Is Prostitution Legal In Texas?

Prostitution is illegal in Texas, but recent changes have altered how it could be enforced. We will give an overview of the current laws as they stand and then look at how enforcement compares with other states.

Table of Contents

Outside of some areas of Nevada, prostitution remains illegal in the United States. Though it is often thought of as a victimless crime such as Marijuana, where only consenting adults are involved, the practice remains illegal and taboo in the state of Texas. We’ll begin with the penalties for being caught engaging with the act and then move on to new developments on the matter.

Criminal Penalties For Prostitution In Texas

Perhaps pointing to the stigmas regarding the practice, prostitution is not regulated substantially different whether one is the customer or the prostitute. However for the purposes of clarity we’ll separate the two. Finally, and as is true for almost all cases, whether one is a first time offender or not factors a great deal into the harshness of the sentence.

Penalty for the Prostitute

In Texas, the criminal penalty for prostitution begins with the first offense. Where one is sentenced up to 180 days in jail. Conversely (or in conjunction with the jail time) one may be forced to pay a fine of up to $2,000. Like other criminal laws, the judge is going to take into account your past criminal history before sentencing. At this point, the offense is still considered a Class B misdemeanor.

After the first offense, a second and third offense carry a penalty of up to one year in prison and/or the potential for a fine of up to $4,000. This is a multi-step escalation process whereby offenders are given leeway the first time around and even given three strikes before prison bouts become more common. At this point the offense is considered a Class B misdemeanor.

Starting with the fourth offense, the perpetrator can expect to spend at least 180 days and up to two years in prison for the offense. Additionally they may be required to pay up to $10,000 as a fine.

Penalty for Soliciting A Prostitue

As we stated above, the penalty for paying for sex or being paid for sex in Texas is nearly identical in law. However it’s not necessarily identical in enforcement due to the fact prostitutes often have other marks on their criminal history. For the customer, it’s up to 180 days and/or up to a $2,000 fine on the first offense.

The second and Third offense (interesting that these are tied together) offers up to a one year and/or (up to) a $4,000 fine. Beginning with the fourth offense and continuing with all subsequent offenses, the customer can expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 days in jail and up to two years. Additionally this infraction carries with it a fine of up to $10,000.

Arrest Rate in Texas

In Texas, the criminal prostitution rate has been decreasing every year for quite some time. In 2016, for example, the amount of arrests for prostitution had dropped from 7,554 in 2010 to 4,506 in 2016. This seems to follow a broad national trend where prostitution and, more specifically, its criminalization appears to be on the downward trend. The 2014 full Texas Arrest Data (available for free online) shows of the 3,927 people arrested for prostitution in Texas, 3,896 were Adults and “only” 31 were children.

Most of the arrests for prostitution were Adult women between the ages of 30 and 34 (page 78-79 of the crime report) with 577 in that age group. Followed by adult women between the ages of 35 to 39 with 394 arrests. In case you’re wondering, only 3 women aged 65 and over were arrested for prostitution during that time period.

Nevertheless even the 4,506 number is among the nations highest. Oklahoma for example prosecuted just five people that same year and Vermont prosecuted only four.

Where in Texas is it the Most Common?

According to the Google Trends graph, since 2004 Victoria, Texas narrowly beat out Waco as the top searchers for the practice. Followed by Houston (third), Lubbock (fourth), and Odessa-Midland rounding at the top 5. In terms of cities Kileen was the most popular by far. El Paso, whom we’d thought would be higher (no offense to El Paso) was only fourth on the list.

Comparisons With Other States

Some states are more understanding than others when it comes to Prostitution (especially for first offenses). For example the first offender, either prostitute or solicitor, in the state of Alaska can only spend a maximum of 10 days in prison. Some states require jail time such as West Virginia where first time offenders can expect to spend between 60 days and 6 months in prison.

Tiny Rhode Island was famous for a twenty nine year period beginning in 2009 where prostitution was technically legal due to the fact that no law prohibited it. Only one state, Louisiana, requires convicted prostitutes to register as sex offenders.

Changes Around The Country

Due to its conservative predisposition, we would be somewhat surprised if prostitution was legalized in Texas as early as the next session but anything is possible. In 2020, New York made headlines when lawmakers made a push to officially legalize the practice. A move that was met with mixed reviews from citizens across the state.

Long story short, prostitution remains illegal in Texas but we’ll update this page as the law changes.