Sexual Exploitation / Patronizing a Prostitute

“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. The only difference is in the name. Seattle’s 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 Washington 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


As a misdemeanor crime, sexual exploitation or patronizing charges are punishable by up to 90 days in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, and other costs, fees, and assessments. There can be very significant real life consequences associated with these charges, including impact on immigration status, on one’s current job, background checks and future employment potential, family life, housing, and more.

Often individuals charged with sexual exploitation experience feelings of shame, fear, and uncertainty, and may have never been in trouble with the law before. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.