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Drastic Changes to Sex Crime Laws in Texas

The State of Texas in 2021 passed into law amendments to the prostitution statute as well as restrictions for employers of “sexually oriented businesses.” These newly passed laws have brought drastic changes to the punishment for “Johns” and has limited gentlemen’s clubs and other “sexually oriented businesses” to the point hundreds of people have lost their jobs. If you are unaware of these drastic changes, then we implore you to read the article below so you can inform yourself and avoid criminal penalties.

First-Time Offense “Johns” Now Face a Felony in Texas

One of the major changes to Texas’s sex crime laws is the enhancement for solicitation of prostitution. The bill, known as HB 1540, was created as a way to crack down on human trafficking in the State, which has become a major problem in the last 5 years. In fact, non-profit organization the Polaris Project stated that there were approximately 22,000 human trafficking victims in the State of Texas in the year 2019 alone.

The newly passed legislation was put into effect on September 1st, 2021 after it was signed by Governor Greg Abbott. Now, any person who solicits another for paid sexual conduct will face a state jail felony instead of a class B misdemeanor for a first-time offense. That means instead of facing up to 180 days in jail, they will instead be sentenced to up to 2 years in state jail upon conviction. In addition to incarceration, the person convicted will be obligated to pay a $10,000 fine. If the person accused has a prior solicitation conviction, then their charges will be reclassified as a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Issues with Texas’s New Solicitation Laws

It’s an unfortunate reality that human trafficking operations are happening at this very moment in the State of Texas. HB 1540 was created in an effort to combat this growing issue as the punishment for “Johns” in theory should deter those who wish to find paid sexual conduct. While some agree with this sentiment, many human trafficking experts from various organizations actually believe the opposite may occur and victims could end up being harmed.

Some human trafficking experts such as Kathleen Kim, who is a professor at Loyola Marymount University Law School, claims the law may have good intentions, but will eventually hurt victims more than help them. Kathleen was quoted by NBC News stating that the enhanced punishment and increased law enforcement approach to solicitation will only take away valuable resources/funding from human trafficking victims.

Various programs have been created to assist human trafficking victims with benefits, social services support, and legal advocacy, but they are often robbed of funding due to the State’s aggressive approach to deter human trafficking. In addition, there is very little evidence that most prostitutes or sex workers are victims of human trafficking and that they are not engaging in paid sexual conduct voluntarily.

18 to 20 Year Old Adult Entertainers Are Now Illegal in Texas

The amendment to solicitation laws was not the only major change Texans experienced in 2021. As another attempt to decrease human trafficking, the State has raised the legal age for working at a strip club to 21 years old. So employing any person aged between 18-21 is now a criminal offense for sexually oriented business in Texas. Employers may now face upwards to 20 years in prison and risk a $10,000 fine if they’re found in violation of this newly passed law.

The new legislation does not only include gentlemen’s clubs and exotic dancers but any “sexually oriented business” that operates in the state. That includes sex stores, adult goods stores, webcam studios, some modeling agencies, and many other businesses. The statute (section 43.251) makes the distinction that hiring any person aged 18-20 years old to work nude, topless, or in a “sexually oriented commercial activity” is a second-degree felony offense.

The statutes then goes on to state that hiring any person aged 18-20 in any capacity at a sexually oriented business is illegal. That means employers could face criminal penalties if they hire a young 18-20 year old to do something as harmless and non-sexual as washing the dishes in the back kitchen. Violations of this law will result in a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

In addition to raising the age to work in a sexually oriented business, SB 315 also banned anyone under the age of 18 from entering the premises of a sexually oriented business. Now, business owners could be held criminally liable if they do violate this law and face a class A misdemeanor as a result. They will also have their permit or license to operate suspended for 30 days for a first violation and 60 for a second violation. If the business violates the statute a third time, their permit or license will be cancelled indefinitely.

Impact of Texas’s Employment Harmful to Children Law

SB 315 passing has caused quite a rift in the community. While many supporters of the bill are happy it’s in effect, others claim it’s had devastating consequences. The newly passed bill immediately forced hundreds of hard-working people to lose their jobs overnight. Employers were forced to fire trusted employees due to the law passing, and as a result, many young adults who were inclined to work in a gentlemen’s club are now forced to engage in more risky forms of sex work.

Without a club or business to protect them, many exotic dancers are defenseless as they turn to exploitative third parties for work. The new law has forced many exotic dancers and entertainers into the realm of private parties since clubs are now out of the question, which in the end has put them in a vulnerable position that increases the chances of them being assaulted and/or robbed. Essentially, these workers have been robbed of basic employment protections and must now resort to underground means to earn an income.

In addition, many sexually oriented businesses are influx or hurting as they not only have lost employees, but a major portion of their younger clientele. The new law has essentially handicapped the commercial sex industry in the State, and many say the effects of that are just beginning.

Violation of These Laws Requires Representation

If you’ve been arrested for violating any of these new laws, call Goldstein & Orr. With decades of sex crime defense experience on their side, prestigious awards for their excellent legal representation, and extensive resources, you can trust Goldstein & Orr with your rights and freedom. Call today at (210) 226-1463 to schedule your first consultation with our San Antonio Criminal Defense team.

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