Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor, Prostitution, & Sexual Exploitation Defense Attorneys
The lawyers at Newton & Hall regularly represent men and women who are charged with all of these offenses. These are some of the new favorite crimes to seek arrests and prosecutions on. Police and prosecutors are competing for, and receiving, grants of federal, state and private money, which they are using to pursue these cases.
Homeland Security and the FBI is even cooperating with state and local law enforcement, to entrap those on the web who are soliciting minors. These crimes are being prosecuted more vigorously, and the sentences being handed out by judges are also harsher. Depending on the crime charged, you may need to register as a sex offender, and you may receive time in jail or prison.
Sexual Exploitation in the City of Seattle
No one has taken the crime of soliciting a prostitute more seriously than the city of Seattle. City Attorney Pete Holmes asked the city council to change the name of the crime from "soliciting a prostitute" to "sexual exploitation". They did this unanimously in January of 2015 because “...using prostitute as a noun is demeaning and this change also reflects our more modern understanding that prostitution has lots of unwilling participants.” according to the city's news release. The same news release stated that the name change is "one more step in the City's efforts to rewrite the prostitution narrative to target sex buyers more and prostituted persons less”.
Currently, the Seattle Municipal Code punishes this crime as a simple misdemeanor. This means that the maximum sentence that a court could impose is 90 days in jail, along with a $1000 fine. It is thought that the city will seek to increase this crime to a gross misdemeanor level at some point, which would result in a 364 day maximum jail sentence along with a $5000 maximum fine. In addition to fines and jail, those convicted of this crime have to pay various other financial penalties such as costs and assessments, which typically add many thousand dollars to the cost of a conviction. Those arrested for this crime are subject to vehicle towing and forfeiture.
A) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation if:
1. 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
2. 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
3. He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.
B) Sexual exploitation is a misdemeanor. Every person convicted of sexual exploitation shall have a biological sample collected for purposes of DNA identification analysis, as provided in RCW 43.43.754, and shall pay a fee of $100, as provided in RCW 43.43.7541. When sentencing or imposing conditions on a person convicted of or given a deferred sentence or a deferred prosecution for sexual exploitation, the court must require that the person:
1. Not be subsequently arrested for sexual exploitation or a similar statute or local ordinance or commercial sexual abuse of a minor;
2. Remain outside the geographical area, prescribed by the court, in which the person was arrested for this crime, unless this requirement would interfere with the person's legitimate employment or residence or otherwise be infeasible; and
3. Fulfill the terms of a program, if a first-time offender, designated by the court, designed to educate offenders about the negative costs of prostitution.
These requirements are in addition to the penalties set forth in Section 12A.10.070.
Prostitution - Patronizing a Prostitute - Solicitation of Prostitution
In the past, prosecutors and courts often took a minimal approach to punishment of crimes like these, but today they've made getting tough on charges like these a high priority. In years past, police and prosecutors focused on the "supply" side of these crimes, going after the women (and men) who worked as prostitutes. Often times they were locked up for significant periods of time for multiple offenses. They were seen as the major problem, and the "Johns" or consumers, were seen as minor accomplices who deserved minimal punishment.
Someone who was arrested and charged for soliciting a prostitute often times was allowed to enroll in a pre-trial or pre-prosecution diversion program where the charge would be dismissed from their record upon successful compliance. These programs often raised money for the courts, and required that defendant to take a one day "John School" where they would be educated about the health other dangers of sex with prostitutes. The advantage to these programs was that someone arrested could avoid having a criminal record, and the hope was that they would not continue to utilize prostitutes after going through the program.
The focus has now shifted completely. It is very difficult to be arrested as a prostitute now, and those who are arrested are often offered services such as: housing; education; health care; job training; and more. The rationale behind this, is the current thought that prostitutes are victims who are being taken advantage of by the those that offer their services and those that utilize their services. This also has resulted in a policy shift toward arrest and punishment of consumers of sex services.
Nowadays, it is much more likely that a sting operation will involve police officers posing as prostitutes, and arresting sex purchasers. In previous years it was the opposite, and police usually posed as Johns, in order to arrest prostitutes.
Just like any other business, law enforcement follows the money. In this case the money is received in the form of grants, that are offered to police agencies and prosecutors who promise to arrest consumers of sex services, and get tough on them. Receipt of these grants is sometimes conditioned on a "no plea bargaining" policy, in which prosecutors are forced to take all cases to trial, unless those charged plead guilty as charged. In some cities there are no longer any "deals" offered on these cases. In the past a criminal defense attorney could with some confidence predict that a person charged with soliciting a prostitute would be offered a good plea deal or pre-trial diversion offer, but those deals are no longer available in many jurisdictions.
Prostitution has moved to the internet, and in order to aggressively pursue those that act as prostitutes, or solicit prostitutes, law enforcement has also moved to the internet. Just like they used to run sting operations where they dressing up as prostitutes or johns, they now do the same thing on the internet. This means that the person you think you are chatting with online might be a police detective in a neighboring city or state. By offering to engage, or engaging in conduct that would constitute a sex crime, you are placing yourself in jeopardy of criminal prosecution wherever the detectives are located.
(1) A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute if:
(a) 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
(b) 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
(c) He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.
(2) For purposes of this section, "sexual conduct" has the meaning given in RCW 9A.88.030.
(3) Patronizing a prostitute is a misdemeanor.
Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor
Most of our clients are arrested for this crime after communicating with someone they believe to be a minor prostitute, over the internet, telephone, or other electronic communication. They may have found them on backpage.com, craigslist.com, or a variety of other websites or communication services.
It usually turns out that the minor they were talking to, was actually an adult law enforcement officer. The current law in Washington is that if you believe you are communicating with a minor, it does not matter if it was actually an adult. They do not have to prove that you believed it, just that a reasonable person would have believed it.
Police officers sometimes begin a conversation as if they are over 18, and even continue the conversation for days or weeks at a time. They will often do this on websites that purport to be only for adults. This communication may happen over e-mail, text message, instant messenger, chat room or other means. At some point they will tell the suspect that they are a minor, and if the suspect continues with the conversation, they know they have them. Eventually there will be a conversation about what sexual services are to be provided, and what price will be offered.
Normally police officers will encourage the suspect to meet them at some location, where surveillance is set up to ensure an arrest upon the subjects arrival. Often times the purported minor will suggest that the suspect bring incriminating items with them such as: sexual lubricant; condoms; or even stuffed animals. Once the suspect is arrested, these incriminating items make it even more difficult for a suspect to claim they are there for any innocent reason.
(1) A person is guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor if:
(a) He or she pays a fee to a minor or a third person as compensation for a minor having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her;
(b) He or she pays or agrees to pay a fee to a minor or a third person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefore such minor will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
(c) He or she solicits, offers, or requests to engage in sexual conduct with a minor in return for a fee.
(2) Commercial sexual abuse of a minor is a class B felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
(3) In addition to any other penalty provided under chapter 9A.20 RCW, a person guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor is subject to the provisions under RCW 9A.88.130 and 9A.88.140.
(4) Consent of a minor to the sexual conduct does not constitute a defense to any offense listed in this section.
(5) For purposes of this section, "sexual conduct" means sexual intercourse or sexual contact, both as defined in chapter 9A.44 RCW.
A Class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and by up to a $20,000 fine. This is a crime that results in sex offender registration for a minimum of 15 years, as well as felony probation after a prison sentence. Those convicted of this crime usually have to complete a 2 year sex offender treatment program.
Our experience defending those accused of Prostitution/Sexual Exploitation and Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor is your advantage
When you are facing these criminal charges we can help. Call us at (253) 867-2675 to schedule a free initial consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are standing by.
Never make a statement to law enforcement before consulting with an attorney. You need to know what the law is, and how your statement could affect your case. We often see situations where law enforcement officers convince someone to make a statement when it is not in their best interest, and in some circumstances, we may be able to seek suppression of these damaging statements.