“Luring” is not a crime at the top of most people’s minds, but the law in Washington and other states does make luring a child or developmentally disabled person a felony. Unfortunately, sometimes defendants who don’t realize their behavior could be interpreted as nefarious end up charged with luring for incidents that seem innocent, such as asking an unfamiliar child on the street for directions.

If you’ve been accused of luring, you may be feeling blindsided and overwhelmed. The first step you’ll need to take to fight the charges is to find a good attorney to advise you and present your defense. Luring charges can be attacked from a number of different angles. Even if there’s no dispute what you did and what you said, we may be able to show that you didn’t have the intent the law makes criminal.

The Law on Luring in Washington

The law in Washington criminalizes luring or attempting to lure a child (or a person with a developmental disability) away from the public eye or into a vehicle with the intent to harm that person’s health, safety, or welfare, or with the intent to facilitate a crime. The prosecution must also prove in these cases that the defendant was a stranger to the child or developmentally disabled person involved and that the defendant did not have the consent of that person’s parent or guardian to act as he or she did.

Luring is not considered a “sex offense” in Washington, but often luring charges arise from scenarios where the prosecution argues that the defendant acted under circumstances showing an intent to have sexual contact with the targeted individual. This makes intent a commonly disputed element in luring cases, and a key point on which to present a defense.

What Kinds of Conduct Might Lead to a Luring Charge?

The luring statute in Washington is expansive, intending to maximize its coverage of conduct that may harm kids or people with developmental disabilities. While the government must still prove that the defendant had a criminal purpose for extending an invitation to a child or developmentally disabled person, what counts as an invitation under the law is quite broad.

As such, no specific words or phrases must be used in a conversation with an unknown child or developmentally disabled person in order for law enforcement to characterize the interaction as luring. All that must occur is some kind of invitation to an area away from the public view, even to an open-air area that is obscured from public access. For instance, Washington courts have found that asking a child whether he wanted candy and then telling the child there was candy at the defendant’s house was sufficient invitation and enticement under the luring law.

Luring charges arise only when interactions in which the defendant is unknown to the child or developmentally disabled person. To be considered a “stranger,” it does not matter whether the defendant may be recognizable to the victim due to a few isolated, cursory interactions in the past.  Washington courts have held that making an exception to the luring statute for individuals who have cultivated a brief, superficial relationship with a child (i.e., the child recognizes the defendant as the ice cream man from a few prior, limited encounters) does not further the luring statute’s purpose to protect vulnerable minors and developmentally disabled individuals.

What’s at Stake in These Cases?

Luring is a Class C felony in Washington, meaning a conviction could result in up to five years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both. Felony convictions can also make life difficult after someone has served their sentence, harming their reputation and sometimes making it more difficult to find employment, housing, or schooling; perhaps even making it difficult for someone to see their minor children for a period of time.

Though luring is not officially considered a sex offense under Washington law, a conviction of a crime against a young or developmentally disabled person still brings stigma. Often, the assumption is that at sex offense would have occurred had the victim not fled the scene in time. Those convicted may face ostracization by family, friends, and the public. These are certainly serious consequences, but there’s no reason to give up hope.

How The Marshall Defense Firm Will Present Your Defense

The law on luring is written in such a way that law enforcement can press charges based on innocent conduct on the part of the defendant. The real battle is whether the defendant’s intentions were to harm or sexually abuse someone else, or to commit some other crime. Often in these cases, no sexual contact occurs, perhaps because the young or developmentally disabled person flees before it can.

As your attorneys, we’ll attack the government’s allegations that your intentions were criminal in nature and present your version of events in the best light possible. If it comes to it, we’ll also advocate for the most fair and appropriate sentence, arguing for treatment to take the place of at least some of the prison time that would otherwise be handed down.

While a luring conviction is not eligible for a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA), in an appropriate case, a good defense attorney can often obtain a sentence that has most of the features of a SSOSA— persuading the court that some combination of treatment and time in custody are more appropriate for an individual defendant’s circumstances. The most important of these features is that, rather than simply handing down prison time, a SSOSA may also include crime-specific treatment and counseling.

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 luring. 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 206.202.1633 or for an appointment.

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