Compelling Prostitution text with flags in background

Compelling Prostitution

Compelling Prostitution involves the “pimping” of another person for sexual services. Compelling Prostitution does not require the use of force. The law says that just using threats or fraud to cause someone to engage in prostitution is still “Compelling Prostitution.”

UPDATE: This law was changed significantly in the 86th Texas Legislature, effective September 1, 2019. The legislature increased the penalty classification and added “coercion” to the ways in which you could “cause” someone to commit prostitution. Learn more about the changes to the law below.

Compelling Prostitution charges frequently arise out of a law enforcement sting. Many counties have special police task forces set up to catch people using Backpage.com (and Craigslist or other websites) for prostitution services, and if police encounter what they consider to be “pimping,” then they will make an arrest for compelling prostitution.

Have you been charged with Compelling Prostitution? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

Many of our clients got caught up a compelling prostitution case just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter what the case is, if the police are trying to charge you with compelling prostitution, you cannot take this charge lightly. The penalties for Compelling Prostitution are severe.

Have you been accused of Compelling Prostitution? How can you defend yourself against a Compelling Prostitution charge?

Compelling Prostitution carries substantial criminal penalties, and compelling prostitution of an underage person carries even more substantial penalties. Compelling prostitution charges are frequently part of “human trafficking” investigations.

Defending yourself against the charge will require a legal strategy that not only fights any physical and digital evidence, but also witness accounts from people who will appear to be sympathetic. In reality, many witnesses lie in order to get out of some kind of trouble, but challenging their accounts can be a hard to do effectively. You will definitely want the benefit of a thorough investigation to gather evidence to support your case.

What is the law on Compelling Prostitution in Texas?

Texas Penal Code Section 43.05 defines the offense of Compelling Prostitution.

The 2017 Amendments to the Law

The law was amended slightly in 2017 with the passage of H.B. 1808, 85th Texas Legislature1, to make it clearer that you do not need to know the age of the person in order to be charged with a violation of subsection (a)(2). The law in effect for offenses occurring through September 1, 2017, is below, and we have the language that becomes effective on that date in brackets along with the language removed in strikethrough:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly:

(1) causes another by force, threat, 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 actor commits the offense.

The 2019 Amendments to the Law

The Compelling Prostitution law was amended again in 2019 during the 86th Texas Legislative Session.2 The new law added “coercion” to the ways you could “cause” someone to commit prostitution. The law in effect for offenses occurring until September 1, 2019, is below, and we have the language that becomes effective on that date in brackets:

(a) 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.

One important term in the above statute is “causes” in subsections (a)(1) and (a)(2). If you had only a tangential effect on someone engaging in prostitution, then that might not be strong enough for the “cause” under the statute. It is difficult to say exactly what “causes” people to act in any way, but the state’s attorneys must prove this causation in order to obtain a Compelling Prostitution conviction.

Under subsection (a)(2), the state’s attorneys do not have to prove that you knew the victim was under 18. It is usually simple for the state’s attorneys to prove that the prostitute was under 18 (if that is the case). Even if the victim lied about his or her age, you can still be convicted.

“Coercion” is a defined term under the new law.2a See footnote 2a.

How much time can you get for a Compelling Prostitution conviction?

The punishment for Compelling Prostitution is found in Section 43.05(b), Penal Code. All Compelling Prostitution offenses occurring on or after September 1, 2019, will be classified as first degree felonies.3

For offenses occurring prior to September 2019, the offense is punished as a second degree felony if the charge is under subsection (a)(1). It is punished as a first degree felony if the charge is under subsection (a)(2).4 If you are convicted at the second degree felony level, you can receive up to 20 years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If you are convicted at the first degree felony level, you can receive up to 99 years or life in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Learn more about the Range of Punishment for Crimes in Texas

Am I at risk for federal criminal prosecution for a sex crime?

Federal law enforcement regularly prosecutes people for violations of federal laws similar to Texas’s compelling prostitution law.

If you are accused of Compelling Prostitution in Texas state court, defending yourself against that charge is important in and of itself, but it is not the end of the story. A great defense in state court might also persuade the federal authorities to not prosecute you in federal court. For more information, please speak directly with your criminal defense attorney. We are happy to discuss this concern with you over the phone or in person.

What is the difference between “Prostitution” and “Compelling Prostitution”?

While the offense of Prostitution only requires a person to pay for sexual conduct, solicit sexual conduct or be paid for engaging in sexual conduct, the offense of Compelling Prostitution requires that a person cause another person to engage in prostitution.


Legal References:

1Texas Penal Code Section 43.05(a), as amended by House Bill 1808, 85th Legislature, Section 11, effective September 1, 2017

2Texas Penal Code Section 43.05(a), as amended by SB 1802, 86th Legislature, Section 5, effective September 1, 2019

2aTexas Penal Code Section 43.05(d), as created by SB 1802, 86th Legislature, Section 5, effective September 1, 2019

(d) For purposes of this section, “coercion” as defined by Section 1.07 includes:

(1) destroying, concealing, confiscating, or withholding from a person, or threatening to destroy, conceal, confiscate, or withhold from a person, the person’s actual or purported:

(A) government records; or

(B) identifying information or documents;

(2) causing a person, without the person’s consent, to become intoxicated, as defined by Section 49.01, to a degree that impairs the person’s ability to appraise the nature of the person’s conduct that constitutes prostitution or to resist engaging in that conduct; or

(3) withholding alcohol or a controlled substance to a degree that impairs the ability of a person with a chemical dependency, as defined by Section 462.001, Health and Safety Code, to appraise the nature of the person’s conduct that constitutes prostitution or to resist engaging in that conduct.

3Texas Penal Code Section 43.05(b), as amended by SB 1802, 86th Legislature, Section 5, effective September 1, 2019

4See Texas Penal Code Section 43.05(b), as amended by SB 1802, 86th Legislature, Section 5, effective September 1, 2019

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