What a John Should Know: What to Expect if Caught Patronizing a Prostitute in Seattle
Patronizing a prostitute is a very difficult crime to defend for pragmatic reasons. This offense is now called “sexual exploitation” in the City of Seattle. Unless there is a dispute over what was offered and accepted, there is no actual defense if caught patronizing a prostitute. Additionally, there is currently a tremendous social backlash for involvement in this offense.
Criminal defense lawyers such as myself have argued for decades that persons selling sexual services are really victims. They are surviving the only way they know how, since addictions to alcohol or drugs, or multiple prior abusive relationships is what is usually driving the behavior. Jurors appear to be very stern and have little empathy when one of these cases goes to trial, which is rare, since most men are too ashamed to go to trial. The cards are stacked against the buyer, commonly known as a “john”.
What a john “buys” is another dilemma, and should make even the most out-of-control person rethink his decision to engage in the conduct. Sex workers on the street are often STD positive and average nearly 700 “partners” per year. This statistic staggers the imagination regarding the health risk to the john.
Legal Risks Facing The John
What is even more staggering is the large legal risk a john subjects himself to. In high concentration prostitution areas, signs are clearly posted that the area is under surveillance via video camera. Car license numbers are being recorded. Law enforcement can use information gained from those car licenses to determine driver identity. The police know who cruise high areas of prostitution. Persons who pull over to the curb on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue North above 80th Street, or on Pacific Highway South, are likely to be meeting an undercover female police officer. This officer will have no tolerance for a standard excuse like “this is the first time I’ve ever done this.”
All prostitution cases that I have defended in the last decade started with the john calling from jail. The john will be arrested. The days are long gone where the undercover cop has compassion and gives the pitiful john a break by issuing a citation and releasing the person at the scene, or, later, at the precinct. Of course, the car the john was driving gets impounded. Unanticipated costs for the reckless fling pile up quickly.
Some guys are able to bail out with the use of a credit card, usually working with a bonding company. Some get booked in during a weekend, and are unable to get out of jail until they go before a judge on Monday morning. The time in custody might take a day, or a couple of days. The reasons for this varies, but a common one is that johns do not want to “call home” and alert a wife or girlfriend when they learn they do not have enough on their credit card.
Without ever discussing the morality of sex for hire, there simply does not seem to be any good reason to engage in such risky behavior. Unless and until prostitution is legalized – and that day does not seem to be coming anytime soon – a john is engaging in behavior that has very little reward. By the time they pay a lawyer’s fee, they should be asking “is it worth it?” It’s not worth it to be arrested, jailed, convicted, humiliated and labeled for life.