The Defenses for Prostitution and Solicitation in Nevada

Don’t get caught with your pants down, legally speaking

They call it the oldest profession, and there is, indeed, historical record of prostitution going back thousands of years. The act of paying someone for sexual favors has always been morally contentious in the United States, yet the industry continues to flourish in one state.

However, the thinking that “everything goes in Vegas” isn’t strictly true. In Nevada, only counties that have a population below 700,000 are permitted to authorize the operation of brothels where prostitution can lawfully take place. The county where Las Vegas is located, Clark County, has more than 700,000 people living within it, so prostitution is not permitted with Las Vegas or its immediate proximity.

Some Nevada counties also have laws that prohibit brothels. For example, Reno is located within Washoe County, which does not permit brothels or prostitution. Most popular tourist destinations in Nevada do not allow legal prostitution, but there remain several counties where prostitution is allowed and where brothels operate. The existing brothels are spread across eight different counties, and an additional four have laws allowing for brothels, but none operate in the area.

In 2018, the owner of a half-dozen brothels in two Nevada counties announced that he would run for the state legislature. Dennis Hof’s announcement caused quite the political stir, especially as Nevada would face a ballot referendum in November that could outlaw prostitution statewide.

Brothels are regulated in order to provide safety and security to customers and workers. Said workers must be 18, tested for HIV and STDs regularly; must use condoms; and need to have a license issued by the county that they meet all the requirements, have work cards, get paid fair wages, and work by their own free will. Brothels may not be located near a school, church or military location, and must not be on a primary street of a town.

Any solicitation of prostitution outside of a brothel or bordello is illegal, and there are sting operations to catch who are seeking sex workers outside of the regulated businesses. There are three common defenses to a solicitation or prostitution charge:

  1. Entrapment: The police acted in a way that forces or coerces someone into committing a crime
  2. Misunderstanding: It was a honest mistake, and they had no knowledge that it wasn’t a regular tavern or massage parlor
  3. No Evidence: There were no overt acts of solicitation or prostitution

These defenses can be fairly complicated and nuanced, and those charged can face penalties as high as $1,000 in fines and six months in jail if they are a first time offender. If you are caught in the unfortunate situation of being charged with solicitation or prostitution, be certain to contact a reputable and experienced attorney to resolve the issue in the best way possible. 

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of criminal defense and sex offenses.

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