When you hear the phrase “promoting prostitution,” you most likely think of pimps—people who control the work and earnings of prostitutes and profit from the proceeds.
However, law enforcement in King County and other Puget Sound area jurisdictions now bring promoting prostitution charges against individuals who were not acting as “pimps” in the traditional sense, but whose connections to prostitution were more vague. This broader interpretation of the Washington law prohibiting the promotion of prostitution can include posting an online review of a prostitute, offering a prostitute a ride from point A to point B, or membership in a group of sex buyers.
Perhaps you’re facing a promoting prostitution charge based on conduct or events you had no idea could expose you to criminal consequences. Having experienced legal representation on your side can help you to mount your defense. The right attorney can spot weak points in the government’s case against you.
Under Washington law, a person promotes prostitution if he or she both “advances” and “profits” from prostitution.
“Advancing” prostitution means to:
- Cause or aid a person to engage in prostitution
- Procure or solicit customers for prostitution
- Provide persons or premises for prostitution purposes
- Operate or assist in the operation of a prostitution enterprise
- Engage in any other conduct designed to institute, aid, or facilitate prostitution (including verbal offers or invitations and persuasion designed to further prostitution)
“Profiting” from prostitution means to accept or receive money or something of value as a result of an agreement with another person for prostituting him or herself. This agreement does not have to be a formal, written one; the agreement can be inferred. For instance, a jury may find that an agreement existed where the alleged promoter shared profits with prostitutes, instructed them on how to engage in prostitution, collected their earnings up front, and periodically threatened them.
Promoting prostitution charges can be in either the first or the second degree. Second-degree promoting prostitution requires that the defendant knowingly profit and advance prostitution (as defined above). First-degree promoting prostitution includes more serious circumstances where the defendant compels a prostitute by threat or force or where the defendant compels a person with a mental incapacity or developmental disability to engage in prostitution. Both degrees of promoting prostitution are felonies. Mere attempts to promote prostitution are classified the same as successful efforts.
The Consequences of a Promoting Prostitution Conviction
Promoting prostitution in the first degree is a Class B felony, which is punishable by as much as ten years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. Promoting prostitution in the second degree is a Class C felony. The court can impose up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Felony convictions also make life after prison time more difficult; there can be consequences for your ability to get work, housing, education, and professional accreditations. Even your contact with or custody of your minor children can be affected.
If the court determines a no-contact order is appropriate to restrict the defendant’s ability to contact the alleged victim (here, the prostitute involved) or other witnesses, the court can enter that order either after the defendant has been charged or after a conviction. Violation of the order can lead to arrest, and in situations where the violation results in violence, further felony charges. To facilitate enforcement of the no-contact order, the order is entered into a state-wide law enforcement database and can be enforced anywhere in Washington.
But promoting prostitution, in either the first or the second degree, is not considered a sex offense under Washington law. This detail is important because it means that a conviction for promoting prostitution will not expose you to the duty to register as a sex offender, a duty which often lasts several years (if not indefinitely) and can have a major impact on your rights and freedoms long after release from prison.
How The Marshall Defense Firm Will Tackle Your Defense
Facing criminal charges is daunting and stressful, but you’re not alone. The Marshall Defense Firm has the knowledge, skill, and expertise to help you present the strongest defense possible.
The government will only succeed in proving a promoting prostitution charge if it establishes that the defendant knew he or she was advancing and profiting from prostitution. Perhaps you didn’t realize the person you were dealing with was a prostitute—you thought you were just acting as a Good Samaritan by helping that person. Maybe you simply offered this help at the wrong place and time. The government can’t convict you if you lacked the knowledge required by the language of the law.
Another factor that may play an important role in your defense is prosecutorial overreach. Prosecutorial overreach occurs when an overly-zealous prosecutor wields his or her power not to ensure justice is done under the law, but to secure as many convictions as possible. While promoting prostitution charges traditionally penalized pimps, prosecutors in Washington State are now using the law to charge individuals whose conduct falls outside that traditional context. For instance, in 2016, King County became the country’s first jurisdiction to charge an organized sex-buyers group with promoting prostitution of a group of Korean women brought to the U.S. as prostitutes. Cases like these have raised concerns that, while preventing sex trafficking is an important objective of the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor had stretched the promoting prostitution statute farther than it ought to have gone to reach conduct outside the intended scope of the law.
Finally, the First Amendment may shield you from a promoting prostitution conviction if statements you made about alleged prostitutes (online, for instance) form the sole basis of the charges against you. The First Amendment protects your right to freedom of speech. A promoting prostitution charge based solely on your statements effectively penalizes you for speaking, which violates your constitutional right to free speech.
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 people against charges related to sex and sexual assault. 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.