People who are accused of soliciting prostitution in Texas are facing increasingly tough sentences after the offense became a felony in the state this fall.
This month, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn announced the arrests of 115 men who he said allegedly tried to pay for sex acts for people acting as decoys.
The Star-Telegram reported the men face more punitive sentences than a month earlier because soliciting prostitution from an adult became a felony in Texas in September. The men are between 20-year-old and in their 70s, according to the Star-Telegram.
The sheriff issued a warning to others who may seek out the services of adult prostitutes. He said the investigations into prostitution would continue in Tarrant County and prospective buyers could face arrest.
“We will be out there looking for these people. Constantly. All the time,” Waybourn said in a statement. The operation, called “Buyer Beware,” was focused on cutting down the demand that drives sex trafficking, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies in the Human Trafficking Unit joined forces with Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Tarrant County constables.
Christopher Miller, the acting Special Agent in Charge at the HSI Dallas office spoke about the need to reduce the “egregious demand for commercial sex.”
People who pay for sex with adults in Texas can now be charged with state jail felonies. The state is the first in the country to make this crime a felony.
Texas is also expanding the definition of human trafficking and making it a first-degree felony. The definition will include people who recruit trafficking victims from residential treatment centers that house homeless and foster children or minors who were previously victims of violence and assault.
Over the summer, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill to crack down on so-called ‘johns” who pay for sex, in an attempt to shift punitive blame away from people who engage in prostitution who are often the victims of traffickers.
Although some experts say the legislation reflects a new wave of reform and could help trafficked sex workers by deterring demand, others claim it misses the mark and instead will further tie the victims up in the legal system, ABC News reported.
If you have been charged with a soliciting offense, you may be facing jail time under the new Texas law. Please contact our Dallas-based criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (214) 720-9552.