Part II: Seattle Prostitution Sting Continues Over Public Outcry

Several months ago hundreds of men were arrested in a prostitution sting operation conducted by the Seattle Police Department at a massage parlor. Female police officers dressed in disguises and offered customers a massage and a sexual act for compensation. See Prostitution Sting by Seattle Police
here. The public voiced concerns about wasting tax payer dollars on expensive undercover operations and argued the money should be used to prosecute more serious crimes like drug dealing or drunk driving.

However, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the Seattle Police Department disagreed and approved more undercover arrests. A prostitution sting on Aurora Avenue between June 24 and July 1, 2017 netted over a hundred arrests. Read about the penalties and what to expect if arrested for Solicitation or Sexual Exploitation.

The number of arrests has created a backlog of uncharged cases. The City is still filing criminal cases from last year’s sting operation. The Prosecutors are concerned about creating a burden on the court system if all the cases are charged at the same time. Defense attorneys are also slowing the government down by filing motions to dismiss and challenging the undercover operations. Time is running out on some uncharged cases. The statute of limitation under Washington law allows the government one year to file a misdemeanor offense.

Members of the criminal defense bar have formed a working group to challenge the cases on numerous constitutional grounds and government misconduct. One concern is the inaccurate labelling of the criminal offense as “sexual exploitation” versus patronizing a prostitute as used under the State statute. The former label implies the undercover officer is exploited in a felonious manner. Inaccurate descriptions of a criminal offense are misinterpreted by members of the public and potential employers. The Constitution and several statutes require an accurate description and proper notice of what constitutes a violation of our criminal code.

The motions to dismiss have been filed in front of several Seattle Municipal Court Judges and will be heard in the next few months. Contact our office to learn more about Sexual Exploitation charges and what defenses are available.