Prostitution in Nevada: Laws and Penalties

Is Prostitution Legal in Nevada?

Nevada is the only state in the union where prostitution is legal. However, Nevada permits prostitution only in licensed brothels located in just eight counties in the state. In the other counties and outside of licensed brothels in the counties where prostitution is legal, prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanor crimes in Nevada.

Pandering is illegal in Nevada and is a felony. The crimes of soliciting and pandering carry greater penalties when the crimes involve individuals under the age of 18, and those penalties include registration as a sex offender under Nevada law.

For more information on the crimes of prostitution, solicitation, and pimping in general, see Prostitution.

What is Prostitution and Solicitation in Nevada?

Nevada law defines prostitution as engaging in sexual conduct for a fee. Sexual conduct includes sexual intercourse, oral-genital contact, or any touching of the genitalia or other intimate parts of a person in order to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of either person. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.295.)

It is a misdemeanor crime in Nevada to engage in or solicit (that is, seek out) prostitution except in a licensed house of prostitution. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.354.) A person who seeks out sexual conduct for a fee (also known as a “john”) is soliciting prostitution. The crime of solicitation increases to a felony, with greater penalties, if the john solicits a person under the age of 18. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.295 (3).)

What is Pandering in Nevada?

A person may be convicted of pandering in Nevada if he or she induces, persuades, encourages, entices, or compels another person to become or continue to work as a prostitute. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.300 (a).) So, this crime encompasses a person’s efforts to persuade another person to work as a legal prostitute in a licensed brothel, as well as efforts to persuade another person to perform sex for money outside of that legal setting. In other words, while it is legal in Nevada to both perform and seek sex for money in one of the state’s licensed brothels,  it is illegal for anyone to recruit sex workers.

Pandering is a felony in Nevada, and the penalty for the crime is enhanced where the target of the panderer is under 18 years of age. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.295 (2)(b).) The Nevada pandering law does not apply to johns. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.295 (3).)

The intent to persuade another to engage in prostitution is essential to the crime of pandering and, where the intent is present, it is irrelevant that it is not successful.

It is a felony in Nevada to receive the earnings of a prostitute without consideration (meaning, without offering anything in return, such as a job in a licensed brothel). (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.320.) And, it is also a felony to transport any person into or within Nevada with the intent to induce them to engage in prostitution. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.340.)

Laws Governing Brothels in Nevada

Although prostitution is legal in Nevada, it is subject to many restrictions. And, as noted above, outside of licensed brothels in the eight counties where it is legal, prostitution is a crime. Even in the counties where prostitution is legal, there are limits on brothel location and who may work at them.

Restrictions on brothel location

A brothel licensed in Nevada may not be operated within 400 yards of a school or house of worship. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.380.)

Nevada also outlaws the operation of a brothel in a building that fronts, or has entrances or exits onto, a principal business street or thoroughfare anywhere in the state. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.390.) This law extends to owners of property that is rented to others.

HIV testing

Anyone arrested for prostitution must submit to a test to detect exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”). (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.356.) And, anyone who engages in prostitution, even in a licensed brothel, after being notified that he or she tested positive for HIV (whether as a result of a court-ordered test after arrest or otherwise) may be charged with a felony. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.358.)

Defenses

A person charged with prostitution, solicitation, pandering, or other prostitution-related offenses may raise a number of defenses. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

No “sexual conduct”

Prostitution in Nevada is defined as sexual conduct in return for compensation. Under Nevada law, sexual conduct includes intimate touching intended for the arousal or sexual gratification of either party. So, the aesthetician who gives you that smooth “boy-zilian” that you need to don your tiny Speedo at the Mirage’s pool is not violating the law—no one involved in a bikini wax intends (or imagines) that either party will experience arousal or sexual gratification.

No specific intent to pander

Julia Roberts will be relieved to know that a Nevada court ruled in 2011 that she is not guilty of pandering, even if some women were drawn into prostitution thanks to her extremely unrealistic and sugar-coated portrayal of prostitution in the film “Pretty Woman.” The court noted that a “specific” intent to induce a particular person to engage in prostitution is required in order for a prosecutor to convict a person of pandering. So, Julia and anyone else who has romanticized prostitution to such an extent that impressionable viewers took up the profession can party in Vegas without fear of arrest for pandering. Many in Hollywood will breathe a sigh of relief at the news.

But, as noted above, it is no defense that the target of the pandering has no intention of engaging in prostitution—if a person intends to induce the target into prostitution, that is pandering.

How Are Prostitution-Related Crimes Punished in Nevada?

The penalties for prostitution and related crimes differ based on the particular crime. As noted above, if the prostitute is under 18 years of age, the penalties are increased substantially.

Prostitution and solicitation

A person convicted of the misdemeanor crime of either prostitution or solicitation in Nevada may face a jail term for not more than six months, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.354 (2), 193.150.) Community service may be ordered in lieu of jail or a fine.

A person convicted of felony solicitation of a person under the age of 18 in Nevada may face confinement in a jail for not less than one year and not more than four years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.354 (3), 193.130 (2)(e).) And, a person convicted of soliciting a minor also may be ordered to register as a sex offender. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179D.115.)

Pandering

A person convicted of the felony of pandering (including transporting another to engage in prostitution) may face imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than four years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.300 (2)(a), 193.130 (2)(d).)

Where the defendant is convicted of pandering a person under the age of 18, the penalty increases to imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than 10 years, the fine increases to not more than $10,000, and the defendant also may be required to register as a sex offender. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.300 (2)(b), 193.130 (2)(b), 179D.115.) The court may also increase the fine imposed to up to $100,000 if the victim is between ages 14 and 18, or up to $500,000 if the victim is under the age of 14. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.352.)

A person convicted of the felony of receiving the earnings of a prostitute in Nevada may face imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than four years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.320, 193.130 (2)(d).)

Violation restrictions on licensed brothels

A Nevada court may impose a fine of not more than $500 for operating a brothel within 400 yards of a school or house of worship, or fronting a principal business street or thoroughfare. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 201.380, 201.390.)

Engaging in prostitution after testing positive for HIV

A person convicted of the felony of engaging in prostitution after learning that he or she has tested positive for HIV may face imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than 10 years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.358 (1)(b).)

Suspension or revocation of teaching certificate

The State of Nevada may suspend or revoke the teaching certificate of a person on the basis of “immoral conduct” or after being charged with a crime involving “immorality or moral turpitude.” (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 391.330 (1), 391.314 (7).)

Sex Offender Registration

A person convicted of soliciting a prostitute under 18 years of age, or of pandering where the target is under 18 years of age will also be designated a “sexual offender” under Nevada law. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 179D.115 (1)(c), 179D.441.) In addition to any prison sentence and/or fine, this designation requires that the offender’s name(s), addresses, fingerprints, and other identifying information be placed on a public database and with local police departments. Registered sex offenders are restricted in where they can live, work, or even be present in Nevada.

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with prostitution, prostitution-related crime, or any other sexual crime, see a lawyer experienced in criminal defense law in Nevada. If you are charged with any crime that carries the possible requirement that you register as a sex offender, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. Registering as a sex offender severely limits where you can work, live, and spend time, and it follows you even after the end of the registration period specified in the statute because it is in public databases and remains on your record. Do not delay in finding a lawyer.

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