The term “prostitution” is generally defined as a criminal act that involves engaging in or agreeing to engage in sexual activities in exchange for monetary value. With the exception of a few counties in Nevada, prostitution is considered to be a crime throughout the United States. Each state has its own criminal statute for purposes of prosecution.

Some common examples of acts that may constitute adult prostitution offenses include:

  • Promoting prostitution;
  • Promoting travel for prostitution; 
  • Permitting prostitution; 
  • Soliciting prostitution; and/or
  • Patronizing a prostitute.

Again, the elements of these crimes will vary by jurisdiction. However, all of them essentially involve an individual who either pays for, encourages, allows for, or offers an act that is related to the crime of prostitution.

How is Patronizing a Prostitute Defined in Washington State 

In Washington state, a person can be found guilty of patronizing a prostitute if the prosecution can prove they have committed one or more of the following acts:

  • They have paid or have agreed to pay a certain sum of money to another individual with an understanding that in return they will receive sexual services;
  • They have paid a certain sum of money either to another individual or a third party in exchange to engage in sexual activities with that individual; or
  • They have solicited or asked another individual to engage in sexual conduct with them in exchange for a fee. 

In addition, patronizing a prostitute in Washington state is generally considered to be a misdemeanor offense. Thus, it will usually be punished in accordance with misdemeanor penalties. 

What is the Punishment for Patronizing a Prostitute in Washington State? 

The punishment for patronizing a prostitute in Washington state will typically depend on a defendant’s criminal record as well as the particular location where the defendant is being prosecuted. For instance, some counties and cities in Washington have adopted compulsory fines.

In general, however, some potential penalties that a defendant can receive if convicted for patronizing a prostitute in Washington state may include the following: 

  • A fine for up to a maximum of $1,000; 
  • A jail sentence of up to 90 days; 
  • Possibly, up to two years of probation; 
  • An additional fee assessment of $1,500 (for first-time offenders)
  • A court order to attend an educational course; and/or
  • A mandatory court order to refrain from frequenting known prostitution locations. 

It should also be noted that the amount of fines and/or the length of a jail sentence may vary based on the criminal history of the defendant. For example, a defendant who has previously been convicted of this offense a single time can receive a fine of $2,500, and a fine of $5,000 if they have been convicted of this crime two or more times.

Additionally, if a defendant is charged and convicted of other criminal offenses along with this crime, then it could result in a punishment reserved for felony crimes. This is true regardless of whether the other crimes are associated with the crime of patronizing a prostitute or not (e.g., promoting prostitution, permitting prostitution, etc.). If convicted of a felony offense, the defendant could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. 

Is Patronizing a Prostitute Ever a Felony Crime?

As previously stated, patronizing a prostitute can become a felony crime. For instance, this crime could convert from a misdemeanor level offense to a class B felony if it involved any of the following conduct:

  • If the defendant provided a fee to a minor or third party in exchange to engage in sexual conduct with a minor;
  • If the defendant paid or agreed to pay a minor or third party with an understanding that in return they would receive sexual services from the minor; and/or
  • If the defendant offered, asked, or solicited a minor to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for compensation.  

In other words, patronizing a prostitute will be considered to be a felony crime when it involves a party who falls under the definition of a “minor” in Washington state. Defendants who are charged and convicted of this crime as a class B felony can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. They also may be ordered to register as a sex offender for up to 15 years.

Is Patronizing a Prostitute the Same as Promoting Prostitution?

Patronizing a prostitute and promoting prostitution are two completely separate crimes. As discussed above, patronizing a prostitute refers to when a person either pays, agrees to pay, offers to pay, asks to pay, or requests to pay another person in exchange for sexual services.

On the other hand, promoting prostitution is a different type of prostitution crime that occurs when a person threatens or forces another person to engage in prostitution. Specifically, in Washington state, promoting prostitution is classified by degree. 

For example, a defendant can be convicted of promoting prostitution in the second degree if the defendant knowingly profits from or advances prostitution. In which case, they may be charged, convicted, and punished in accordance with a class C felony offense. 

The crime will rise to the level of a class B felony, however, if the defendant is convicted of promoting prostitution in the first degree, which entails committing one of the following acts while knowingly advancing prostitution:

  • Compelling a person by threat or force to engage in prostitution or profits from prostitution due to threat or force; or
  • Compelling a person who is mentally incompetent or has a developmental disability to engage in prostitution or profit from such conduct. 

Accordingly, a defendant can receive a much harsher punishment for committing the crime of promoting prostitution when compared to that of the crime of patronizing a prostitute. 

I’m Accused of Advancing Prostitution, What Does that Mean?

The crime of “advancing prostitution” is essentially the same as the crime of “pimping” or promoting prostitution, which was discussed in the above section. According to the definition provided by Washington state law, “advancing prostitution” refers to when a third party (as opposed to a prostitute or a patron) assists or causes another individual to:

  • Commit or engage in prostitution;
  • Obtain or solicit patrons for prostitution;
  • Offer persons or premises for the purposes of prostitution; 
  • Operates or helps to operate a house used for prostitution; or
  • Partakes in any other conduct used to aid, institute, or facilitate an act or business involving prostitution. 

Thus, a defendant is not so much charged with advancing prostitution as they are with promoting prostitution. This is because it is one of the definitions that must be satisfied in order to be convicted of promoting prostitution in either degree. The closest the crime fits the definition of “advancing prostitution” is if the defendant is convicted of knowingly advancing prostitution, which is technically just promoting prostitution in the second degree. 

I Didn’t Make Any Money from Promoting Prostitution, How Can I be Charged with the Crime?

A person can be charged with promoting prostitution, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be convicted of the charges. In order to be convicted of the charges, the prosecution will need to prove that the defendant both advanced and profited from prostitution, along with the corresponding elements for either first or second degree. Thus, a person can still be charged, but not convicted if the prosecution fails to prove these elements.

A person can also be charged with promoting prostitution even if they did not make money. Although promoting prostitution generally involves a monetary fee, it can also still occur when the defendant receives any item of value pursuant to an understanding or agreement that the item is in exchange for prostitution-related activities. 

Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer for a Prostitution Charge in Washington? 

As previously discussed, prostitution is considered to be a crime in almost every state except for certain counties in Nevada. Therefore, if you are facing charges for prostitution in Washington state, then it is strongly recommended that you contact a Washington criminal lawyer as soon as possible. 

An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to explain your charges and can discuss how Washington state laws may affect the outcome of your case. Your lawyer will be able to determine the potential penalties you might receive and can perform legal research to find out whether there are any defenses you can raise against the charges.

In addition, your lawyer can also help ensure that your rights as a criminal defendant are adequately protected by providing representation in criminal court (if necessary). Alternatively, your lawyer can also assist you in securing a plea deal and negotiating the terms.