Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Washington State imposes severe penalties on those who agree to pay for sex with minors. This is a new development; before 2010, if you were convicted of paying for sex with a juvenile, your time in jail might only be a few months. Now you could spend years in prison and, after your release, have to register as a sex offender.

The Marshall Defense Firm knows how to defend you.

At the Marshall Defense Firm, we have defended many persons accused of soliciting sex from minors. We are ready to defend you vigorously against such charges.

Our first focus will be on the police’s behavior during your arrest.  Did they violate the Fourth Amendment by making an arrest without probable cause, or conducting an unreasonable search? If you were questioned, did the police obey Fifth Amendment rules against coercive interrogation?

If evidence against you has been gathered by unconstitutional means, that evidence may be inadmissible at trial. It is possible that the prosecution will then have no case.  We can vigorously investigate the circumstances of your arrest and bring motions to challenge admissibility of evidence.

Even if all the evidence the police have gathered is deemed admissible, there may be ambiguity in the communications about sex. If there is room to argue that you did not intend to have sex with an underage person, we will argue it forcefully.

Washington statutes that penalize paying a young person for sex

Washington classifies the following as Class B felonies:

  • Providing anything of value to a minor or a third person as compensation for sexual conduct with a minor
  • Providing or agreeing to provide anything of value to a minor or a third person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefore such minor will engage in sexual conduct
  • Soliciting, offering, or requesting to engage in sexual conduct with a minor in return for anything of value.

Related offenses reach those in the business of managing or assisting teenage minors:

Ignorance of age as a defense

None of the statutes related to commercial sex with minors allow you to argue the consent of the minor as a defense.

Ignorance of the age of the minor is a defense, but only if you sought documentary proof of age:

“[For] RCW 9.68A.0409.68A.0909.68A.100, 9.68A.101, or 9.68A.102, it is not a defense that the defendant did not know the alleged victim’s age. It is a defense, which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that at the time of the offense, the defendant made a reasonable bona fide attempt to ascertain the true age of the minor by requiring production of a driver’s license, marriage license, birth certificate, or other governmental or educational identification card or paper and did not rely solely on the oral allegations or apparent age of the minor.”

It is not enough that the minor looked old enough or even that the minor claimed to be old enough. You must have asked to see a driver’s license or other documentation that showed age.

Penalties upon conviction

Penalties for commercial sexual abuse of a minor are heavy. The maximum sentence for a Class B felony is ten years, although an actual sentence will depend on factors such as prior criminal history, and could be as low as 21 months. Additional penalties will include a $5,000 fine and sex offender registration for at least ten years. If you used a car while committing the crime, the car will be impounded and released only after you pay more fees. Finally, you can be restricted from the geographical location of your arrest.

Police tactics – internet stings and decoys

Police use varied tactics in these cases.  The ones we see most often are sting operations, frequently conducted over the internet.

In an internet “sting” operation, a police officer goes online and pretends to be a young person offering sex for money.  Based on Washington State Supreme Court cases, the prosecutor will have to show the fictive “teenager” told you at some point that he or she was underage.  But for many people interacting online, it can be hard to disengage from a conversation even when they get such information.

The police will also sometimes use young-looking detectives as decoys.  The decoy will claim to be a minor, even though they are actually over 18. The courts have upheld convictions for soliciting these decoys even though, in truth, they were not minors.

We will Fight for You

Even if the state’s case looks strong, there are still actions that can be taken before trial to lessen the impact of the prosecution on your life. We have extensive experience negotiating with prosecutors to reduce charges, sometimes both shortening the punishment and avoiding sex offender registration. We can develop strategies to demonstrate to the State both the weaknesses in their case and the qualities of your character.

Finally, if there is a trial, the lawyers of the Marshall Defense Firm are outstanding trial attorneys. We are often invited to teach trial skills to other lawyers.  From voir dire to final argument, our knowledge of trial rules and tactics is bone deep, and we will use it on your behalf every step of the way.

What It’s Like to Have the Marshall Defense Firm in Your Corner

Respect and compassion are the foundation of our work. We take time to get to know you and your case. It’s where our fierce advocacy for you begins.

Then there’s our experience. For decades we have defended special-assault cases like commercial sexual abuse of a minor. From that and our on-going study of the law, medicine, and psychology involved in these cases, we have exceptional skill.

And we pool that skill. We work as a team. We know that no one lawyer, no matter how brilliant, will have all the good ideas for your case.

Our final ingredient is relentless investigation and preparation. When we step into court to defend you, we are ready to do it well.

If you or a loved one needs services like ours, contact us at 206.826.1400 or info@marshalldefense.com for an appointment.