Safe Access to Medical and Police Assistance

Problem: There are many reasons sex workers and people in the sex trade, our friends, family, and members of our support networks might hesitate calling 911 for medical and police assistance when we experience violence and other crises. One of the fears is that by calling 911, we would end up being charged with prostitution-related crimes instead of receiving the assistance we need.

Solution: Establish immunity for sex workers and people in the sex trade, our friends, family, and members of our support networks who call 911 for medical and police assistance when we experience violence and other crises similar to the protection that already exists for people experiencing drug overdose and those who call for medical assistance on their behalf from being charged with possession.

Washington law (RCW 69.50.315) states:

(1) A person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance pursuant to RCW 69.50.4013, or penalized under RCW 69.50.4014, if the evidence for the charge of possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the person seeking medical assistance.
(2) A person who experiences a drug-related overdose and is in need of medical assistance shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance pursuant to RCW 69.50.4013, or penalized under RCW 69.50.4014, if the evidence for the charge of possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the overdose and the need for medical assistance.

The legislature further explains the intent behind this statute as follows:

The legislature intends to save lives by increasing timely medical attention to drug overdose victims through the establishment of limited immunity from prosecution for people who seek medical assistance in a drug overdose situation. […] Many drug overdose fatalities occur because peers delay or forego calling 911 for fear of arrest or police involvement, which researchers continually identify as the most significant barrier to the ideal first response of calling emergency services.

We are looking into pushing for a parallel legislation in the State legislature to protect sex workers and people in the sex trade when we need to seek medical or police assistance when we experience violence or other crises. Alternatively, we may pursue City or County ordinance directing the local law enforcement to deprioritize prostitution charges in these circumstances, or simply a letter signed by the Chief of Police and County Sherriff instructing them to do so.

We are exploring these and other possibilities to establish a credible assurance for sex workers and people in the sex trade that, while there may be other barriers to calling for assistance, the fear of prosecution under prostitution laws will not be one of them.

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