Last year, the Seattle Police Department’s Vice & High Risk Victims Unit set up a successful sting operation in a Seattle massage parlor. At least 204 men, from all walks of life, were arrested for seeking paid sexual services. Please reference the Seattle Times article from 2016 for more detailed information.

This sting operation was reported to be the first of its kind in Seattle. In prior stings led by the Vice & High Risk Victims Unit, men were arrested and released, receiving a summons in the mail later. The Seattle PD is now pushing mandatory jail bookings when men are arrested for sexual exploitation, and we are aware that SPD remains on high alert for these type of arrests.

“Sexual Exploitation” in Seattle is the same crime as “Patronizing a Prostitute”, as it remains called elsewhere in Washington State. There is no difference in the law behind sexual exploitation vs. patronizing a prostitute, just in the name. The choice to change the name, according to the City Attorney’s Office in 2015, had to do with removing the demeaning connotation of using “prostitute” as a noun. This change was another step in Seattle’s shift to re-focus prostitution efforts on targeting solicitors of sex work and businesses that promote the sex trade.

Sexual Exploitation is a misdemeanor in WA state (RCW 9A.88.110). A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute if:

  • Pursuant to 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
  • He or she pays or agrees to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefor such person will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
  • He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.
  • For purposes of this section, “sexual conduct” has the meaning given in RCW 9A.88.030

Patronizing or Sexual Exploitation charges can impact your job, family, criminal record, and even immigration status. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.