Laws governing prostitution vary from state to state. Generally speaking, prostitution refers to the sale of sexual services, although sexual acts which are considered to “beyond traditional intercourse” often fall under prostitution laws as well. However, in legal terms, prostitution excludes sexual activity between spouses. In order for the sale of sexual services to transpure, payment does not have to be in dollars, although monetary compensation is the most common.
Prostitution is a misdemeanor in the United States, except in ten different counties located in the State of Nevada. There are two basic criminal acts which are associated with the legal definition of prostitution:
- Engaging In An Act Of Prostitution: This refers to engaging in sexual intercourse with another person in exchange for money, or other forms of payment; and
- Soliciting Prostitution: This refers to either offering or soliciting money to another person in exchange for a sexual act.
The best way to understand “solicitation of prostitution” would be to define the two crimes that are contained within the phrase. The crime of solicitation refers to when someone:
- Commands; and/or
- Encourages another individual to commit a crime.
It is important to note that solicitation does not actually require that either party perform the criminal act. Instead, solicitation occurs at the moment the instigating party solicits or requests the other person to commit a crime.
As previously mentioned, prostitution is legally defined as the sale of sexual services in exchange for something of value, generally money. How prostitution is defined, as well as the the elements required to prove prostitution, vary by state. As such, in taking the definition of these two crimes and combining them together, solicitation of prostitution refers to when a person:
- Commands; and/or
- Encourages another party to engage in a sexual act for a fee.
Once again, this does not mean that the person must participate in the act, but that they demonstrate a willingness to further the crime.
An example of this would be how a person can be charged with soliciting a prostitute by simply withdrawing money from a bank or ATM after they are asked to pay for the services rendered. Another example that may prove that a person committed the act of soliciting a prostitute is if they bring a hired prostitute to a location, such as a hotel, in order to receive solicited services.
It is imperative to note that a charge for solicitation can become more serious if the act involved the prostitution of a minor, or if a party engaged in a sexual act with an individual who has a sexually transmitted infection. Generally speaking, soliciting a minor for sexual services will result in a felony offense.
What Are Washington State’s Laws Regarding Prostitution And The Solicitation Of Prostitution?
In Washington State, not only is prostitution illegal, but promoting prostitution is considered to be a separate crime. It may also be referred to as advancing prostitution. Advancing prostitution is defined as aiding an individual to commit or engage in prostitution. The person advancing the criminal act is not the prostitute, nor are they the customer.
Some specific examples of advancing prostitution include, but may not be limited to:
- Soliciting customers for prostitution;
- Helping a prostitute engage in prostitution;
- Operating a house for prostitution; and/or
- Assisting in operating a house for prostitution.
Generally speaking, a person can be charged with advancing prostituion if it can be shown that they profited from prostitution. If a person is said to profit from prostitution, this means that the defendant received money or anything of value from a third party who is engaging in prostitution.
In order to convict a person of promoting prostituion, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:
- Knowingly advanced the act of prostitution;
- The act of prostitution was done by threat of force or actual force, or the person who was compelled to engage in prostitution has a mental or developmental disability and are therefore incapable of giving consent; and
- The defendant financially benefited from advancing prostitution.
What Are The Legal Penalties For Washington State First Degree Promotion Of Prostitution?
State criminal codes have listed hundreds of different felonies. Legislators attempt to organize these felonies into different classes in order to make sentencing easier for judges. It is common for states to organize felonies alphabetically, separating them into:
- Class A;
- Class B;
- Class C; and
- Class D.
Class A is generally reserved for the most violent felonies, such as premeditated murder. As such, class D is reserved for the least serious felonies, such as the possession of illegal narcotics. Crimes that are assigned to a specific class are also assigned specific maximum and minimum mandatory sentences by the state’s legislature. This includes jail time, fines, probation, and restitution.
However, it is important to note that the penalties for each class will differ between states. Additionally, some states use different classification systems. An example of other classification systems would be numerical organizations, as well as grouping crimes by type of offense.
In the State of Washington, first degree promotion of prostitution is charged as a class B felony. A Class B felony applies to crimes that, while considered to be severe, they are not the most serious of crimes. A defendant convicted of first degree promotion of prostitution in Washington State can face up to ten years in a federal prison facility, and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
Class B felonies may also be punished with strict supervision through parole or probation, and permanent marks on their criminal records.
Are There Any Legal Defenses For The Solicitation Of Prostitution?
If a person is being charged with the crime of soliciting a prostitute, there may be some defenses available to them based on the circumstances of their case. An example of this would be how the prosecution must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the act of solicitation occurred. Because of this, having a lack of evidence or ambiguous evidence that amounts to less than the standard required by “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” can result in a dismissal. This lack of evidence would serve as a defense.
Another defense would be entrapment. Entrapment can be used as a defense if you are charged with a crime because a law enforcement officer induced you to commit the crime. This refers to when law enforcement use threats, fraud, or other extreme behavior as coercion.
However, this defense is considerably difficult to prove, and requires the defendant to prove that law enforcement induced or coerced them to commit a crime. The defendant must also prove that they were not inclined to commit the crime before being coerced, and that they attempted to resist going through with the criminal act.
Mistake of fact may be used as a defense, especially when the defendant believed that they agreed to pay for services that did not involve sexual acts. The defense may also apply if they had no knowledge that the person was a prostitute. The most used example of such a situation is generally shown in movies, when an attractive person solicits someone at a bar to partake in sexual activities. After doing so, they will request that the unwitting party pay them for their services
Do I Need An Attorney For Washington State First Degree Promotion Of Prostitution?
If you are being accused of any sort of crime associated with prostitution in Washington State, you will need to consult with an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can help you understand the state’s laws and what your legal options are under those laws.
Your criminal lawyer can also help you identify whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.