Brothels, Prostitution and Massage Licensing, Pandering, and Sex Trafficking

Prostitution means to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee, monetary consideration or other thing of value.

Is prostitution legal in Nevada?

Yes, in some places.  Nevada is the only jurisdiction in the United States that allows legalized prostitution.  Many people believe prostitution is legal in Las Vegas, but it is not.  

Las Vegas is located in Clark County, Nevada.  Prostitution is legal if carried on inside a brothel in other Nevada counties whose population is less than 700,000 people.1  The closest legal brothel is located in Pahrump, Nevada.  Pahrump is located in Nye County, Nevada and is approximately 1 hour away from Las Vegas. 

Why dont I see ads for Nevada brothels?

In an interesting First Amendment case that made its way to the Ninth Circuit, brothels are not allowed to advertise in Nevada counties where prostitution is illegal.  Further, even in the counties where it is legal, brothels cannot advertise on highways, in theaters, or on streets. 

A brothel owner, the ACLU, and two newspapers challenged the 1979 law arguing that it was overbroad and unconstitutional.  Specifically, the brothel owner claimed that it was absurd to prevent her from advertising her legitimate business when the telephone book contained hundreds of pages of escort service ads (which, to her, presumably contain advertisements for illegal prostitution). 

In 2008, a federal U.S. District Court Judge agreed with the brothel owner and struck down the laws as unconstitutional. The State later appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The higher Court found that the State’s ban targeted purely commercial speech and that the State had a legitimate interest in restricting advertising by limiting the public’s exposure to prostitution.

What are the arguments for and against legalized prostitution?

The arguments in favor of legalized prostitution are as follows.

The arguments in favor of legalization of prostitution are varied. Proponents argue that women are safer and healthier in a brothel.  They cite statistics which show prostitutes are more likely to be victims of violence than non-prostitutes.  Business Insider cites a study of San Francisco prostitutes (operating on the streets) which found that 82% had been  assaulted and 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes.2  They also provide another study of prostitutes in Colorado Springs found they were 18 times more likely to be murdered than non-prostitutes their age and race.

Further, Nevada brothel workers undergo monthly sexually transmitted disease screening and are required to have customers wear condoms.  There are obviously no such restrictions or guarantees for prostitutes working illegally. 

Proponents also cite advantages from tax revenue from legal brothels, saving law enforcement resources.  They argue that argue legal prostitution by two consenting adults is a victimless crime, and that there is no way men will stop paying for sex or that women will stop supplying it.

The arguments against legalized prostitution are as follows.

Persons against prostitution claim that the monthly health screenings do not detect STDs quickly enough and that they may spread before detection and treatment.4  Further, they argue that prostitution is immoral and evil.

Further, persons against prostitution claim that women should not be a commodity and for a government to allow women to be bought and sold relegates them to second class citizens.5

Additionally, opponents argue that legalization or decriminalization of prostitution increases both the demand for prostitution and the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.6  Further, they argue that the women are the true victims and that the enforcement and penalty should be applied to those persons seeking to hire someone for sex.

How could I get caught offering sex for money in Nevada?

Despite the fact that prostitution is legal in Nevada, the overwhelming majority of prostitution in Nevada occurs illegally in Las Vegas.  In fact, legal brothels bring in about 75 million dollars per year while the illegal sex trade bring in an estimated 5 billion dollars per year in Nevada.7

There are several ways to get caught soliciting.  The first is through a sting operation.  The police will rent a hotel room, find women in the casino, and bring the women to the room.  Once they agree upon an amount of money for some type of sexual conduct and usually after the woman takes some action based on the agreement (such as  undressing), the woman is arrested. 

This goes on through the night. Officers usually have another room in the hotel where they keep the women detained until they are all transported to jail.

Also, there are numerous websites, such as Craigslist, where people offer massages, dates, and other personal services.  The police will call/email these sites and set up a meeting.  If there is an agreement for sex and money and some act in furtherance, the police arrest the men/women.  The police will also enter legitimate massage parlors and try to engage the women into offering sexual services or wait until they are propositioned.

Another way to get “caught" is to commit a crime against the customer (trick roll).  This occurs when the proposed or actual prostitute takes something from the customer, such as money or jewelry.  Oftentimes, this occurs while the customer is asleep or passed out.  Will someone actually call the police and tell the police that a prostitute stole his money?  Possibly, but it is more likely that he will say he met a woman in the bar who agreed to come to his room.  The story goes that he passed out, woke up to find his Rolex and $10,000 missing, and doesn’t remember anything else.

Casinos and hotels have numerous security cameras, including in the hallways.  And yes, the police will investigate this crime.  They exact charges depend on the value of the item and how it was obtained. 

Petit larceny is intentionally stealing, taking and carrying away personal goods or property owned by another person that have a  value of less than $650.  This is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and 6 months in jail.

Grand larceny is intentionally stealing, taking and carrying away personal goods or property owned by another person that have a value of $650 or more.

The punishment depends upon the value of the item taken:

  1. If the value of the property involved is less than $3,500, the person who committed the grand larceny is guilty of a category C felony.  This is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  2. If the value of the property involved in the grand larceny is $3,500 or more, the person who committed the grand larceny is guilty of a category B felony.  The punishment is 1 to 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000.

Further, the person who committed the grand larceny may be ordered to pay restitution (pay back the value of the taken property). 

What are the defenses to larceny in connection with prostitution?

There are many defenses to taking property of a customer in a prostitution setting.  First, petit larceny is a specific intent crime.  This means that the State or City must show that you intended to steal the property.  Second, if the property was given to you as a gift or payment, this is not larceny. 

Third, the value of the property must be challenged.  Perhaps the value is less than $650.00 which makes it a misdemeanor crime instead of a felony.

Also, the prosecutor is allowed to add values of items of different property if they can show there is a scheme or course of conduct.  In this case, you must argue that there is no common scheme or plan.

Is it illegal to hire a prostitute?

Yes.  The act of soliciting (hiring) a prostitute and prostitution are the same crime, and are both punished as a misdemeanor.  NRS 201.354.  In both cases, the conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.  Sometimes police catch “johns” by having undercover female officers pose as prostitutes.  The undercover officer then approaches or is approached by the customer. 

Solicitation of a person for prostitution under the age of 18 years is a different crime.  This is a category E felony and is punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison.  Probation for a first offense is mandatory, but the court may impose a less than 1 year sentence in the Clark County Detention Center as a condition of probation. 

What are the defenses for solicitation of a prostitute:

  1. You can argue that you did not have the intent to actually engage in sexual conduct with the prostitute or that you did not intend to actually pay her or give her anything of value.
  2. You can argue that you renounced your intent to go through with it.
  3. Of course, if you are charged with soliciting a prostitute from an earlier encounter, your defense could be that the sexual conduct never occurred.  

However, the best course of action is to avoid criminal charges being filed against you in the first place.  If you have been charged with soliciting a prostitute in Las Vegas, call us now to discuss whether we can have your charges “dismissed” before they are ever filed against you.

Can a prostitution conviction prevent me from getting a massage therapy license?  Will it harm my current license?

Yes, you cannot get a license in Nevada for massage therapy if you have a conviction for:

  1. Prostitution;
  2. Violence;
  3. Larceny;
  4. Controlled substance related convictions; or
  5. Any other crime of moral turpitude within the 10 years prior to submitting your application.

Further, it appears that just an allegation of sexual misconduct may prevent you from getting a license.  In Nevada, you may not hold a massage therapy license if you have engaged in or solicited sexual activity during the course of practicing massage on a person, either with or without the consent of the person.  These prohibited actions include:

  1. Making sexual advances toward a person;
  2. Requesting sexual favors from a person; or
  3. Massaging, touching, or using anything to touch another person’s breasts.  Although if this is somehow necessary or desired, an applicant can seek written permission to perform these activities.

What will the Board of Massage Therapists (Board) do to me if I violate their rules?

If the Board finds that you has violated the massage regulation, the Board can issue a citation.  This citation  is in addition to any criminal penalties.  Please note that you can receive a citation even if you do not have a massage license.  The citation may include:

1.      An order to correct something with action to take and a time frame to fix it; and
2.      If a person is licensed, the Board may take the following actions.
         a.      They may place the holder of the license on probation;
         b.      Issue a pubic reprimand;
         c.      Refuse to issue, renew, reinstate or restore the license;
         d.      Suspend or revoke the license;
         e.      Impose a fine of up to $5000 for each violation;
         f.       Require the applicant or holder of the license to pay the            costs of the Board’s investigation; and/or
         g.      Impose any other terms the Board deems appropriate.

3.      If the Board finds that a person has engaged in or solicited sexual activity while massaging a customer or has been convicted of prostitution or another sexual offense while massaging a person, the Board must:
         (a) Impose a fine of  $100 to $1,000 for a first violation;
         (b) For a second violation, impose a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $5,000; and
         (c) For a third violation and for each additional violation, impose an administrative fine of not less than $500 and not more than $10,000.

In determining the amount of the fine, the Board must consider the gravity of the situation, the good faith of the licensee and whether he or she has committed any other violations.

If the person is unlicensed, the fines may be $100 to $1,000 for a first violation, $250 to $5,000 for a second violation, and $500 to $10,000 for a third violation or later violation.

It is a criminal misdemeanor to fail to comply with an order of the Board’s.  This is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.

Can I challenge the Board of Massage Therapists order?

Yes.  If you would like to challenge a written citation from the Board of Massage Therapists, call us immediately for assistance.  This process is similar to a trial where you have the right to a hearing where you can challenge:

  1. The Board’s facts;
  2. The time period to take corrective action;
  3. The amount of the fine,
  4. Any reimbursement costs for the investigation; and
  5. Whether what they ordered you to do is reasonable.
Unless we can show good cause, you only have 15 business days to from the date you receive the citation to submit a request request to contest it.  You quick action is absolutely required, or you will lose your rights.

Is having HIV while soliciting for prostitution a different crime?

Yes.  It is a category B felony to have tested positive for HIV, received the result, and then engage in conduct that is likely to transmit the disease to another person.  This is a category B felony and is punishable by not less than 2 years up to 10 years in prison.  In addition, the fine can be up to $10,000. 

This is the same punishment whether there is a mutual relationship or whether prostitution is involved.

It is a defense to this charge if the other person knew about the infection, knew the conduct could result in exposure to HIV, and consented to the conduct anyway.

Is pandering (pimping) illegal in Nevada?

Yes, pandering is illegal in Nevada.  Pandering occurs when someone induces an adult to become a prostitute, whether in a legal brothel or as an illegal prostitute.  This crime is a category C felony and is punishable by a fine of $1000 to $10,000 and 1 to 5 years in prison.  The usual term for a person who induces another to become a prostitute is a "pimp."  The crime of pandering does not refer to the customer.

Notice that pandering does not include using physical force or threat of force.  Forcing someone through violence or threat of violence is the crime of sex trafficking.  The definition of sex trafficking of children is when a person induces, causes, recruits, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, or maintains a child to engage in prostitution, either in a legal brothel or as an illegal prostitute.

No one who is convicted of sex trafficking of a child is eligible for probation.  The length of the sentence depends upon the age of the child.  If the child was less than 14 years old when the offense was committed, the crime is a category A felony and is punishable by life  in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years has been served.  If the child was 14-15 years old, the crime is a category A felony.  The punishment is also life in prison, with parole eligibility beginning after 10 years.  For a child 16 or 17 years old, the term if life with parole eligibility beginning after a minimum of 5 years has been served.

Sex trafficking of an adult can occur in two ways.  The first crime happens through threats, violence, force, intimidation, fraud, duress, coercion, or by abuse of any position of confidence or authority, or having legal charge, takes, places, harbors, induces, causes, compels or procures a person to engage in prostitution, or to enter any place within this State in which prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed for the purpose of sexual conduct or prostitution.  The second type of sex trafficking is when a person takes or detains a person with the intent to compel the person by force, violence, threats or duress to marry him or her or any other person.

A conviction for sex trafficking is a category B felony and is punishable by  3 to 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000.

Further, regardless of the type of trafficking, the claim that the victim agreed or consented to the prostitution is not a defense.  Finally, the argument that the defendant did not know the age of the victim is likewise not a defense to child sex trafficking.

What are the defenses to pandering?

There are several defenses to pandering.  If you are facing a trial for pandering, you should consult us immediately.  It is essential that your case is reviewed to discover whether you should request a jury instruction for the lesser included offense of solicitation (which is a misdemeanor instead of felony pandering).  

You may also be charged with living from the earnings of a prostitute as a separate crime.

Living from the earnings of prostitute is a separate crime in Nevada.  It is defined as knowingly accepting, receiving, levying or appropriating any money or other valuable thing, without consideration, from the proceeds of any prostitute.  This crime is a category D felony and is punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison.

The law states that any such acceptance, receipt, levy or appropriation of money or valuable thing upon any proceedings or trial for violation of this section is presumptive evidence of lack of consideration.

You should contact us immediately if you have been charged with this crime.  The presumption in this case impermissibly and unconstitutionally shifts the burden of proof to the defendant.  It must be challenged in court on record to protect and defend your rights.


If you have been charged with a crime in this section, quick action is required to protect your valuable rights.  Prostitution seems like a harmless conviction to have on your record, but it can prevent you from getting lawful, legitimate employment.  Plus, if you have a conviction and do not seal your record, potential employers and schools may find out about it. 

You can change your criminal history.  Call us if you have an old conviction hanging over your head and want to erase this from your record.

NRS 244.345(8)

Stanifer v. State, 09 Nev. 304; 849 P.2d 282 (1993).

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