Across Washington, prostitution and solicitation related crimes are not only being pursued, but also prosecuted with increased severity. This pressure largely comes from the government’s work to crack down on human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors. And sex does not actually need to take place for these charges to occur.
We realize this can be a humiliating experience and the criminal penalties associated with prostitution and solicitation should not be taken lightly. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we will address your concerns with discretion, and provide a highly skilled sex crimes lawyer working towards your best possible resolution.
Call us today at (253) 203-3379 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Understanding Prostitution & Solicitation in Washington With the Help of a Kent Solicitation Attorney
Whether you are stopped in an area known as a high prostitution area, were the target of an undercover sting operation, or you visited a website like backpage.com, under Washington law (RCW 9A.88.030), someone is guilty of prostitution if they engage, agree, or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. Solicitation (RCW 9A.88.110) relates to patronizing the services of a prostitute and offering to exchange money to a prostitute or to pay a third person to facilitate sexual conduct.
A lot of confusion surrounds prostitution arrests. Law enforcement usually make these arrests before sexual contact happens, which can catch people off guard. While just talking with someone is not a crime, if an understanding is reached to exchange money for sex, the law considers both parties to have completed the transaction.
Criminal Penalties for Prostitution & Solicitation
Prostitution and patronizing a prostitute are considered misdemeanors, and penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, or both. Many local municipalities throughout Washington like Seattle for example have also enacted their own and very expensive fines for prostitution related activities. There will also typically be a probationary period attached to your conviction, stay out of area orders, STD testing, court ordered diversion classes, and administrative fees well above the mandatory fine.
Other Consequences of Prostitution & Patronizing
Since there is a certain stigma attached to prostitution and solicitation offenses, in addition to the criminal impact, there will probably be a considerable amount of collateral fallout.
- The state will send court notices to your last known address, which can be difficult to explain.
- Many people misinterpret these offenses as felonies. If your present or future employer views the arrest or conviction on your record, they may believe the offense is much more serious than it is under the law.
- You can have your car impounded if you are arrested for patronizing a prostitute in a high rate area, if it is your second offense, if you are arrested for promoting prostitution in the first or second degree, or arrested for promoting travel for prostitution. You can have your vehicle returned by paying the towing, impound, and any storage fees and fines. These will be in addition to any costs and fines imposed by the court.
Will I Need to Register as a Sex Offender?
According to Washington law, there is no required sex offender registration for prostitution or solicitation if the parties were over 18-years-old. However, a conviction for promoting prostitution in the first degree, or a second conviction for promoting prostitution in the second degree, would require registration for a minimum of ten years.
Other Prostitution and Solicitation Related Crimes
The state of Washington has also criminalized other actions that are associated with or advance prostitution related activities Some of these are serious felonies, including:
- Promoting Prostitution (RCW 9A.88.070 & 9A.88.080): These charges involve compelling or advancing a person to engage in prostitution by threat or force and profiting from the endeavor. Depending on the circumstances, the crime will either be a first or second degree offense and punished accordingly as a class B or C felony.
- Promoting Travel for Prostitution (RCW 9A.88.085): It is a class C felony to offer or sell travel services if the purpose of the trip is to engage in prostitution or solicitation.
- Permitting Prostitution (RCW 9A.88.090): It is a misdemeanor level offense to knowingly permit or allow prostitution related activities in a building or structure that you own or is under your control.
- Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor (RCW 9.68A.100): Soliciting sexual services from someone under 18-years-old is a much more serious offense than patronizing an adult sex worker. Typically, a person can’t use a lack of knowledge about the person’s age as a defense and faces penalties as a class B felony.
Defenses & Entrapment Explained
You may have misunderstood what was being asked of you or were naïve about your surroundings. It’s understandable. And because police often utilize undercover officers, you may feel as though you were led into a compromising situation. The officers are trained in what they can and cannot say, but that doesn’t mean mistakes don’t happen. Additionally, if you are involved in prostitution because others were victimizing you, this can be raised as a defense.
A popular term used when discussing prostitution related charges is “entrapment.” Put simply, entrapment happens when an officer persuades someone into an illegal act that they would not have done without the officer’s encouragement. It can be a valid defense in certain situations, but has strict conditions. If you approach and solicit the services of an undercover officer, you probably don’t have strong entrapment defense. On the other hand, if you were the one approached by an undercover officer, and they made an offer there could be a claim of entrapment. It is important to note that merely affording a person the opportunity to commit a crime does not constitute entrapment. Just because an officer gave you the chance to commit a crime, such as soliciting a prostitute, that does not mean the officer induced you. To successfully raise an entrapment defense, you’ll need to have evidence and prove that you would not have committed the illegal act if it were not for the officer’s actions, and that any average citizen would have acted the same way under similar circumstances.
Also, contrary to the popular myth, an undercover police officer does not have to reveal that they are a cop if you ask them.
Alternatives and Deferral
When people are charged with prostitution or solicitation related offenses, they often do not want to go through the entire court process, but would rather deal with the matter as quickly and painlessly as possible.
For first time offenders, a popular option that can be explored by a capable Kent prostitution attorney is your eligibility for a deferred sentence. This affords you the opportunity to postpone your conviction and by completing certain requirements like community service, probation, diversion classes, and complying with any court orders to stay out of areas of prostitution. These types of programs offer a way to ultimately avoid a conviction.
Most plea negotiation agreements for prostitution and solicitation charges in Washington will involve some level of participation in diversion classes. These classes, sometimes referred to as “John School “are meant to educate defendants about the dangers of certain types of risky behaviors. In many instances, enrollment in these classes will help in getting a better resolution to your case.
Why You Need a Kent Prostitution Lawyer
These types of cases require an attorney that knows the process and will put in the work to get the result you need. Negotiation with the prosecution is key, particularly in sting operation cases, and defendants risk giving the prosecution additional evidence if they choose to proceed alone. You should not discuss a solicitation charge with the prosecutor. Take the right steps toward putting this behind you, and hire a Kent prostitution attorney you can trust.
If you’ve been charged with a prostitution or solicitation related crime in Kent or Tacoma, call (253) 203-3379 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.