in Fort Bend County arrested 17 men on sex crime charges as part of a crackdown on sex trafficking, which involved a prostitution sting.
As reported by KPRC Click2Houston.com, the operation conducted by several area law enforcement agencies was aimed at “johns,” or potential customers, who attempted to solicit sex for money online.
According to a press release issued by the law agencies, the aim was to arrest persons trying to buy sex for money in order to lower the demand for victims of human trafficking.
“Sex for money is not a new crime, but modern criminal justice efforts have revealed that many prostitutes are actually victims of sex traffickers,” Fort Bend District Attorney Brian Middleton said in the press release.
DA Middleton continued:
“If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a hundred times, and I will keep saying it until human trafficking is gone: We will be relentless in our pursuit of human traffickers, including those who create the demand for trafficking victims in this county.”
Many law enforcement agencies worked with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance on the operation. In addition to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, other agencies that participated in the investigation included:
- Houston Police Department
- Missouri City Police Department
- Harris County Sheriff’s Office
- Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
- Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office
- Rosenberg Police Department
- Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)
- YMCA International Services
This extensive and collaborative operation in Fort Bend County underscores the aggressive stance law enforcement agencies are taking against sex trafficking and the importance of ensuring that the rights of the accused are upheld throughout the judicial process.
Underhanded tactics by police in sex stings
Possible underhanded tactics used by police in sex stings include luring adults who are seeking relationships with other adults via traditional dating sites. In some cases, police pose as potential adult dates online, then switch the bait and indicate they’re underage while encouraging the online contact to continue.
The adult in contact with them may wind up being arrested for soliciting sex from a minor. By law, the belief that an undercover officer is a minor constitutes guilt as much as if the person on the other end was, in fact, a minor, even if the adult never sought such contact.
Many men who are caught in such stings are law-abiding citizens with no prior arrests on their records. They were not venturing online to seek sex with children but, rather, to meet adults. Then, they were entrapped by undercover police who switched their story to put the unsuspecting adult in legal jeopardy.
Those accused may have their mugshots shown in local media and be publicly shamed and disgraced—even though they may, in fact, have been innocent. And police can hold press conferences brandishing the large numbers of arrests they’ve made—even if many turn out to be innocent persons who later get their charges dropped.
Sex crime charges are bad enough under any circumstances, but what if a sex charge involves a child or a minor? Learn how the sex crime defense lawyers at the Neal Davis Law Firm can help protect your rights.
Texas penalties for sex crimes are severe
In Texas, the penalties for sex crimes, such as sex trafficking or prostitution, can be severe. In the recent Fort Bend case, the men were arrested for attempting to buy sex online. Buying (or attempting to buy) sex is considered prostitution, a crime that can apply to the buyer as well as the seller.
Soliciting sex as a buyer in Texas generally brings a Class B misdemeanor charge. If convicted, a defendant can face punishment that includes a fine of as much as $2,000 and jail time of as long as 180 days.
Individuals with 1 or more previous convictions for prostitution can face a Class A misdemeanor charge if arrested again for that same sex crime. The penalties for those persons include a fine of up to $4,000 and prison time of as much as 1 year.
With the possible punishments and penalties so high, it’s vital that the families of those accused of or charged with a sex crime engage the best Houston-area sex crime defense lawyer they can find to handle their case.
Possible sex sting defense strategies
The Neal Davis Law Firm can handle such cases, given its experience, knowledge and skill while fighting for defendants’ legal rights. Houston sex sting lawyer Neal Davis can use many strategies to defend those swept up by police sex sting operations.
One is to establish “entrapment,” which is an illegal method of provoking a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime. By law, officers cannot lure unsuspecting persons into a legal swamp online by deceptive persuasion meant to entice and entrap them.
In addition to entrapment, another potential defense strategy in police sex sting operations is challenging the legality and conduct of the sting operation itself. This involves scrutinizing the procedures used by law enforcement to ensure they comply with legal standards by:
- Examining the methods used to communicate and interact with the defendant
- Ensuring there was no violation of privacy rights
- Confirming that all evidence was collected and handled according to proper legal protocols
By meticulously evaluating the conduct of the sting operation, a skilled defense attorney can identify procedural errors or rights violations that could significantly impact the outcome of the case.
The Neal Davis Law Firm has helped many clients in Houston and throughout Southeast Texas get their charges reduced or even dismissed after false allegations of a sex crime.
Were you unjustly arrested in a child sex sting in Texas? Get a Houston sex sting defense lawyer.
If you’ve been falsely accused of a child sex crime and need a skilled legal defense against child porn or child solicitation charges, we invite you to contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today. We’ll quickly provide you with a legal review of your case, and we can guide you toward defending your legal rights against child solicitation or child porn charges.
Such charges may have been spurred by the ICAC’s offers of money to those in its national network of task forces. That network involves more than 4,500 local, state, and federal law enforcement and prosecuting agencies.
And, as with many agencies and arms of government of various kinds, federal funding can be a huge motivator. The resulting aggressive arrests and prosecution, with an eye on ICAC funding, make it extremely important to consult a veteran sex crimes defense lawyer.
At the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm, experienced Houston sex crime defense attorney Neal Davis has succeeded in getting many clients’ charges reduced or even dropped prior to trial and, if a trial is necessary, gaining acquittals.
People from all walks of life have been falsely accused of sex crimes such as online solicitation of a child or minor. If you’ve been subjected to such a false accusation, you must take this seriously, even if you know you’re innocent.
Your freedom depends on the particular details and circumstances of your case. We can assess these facts and show if you were falsely accused by disputing the claim of law officers or prosecutors that you knowingly possessed, distributed, or received child pornography or were involved in online solicitation of a child.
As long as ICAC payoffs in the millions spur child sex sting operations, many innocent Americans are likely to get snared in law enforcement’s broad nets. It’s time for innocent defendants to fight back in the legal arena.
Contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today to schedule your confidential consultation.