Is Prostitution Legal in Las Vegas?
Confusion abounds when it comes to whether prostitution is legal in Las Vegas. While Nevada is the only state in the U.S. with legalized prostitution, state law makes prostitution illegal in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Visitors can land in considerable trouble by not understanding the laws, because both prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are criminal offenses — and the impact of a conviction can be significant. Legal representation is essential if you face either charge.
Nevada Prostitution Laws
Under Nevada state law, only counties with a population of up to 700,000 people may license brothels if the county chooses to do so. Currently, ten of the state’s 17 counties license regulated brothel prostitution. However, under the law, prostitution is illegal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, as well as in many other locations throughout the state. Soliciting prostitution (offering or agreeing to engage a prostitute for money or something else of value) is also illegal in Clark County.
The statute, found at NRS 201.354, makes it unlawful for a person to “engage in prostitution or solicitation therefor, except in a licensed house of prostitution.” Under the statutory provisions, prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are both criminal offenses. For purposes of the offenses, it does not matter whether the sexual conduct actually occurs or money actually changes hands.
The law also specifically makes it illegal to solicit a child (person under the age of 18 years) for prostitution. The offense of child solicitation includes soliciting a person under the age of 18 years, a police officer posing as a minor under age 18, or a person posing as a minor who is assisting in a police investigation.
Specific definitions apply to prostitution and solicitation offenses under NRS 201.295:
- Prostitution is defined as “engaging in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee, monetary consideration or other thing of value.”
- The term prostitute includes “a male or female person who for a fee, monetary consideration or other thing of value engages in sexual intercourse, oral-genital contact or any touching of the sexual organs or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person.”
- Sexual conduct is defined to include any conduct specified in the definition of prostitute.
Classification of Prostitution and Solicitation / Penalties
Prostitution and solicitation offenses have different classifications under Nevada law. Soliciting a prostitute is potentially a far more serious offense than prostitution.
Prostitution is a misdemeanor with penalties of a fine up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both. However, a prostitute who knows they have HIV and solicits a customer can be charged with a category B felony, with penalties of two to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Solicitation of a prostitute is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. A solicitation charge for a person offering or agreeing to engage a prostitute who is an adult over the age of 18 years is as follows:
- The first offense is a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both; an additional fine of $400; and a civil penalty of $200.
- The second offense is a gross misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000, a jail term of up to 364 days, or both; an additional fine of $800; and a civil penalty of $200.
- The third or successive offense is a gross misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000, up to 364 days in jail, or both; an additional fine of $1300; and a civil penalty of $200.
A person charged with solicitation of a child (a person under 18 years of age, as explained above) faces a felony charge. The category of the felony and penalties increase with successive offenses:
- The first offense is a category D felony, with potential penalties of one to four years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines at the courts discretion.
- The second offense is a category C felony with potential penalties of one to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines at the court’s discretion.
- The third or successive offense is a category B felony with one to six years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines at the court’s discretion.
In all cases of child solicitation, the court may not grant probation or suspend the prison sentence.
Defending Against a Solicitation or Prostitution Charge
If you face a solicitation or prostitution charge in Las Vegas, a conviction or guilty plea carries significant penalties and can have substantial longer-term negative impacts on your life. Defending against the charge by retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney is strongly recommended.
For a first-time offense of solicitation or prostitution (excluding child solicitation), it may be possible to get a charge dismissed or at least reduced to a lesser offense, such as disorderly conduct. In a specific case, the lawyer’s approach and defense strategies depend significantly on the circumstances of the situation that led to the arrest. It is always important to contact a lawyer at the earliest possible time.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you face a prostitution or solicitation charge, Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His extensive investigative and trial background and experience enable him to provide an aggressive defense to any Nevada criminal charge, regardless of the offense.
The Gersten Law Firm assists clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.