Prostitution Stings: Webster's Definition vs. the Law

Quick. What’s the definition of prostitution? Having sex for money, right?

Yes, if you are using the Webster’s dictionary definition:

Main Entry: pros·ti·tu·tion
Pronunciation: "präs-t&-'tü-sh&n, -'tyü-
Function: noun
1 : the act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations especially for money
2 : the state of being prostituted : Debasement

Perfectly correct, but that’s not the complete legal definition of the crime ‘prostitution’, at least not in Texas. And I doubt in any other state.

The legal definition of prostitution in the Texas Penal Code:

§ 43.02. Prostitution. 

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

            (1) offers to engage, agrees to engage, or engages in sexual conduct for a fee; or

            (2) solicits another in a public place to engage with him in sexual conduct for hire.

(b) An offense is established under Subsection (a)(1) whether the actor is to receive or pay a fee. An offense is established under Subsection (a)(2) whether the actor solicits a person to hire him or offers to hire the person solicited.

(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, unless the actor has previously been convicted one or two times of an offense under this section, in which event it is a Class A misdemeanor. If the actor has previously been convicted three or more times of an offense under this section, the offense is a state jail felony.

Most criminal prosecutions of prostitution cases rest on the “knowingly offers to engage or agrees to engage in sex” part of the statute. In other words, no consummation necessary.

That’s what makes so called ‘John Stings’ work. The police (usually female) dress up as, well, as something other than policewomen, and approach men in their cars, and offer sex for money. When the man agrees, the officer directs him to drive down the street where she tells him the hotel is.

Of course, it’s not her hotel room, it’s the jump out boys, and they arrest him and take him to jail.

Clients frequently come in and tell me that it wasn’t prostitution; it was ‘solicitation of prostitution’ or perhaps they call it just ‘solicitation’. I pull out the Penal Code and show them the definition itself.

All of this came to mind when I ran across a story in the Chicago Sun-Times Group Beacon News titled ‘Reverse prostitution sting nets 13 arrests’:

Eleven men and two women were arrested and charged Tuesday night during a four-hour reverse prostitution sting, Aurora police said.

The men were charged with solicitation of a sexual act after police said they offered undercover female officer cash in exchange for sex acts. The two women, ages 17 and 16, were charged with obstructing police after they continually interfered with officers conducting the operation, police said.

It’s not a reverse prostitution sting. 

It apparently seemed like the reverse of prostitution to the reporter, because the police were the ones initially coming up with the ‘idea’ while the guy in the car was merely assenting to it. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that the Illinois statute covers this the same way Texas does.

Perhaps I’ll come up with a tag I call “Your Tax Dollars at Work” and report on every time Austin Police Department sets one of these things up. They do get quite expensive.

And I still need to write up a post on asking for a 38.23 instruction based on the illegal police behavior. But in the meantime, here are some related posts on the subject:

Are Prostitution Stings Entrapment Under Texas Law?

Prostitution Banishment Zones

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Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer - March 3, 2008 10:46 PM
The Sheriff’s Office publishes a list of everyone booked into the Travis County Jail, and I’ve been watching it over the last week or so to keep track of the new policy of housing Immigration (ICE) in the jail. The...
Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Joe Bergeson - December 26, 2007 9:42 AM

I happened upon this article searching around because a friend of mine just got arrested on false charges of solicitation in Chicago. They took his car.

I stayed in Austin on Sixth Street for a month and heard of some crazy scary drug stings going on while I was there.

What can I do to help my friend and stop this crap in Chicago?

Ulysses Boone - January 8, 2008 8:48 PM

That's entrapment. Very common. The charges always end up dropped.

Diana falls - March 9, 2009 8:31 PM

What has to be said by law to recoginze the vice

frank - March 21, 2010 3:42 PM

A friend asked a undercover cop for sex. We where a block away and the cops arrested all of us. The reason was that he told the cops that we wanted sex. We never talk to the hooker only the friend did. Do you know this will go to trail in nyc, because I am not guilty

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