Solicitation & Prostitution Defense
The buying and selling of sex is illegal in the state of Washington. Washington’s criminal laws prohibit offering to exchange, agreeing to exchange, or exchanging money, or something else of immediate value, for “sexual conduct.” The law defines “sexual conduct” as sexual intercourse and other contact with intimate areas for the purpose of sexual gratification. Law enforcement agencies around the country, including Tacoma, WA, may be increasing enforcement of prostitution and solicitation laws as they promote efforts to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors. Police often make use of undercover officers to catch both the sellers and the buyer, often known as “johns.” Violations of suspect’s civil rights are common, as police seek to entrap people in sting operations. A solicitation defense lawyer in Tacoma with knowledge of Washington’s criminal laws can identify procedural and due process violations, lack of evidence, and flaws in the prosecutor’s burden of proving guilt in a solicitation or prostitution charge.
The offense of “prostitution” covers alleged acts ranging from offering sexual conduct for a fee to actually engaging in such conduct for a fee, and any negotiation or agreement in between. The statute applies regardless of the gender of the parties to the transaction. The statute makes no distinction, in terms of criminal liability, between an offer and actual sexual conduct. This can make enforcement of the statute, particularly when undercover work is involved, subject to abuse by unscrupulous law enforcement officers. Prostitution is a misdemeanor offense.
Washington defines “patronizing a prostitute,” also known as “solicitation,” as offering, agreeing to pay, or paying a fee for sexual conduct. It is also a misdemeanor.
Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor
If a person solicits a minor, defined as anyone under the age of eighteen, for sexual conduct, the law defines that as “commercial sexual abuse of a minor,” a class B felony. A person may not use lack of knowledge of the person’s age as a defense, except if the person produces a preponderance of evidence that they attempted to determine the minor’s age through a driver’s license or other government-issued identification.
Entrapment as a Defense
Because police often rely on sting operations, using undercover officers posing either as prostitutes or as customers, issues of entrapment often arise. Entrapment occurs when an undercover officer induces a person into an illegal act that they would not have done without the officer’s involvement, and it can be a defense to prosecution. A person approaching and soliciting an undercover officer may not have strong defense, but a person approached by an undercover officer requesting an offer for a fee may be able to claim entrapment. Contrary to urban legends, an undercover officer does not have to reveal that they are a cop if asked.
If you have been charged with alleged prostitution or solicitation in Tacoma or the western Washington area, an experienced sex crimes defense attorney can help protect your rights. I have represented defendants in criminal cases throughout Washington and obtained substantially reduced sentences, acquittals, and outright dismissals. Contact us today online or at (253) 201-0406 for a free and confidential consultation.