Adult Prostitution Offenses
The world of prostitution has changed dramatically in recent years as those activities have become more and more available online. Explicit services are offered in several places on the Internet, and law enforcement authorities are well aware of these offerings. At the Meryhew Law Group we are seeing a growing number of sting operations carried out by various police departments in the region as they turn to these online sources as a way to entice potential customers into their sting operation.
These stings usually originate on craigslist.com, backpage.com, or other online sites where the police place explicit ads for escorts, and where the police answer the ads of those who offer escort services online. We have also seen a new type of sting that involves the police running a massage spa then offering prostitution services to individuals who walk in. These include the Euro Spa and Barbie Spa that were operated the Seattle Police Department. There has also been increased pressure from elected officials to prosecute these types of cases to crackdown on sex trafficking. This has resulted in prosecutors and city attorneys filing more of these cases.Consequences of Prostitution Charges
Charges of Prostitution or Patronizing a Prostitute can have serious consequences in today’s world. Prostitution charges used to be a relatively minor event in a person’s life, with regular opportunities in court to get the offense off your record eventually, and ways to keep the arrest relatively quiet. But changes in the laws and in the ways that prosecutors and police agencies approach prostitution charges have changed all of this. Add to that the reduction in data privacy in our lives, and the risks of serious life-long consequences from a prostitution arrest are now very real.
The City of Seattle Attorney’s Office and the City of Seattle renamed Patronizing a Prostitute to Sexual Exploitation. This re-naming of the ordinance has caused various collateral consequences, including potential employers thinking it is a felony when it is still a simple misdemeanor, or the lowest level of possible punishment a person can face in the State of Washington. Our attorneys have brought challenges against this ordinance and have continued to work on bringing these consequences to the Court’s attention.
Our lawyers have extensive experience working with clients charged with various prostitution related offenses, including being a prostitute, patronizing a prostitute, promoting prostitution, permitting prostitution, and promoting travel for prostitution.Prostitution and Patronizing a Prostitute Charges
At The Meryhew Law Group, we have been representing person’s accused of both frequenting an adult prostitute or being an adult prostitute for many years in Municipal, District and Superior courts.
We work with both those accused of soliciting prostitution and those accused of offering adult prostitution services. The attorneys and staff at The Meryhew Law Group understand the need for discretion if you are charged with a prostitution-related offense, whether you are accused of soliciting sexual activity or promoting sexual activity.Our Approach
We do not judge our clients, and we are committed to insuring that our clients feel respected and supported throughout the difficult process of responding to a criminal charge. We understand the stress this event places on your personal, professional and emotional lives, and we will work hard to help you get through those difficulties.
At The Meryhew Law Group , our defense attorney team places your privacy and your dignity at a premium. We have years of experience working to avoid the filing of charges, aggressively defending against false accusations, mitigating offenses and obtaining resolutions that leave your dignity and reputation intact. Throughout the process you will be educated and counseled on what to do to minimize the impact of these types of charges on your life.
If you've been arrested or cited, time is of the essence to minimize the impact these charges can have on your personal and professional life. Contact The Meryhew Law Group today for a free consultation.Frequently Asked Questions About Prostitution-Related Offenses
Can I avoid having court notices of these charges and hearing dates sent to my home or work?
Unfortunately, Washington law requires that court notices be sent to your last known address. This means that when charges are filed and you are summoned to court that notice will be sent to your address with the Department of Licensing and to the address you gave to the police at the time you had contact with them.
If I've been charged with being a prostitute, patronizing an adult prostitute or promoting adult prostitution, will I have to register as a sex offender?
No, not for prostitution offenses . There is no sex offender registration requirement for prostitution or patronizing a prostitute so long as the person that was hired or solicited was over the age of 18 and therefore an adult. Neither prostitution, nor patronizing a prostitute is defined as a sex offense under Washington law.
Yes, for some promoting prostitution offenses . A conviction for promoting prostitution in the first degree, or a second conviction for promoting prostitution in the second degree after having been previously convicted of that offense, would require sex offender registration for a period of at least ten years. RCW 9.94A.030, 9A.44.128.
Are the laws related to prostitution offenses involving minors the same as adults?
No. The penalties for offenses involving minor age prostitutes is much more severe than the penalties for adult offenses, and includes sex offender registration and the potential for a prison sentence. See our section on Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor for more information.
What does the government have to prove to find me guilty of patronizing a prostitute?
Patronizing a prostitute can be charged under state law or under local municipal ordinances, but the essential elements of the offenses are the same. A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute if:
- Pursuant to a prior understanding, he or she pays a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her; or
- He or she pays or agrees to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefore such person will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
- He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee. RCW 9A.88.110.
What does the government have to prove to find me guilty of being a prostitute?
A person is guilty of prostitution if such person engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. RCW 9A.88.030.
Are there defenses to being a prostitute even if you are caught in the act?
If you are involved in prostitution only because others have victimized you then this can be a defense to these charges, which your attorney can use in Court. In any prosecution for prostitution under RCW 9A.88.030, it is an affirmative defense that may exonerate you if the person committed the offense as a result of being a victim of trafficking, (RCW 9A.40.100), promoting prostitution in the first degree, (RCW 9A.88.070), or trafficking in persons under the federal trafficking victims protection act of 2000. Documentation that the accused person is named as a current victim in an information or the investigative records upon which a conviction is obtained for trafficking, promoting prostitution in the first degree, or trafficking in persons shall create a presumption that the person's participation in prostitution was a result of having been a victim of trafficking, promoting prostitution in the first degree, or trafficking in persons.
What is the charge of Sexual Exploitation?
Sexual exploitation is the only found in the City of Seattle under ordinance 12A.10.040. The City of Seattle re-named the patronizing a prostitute statute. It is a simple misdemeanor, which means the maximum punishment is up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine. It also carried a special City of Seattle Sex Industry Victim’s Fund assessment of $1,000. While this new definition of an old crime does not increase the punishment, the name alone has caused many people issues with background checks. We also have experience in pursing entrapment defenses with the Euro Spa and Barbie Spa stings when the law enforcement is operating massage spas. Call our offices to speak with our attorneys today if you or a loved one has been charged with sexual exploitation.
What Does the Government Have to Prove to Find Me Guilty of Promoting Prostitution?
A person is guilty of promoting prostitution in the first degree if he or she knowingly advances prostitution:
- By compelling a person by threat or force to engage in prostitution or profits from prostitution which results from such threat or force; or
- By compelling a person with a mental incapacity or developmental disability that renders the person incapable of consent to engage in prostitution or profits from prostitution that results from such compulsion. Promoting prostitution in the first degree is a class B felony. RCW 9A.88.070
A person is guilty of promoting prostitution in the second degree if he or she knowingly:
- Profits from prostitution; or
- Advances prostitution. Promoting prostitution in the second degree is a class C felony. RCW 9A.88.080.
What does the government have to prove to find me guilty of permitting prostitution?
A person is guilty of permitting prostitution if:
- having possession or control of premises which he or she knows are being used for prostitution purposes,
- he or she fails without lawful excuse to make reasonable effort to halt or abate such use. Permitting prostitution is a misdemeanor. RCW 9A.88.090.
What does the government have to prove to find me guilty of promoting travel for prostitution?
A person commits the offense of promoting travel for prostitution if the person knowingly:
- sells or offers to sell travel services,
- that include or facilitate travel for the purpose of engaging in what would be patronizing a prostitute or promoting prostitution, if occurring in the state. Promoting travel for prostitution is a class C felony. RCW 9A.88.085.
What kind of jail or prison sentence could I receive for a prostitution-related offense?
Prostitution is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in a county or municipal jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Patronizing a Prostitute is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in a county or municipal jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Permitting Prostitution is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in a county or municipal jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Promoting Prostitution in the First Degree is a Class B felony offense, with a standard sentencing range of at least 21 – 27 months in prison, and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree is a Class C felony offense, with a standard sentencing range of at least 1 – 3 months in a county jail, and a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Promoting Travel for Prostitution is a Class C felony offense, with a standard sentencing range of at least 0 – 12 months in a county jail, and a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What are the financial consequences of being convicted of a prostitution-related offense?
The Washington Legislature has adopted stiff new fines in an ongoing effort to crack down on prostitution related offenses, and in 2012 some very high fines were mandated for these offenses. The court does have the ability to reduce these fines by up to 2/3 of the amount, however, if the court finds the person does not have the ability to pay the fine. Those mandatory fine amounts are:
Prostitution, or a comparable county or municipal crime: $50.
Permitting prostitution, or a comparable county or municipal crime: $1,500 if the defendant has no prior convictions, deferred sentences, deferred prosecutions, or diversion agreements for this offense; $2,500 if the defendant has one such prior; $5,000 if the defendant has two such priors.
Patronizing a prostitute, or a comparable county or municipal crime: $1,500 if the defendant has no prior convictions, deferred sentences, deferred prosecutions, or diversion agreements for this offense; $2,500 if the defendant has one such prior; $5,000 if the defendant has two such priors. Certain cities have added their own mandatory fines. For example, the Seattle Municipal Court will also add a Sex Industry Victim Funds fine of $1,000 for convictions, deferred sentences, deferred prosecutions, or diversion agreements. SMC 12A.10.070.
Promoting prostitution in the first or second degree, or a comparable county or municipal crime: $3,000 if the defendant has no prior convictions, deferred sentences, deferred prosecutions, or diversion agreements for this offense; $6,000 if the defendant has one such prior; $10,000 if the defendant has two such priors. RCW 9A.88.120.Can the Police Impound My Vehicle and Make Me Pay to Get it Back?
When a person is arrested as a suspect for patronizing a prostitute, promoting prostitution in the first or second degree, or promoting travel for prostitution, the arresting officer may impound the person’s vehicle if the vehicle was used in the commission of the crime, the person arrested is the owner of the vehicle or the vehicle is a rental can and the person has been previously convicted of one of the offenses listed above, or the offense was committed within an area with a disproportionately high number of arrests for these offenses. In other words, they can impound your car if it is a second offense or on a first offense in an area of high prostitution crime rates. You can get the vehicle back by paying all impoundment, towing and storage fees as well as a $500 fine. RCW 9A.88.140.