Sex Offense Overview in Washington State

Washington law applies the term “sex offense” to a broad range of alleged criminal acts, from rape to possession of obscene materials. The type of offenses and penalties vary depending on the nature of the alleged act, the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim, and the capacity of the alleged victim to consent to sexual activity. Many sex offenses include mandatory registration as a sex offender as a penalty. Accusations of a sex offense can bring a higher level of public attention and social stigma than other criminal charges, so a defendant charged with an alleged sex crime should seek the assistance of an experienced Washington State sex crimes attorney. I have assisted people throughout the state by reviewing witness statements, police reports, and physical evidence to challenge prosecutions under Washington’s sex offense statutes.

Sex Offenses as a Category

Washington’s criminal statutes describe a wide array of “sex offenses,” including rape, child molestation, sexual misconduct with a minor, voyeurism, and custodial sexual misconduct. Most sex offenses involve sexual intercourse or sexual contact, generally defined as contact with another person’s “sexual or intimate parts.”

The issue of consent is central to alleged sex offenses. Rape, for example, involves sexual intercourse or contact without the consent of the alleged victim, through force or the threat of force, or when the alleged victim lacks the capacity to give consent due to intoxication or other impairment. In the case of a person who lacks the capacity to consent to sexual activity because of mental impairment or developmental disability, the offense of indecent liberties may apply. In cases of alleged victims under the age of sixteen, lack of consent is presumed by law, although the exact “age of consent” ranges from twelve to sixteen depending on the difference in age between the defendant and the alleged victim.

Some sex offenses are defined in part by the nature of the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim. The offense of custodial sexual misconduct occurs when an employee of a jail or other correctional institution engages in sexual intercourse or contact with someone in the custody of that institution. The offense of indecent liberties may apply to a health care provider, when sexual intercourse or contact allegedly occurs during an examination or treatment session.

Sex Offender Registration

Many convictions of a sex offense under Washington law require registration as a sex offender. This applies to anyone residing or attending school in the state, as well as anyone whose employment is primarily based in Washington. Registered sex offenders may have prohibitions on where they may live or work, and they must maintain their registrations and keep the state notified of their whereabouts. Certain violations of these prohibitions, such as entry upon prohibited properties like school campuses, may result in additional criminal charges for trespass.

Other Sex Offenses

Washington identifies other offenses that may involve sexual materials or conduct, but are not categorized as “sex offenses.” These offenses generally do not involve direct sexual contact with an alleged victim. Obscenity laws prohibit the display or distribution of certain types of “erotic” or “obscene” materials, particularly those involving minors. The offense of “sexual exploitation of a minor” involves the inducement of a minor to engage in sexual activity as part of a performance, including both photographed materials or a live performance. This offense may also apply to parents or guardians of a minor who knowingly allow such conduct to occur.

Have you or a loved one been charged with an alleged sex offense in Bellevue or elsewhere in Washington State? If so, an experienced sex crimes attorney can help. I have defended  the rights of my clients in criminal cases throughout Washington. Prosecutions in cases like these often turn on the credibility and reliability of the witnesses. I have obtained acquittals and dismissals. Contact us today online or at (425) 657-3192 for a free and confidential consultation.