Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

If you have been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor in Bellevue or elsewhere in western Washington, you need the help of an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer. I protect the rights of defendants in criminal cases throughout Washington. To protect your freedom, call me at (425) 657-3192 for a free and confidential consultation.

Sexual exploitation is a broad category of offenses under Washington law, including Internet communications, child pornography, and sex tourism. Federal laws and sentencing guidelines play a role in some alleged offenses, which can lead to lengthy prison sentences. A conviction under state or federal law could also result in mandatory registration as a sex offender for a period of years or for the rest of your life. Alleged sexual exploitation accusations can be a target for overzealous police, prosecutors, and judges who want to “send a message” about child protection, and even honest mistakes can lead to damaging criminal cases.

Washington state law’s definition of “sexual exploitation of a minor” involves the photography or live performance of “sexually explicit conduct” by a minor, defined as someone under the age of eighteen. A “live performance” is any sort of exhibition presented to at least one person. The statute defines the offense as compelling, employing, or otherwise causing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct that the person knows will be photographed or viewed by an audience. It also includes a parent or guardian who allows a minor under their care to engage in such acts.

Child Pornography

“Sexual exploitation” can also include filming, photographing, or otherwise recording sexually explicit conduct by someone a person knows to be a minor. This offense may fall under the category of child pornography [link to Child pornography practice page], and it is a very serious allegation at both the state and federal levels. Internet activity is frequently a key component of a law enforcement investigation, including exchange of pictures and other materials over the Internet that are alleged to constitute child pornography. Material could end up on a person’s computer via malware, or even in a pop-up ad that remains in the browser’s temporary Internet files.

Internet Communications

Communication with a minor, most often via the Internet, for “immoral purposes” is another form of sexual exploitation under Washington law. This may include chat room conversations, e-mails, correspondence on social media, or text messages. The statute specifically states that the “minor” involved in the communication does not need to actually be a minor, as long as the person believes the other person is a minor. This allows for prosecutions based on police stings.

Sex Tourism

Washington and federal law prohibit promotion of travel for the purpose of engaging in “commercial sexual abuse of a minor,” defined as payment of a fee in exchange for sexual conduct with a minor. “Promotion of travel” may include sale of travel services that facilitate commercial sexual abuse. Federal law prohibits travel within the U.S. with the intent of engaging in such conduct, and in some circumstances it imposes criminal penalties for traveling abroad with such intent. Prohibitions on travel for this purpose, often known as “sex tourism,” do not always require the person to actually engage in the conduct.

Sexual exploitation offenses are felonies under state and federal law, with potential penalties of five or more years of imprisonment. Prosecutions in cases like these often rely on technical evidence related to electronic communications. I use the services of computer experts who can help identify any and all mitigating evidence on your hard drive, such as the presence of malware or interference from hackers. Contact my firm today online, or call toll-free at (425) 657-3192 for a free and confidential consultation.