Understanding Prostitution Laws in Washington

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Jun 22

Lewis & Laws

Understanding Prostitution Laws in Washington

by Lewis & Laws

Understanding Prostitution Laws in Washington

Every aspect of paying for sex is illegal in Washington, but some offenses are considered more serious than others. Law enforcement—especially in the Seattle area—prioritize arresting and prosecuting certain types of prostitution-related offenses. Here are some basics to understanding laws related to prostitution.

What is Prostitution?

Any transaction that involves buying or selling sexual acts is considered prostitution in Washington. The biological sex of the buyer and seller are irrelevant to a prostitution charge. An individual can be charged with prostitution if he or she offers to engage in sexual acts in exchange for a fee.

While both prostitution and patronizing a prostitute are misdemeanors, prosecutors—particularly those in the Seattle area—have been very aggressive about prosecuting “johns,” or people who patronize prostitutes. They have been much less aggressive about prosecuting individuals suspected of prostitution. The police department in Seattle frequently sets up sting operations that can result in many arrests and charges for prostitution-related offenses.

If an individual is driving a vehicle at the time of an arrest for patronizing a prostitute, the police can impound the vehicle.

Aggravating Factors

The law recognizes that many prostitution transactions involve more than just the person buying sex and the person selling it. The most serious crimes under the law are those that involve profiting from prostitution as well as those that involve sex with minors. The following crimes are all felonies and can carry punishments of jail time, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

Commercial sexual abuse of a minor

Patronizing or soliciting sexual services from someone who is underage is a more serious offense than patronizing an adult sex worker. Patronizing a juvenile sex worker is a felony.

Promoting prostitution

Promoting prostitution means profiting from prostitution or advancing prostitution. This is often referred to as “pimping.” If anyone other than the sex worker promotes his or her services, collects any of the fees, provides a location for or profits in any way from the sex work, that person could be charged with promoting prostitution. Promoting prostitution is a felony regardless of whether there is an element of coercion in the relationship. However, if there is coercion involved, the charges are more serious.

Travel for prostitution

Any person who offers to sell travel services for the purpose of prostitution is also committing a felony. This includes travel inside Washington state. Promoting or selling interstate travel violates federal prostitution laws.

The bottom line: It is illegal to buy or sell sex in Washington. Engaging in either side of a purchase of sex acts can put your whole life at risk. In addition to facing jail time and steep fines, you could have a criminal conviction on your record and may be forced to register as a sex offender. This can make it difficult to obtain housing and can shut you out of many employment opportunities.

Have you been caught up in a prostitution sting or accused of a prostitution-related offense? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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