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Are brothels legal in Las Vegas?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Dec 21, 2018 | 0 Comments


No. Under NRS 244, 345, brothels are illegal in Las Vegas and throughout all of Clark County. In fact, Nevada prostitution laws forbid any form of trading sex for money in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County.

Nevada brothel system

Nevada permits prostitution only in licensed brothels. Currently, only seven Nevada counties have legal, licensed brothels. These counties are:

  • Elko (only in the incorporated towns of Elko, Carlin, Wendover and Wells)
  • Lander
  • White Pine (only in the incorporated city of Ely)
  • Nye
  • Mineral
  • Lyon (only in Mound House)
  • Storey

Three other counties do not outlaw prostitution; however, they have currently have no licensed brothels where legal prostitution may occur. These counties are:

  • Esmerelda
  • Churchill 
  • Humbolt (only in the incorporated town of Winnemucca)

Nevada state law prohibits prostitution in counties with 700,000 or more residents, which disqualifies Clark County (including Las Vegas). Additionally, the county governments of Douglas, Lincoln, Eureka, Pershing, and Washoe Counties (including Reno) have also outlawed prostitution. Prostitution is also illegal in Carson City.

Nevada brothel regulations

In an effort to safeguard public health and safety, the Nevada brothel system is heavily regulated. A sampling of the rules that licensed brothels must follow are the following:

  • Brothel prostitutes must take regular HIV and STD tests.
  • Brothel prostitutes must use condoms.
  • Brothel prostitutes must be 18 or older.
  • Brothel prostitutes must have Nevada work cards.
  • Brothel prostitutes must choose to work and not be coerced.
  • Brothels must pay prostitutes fair wages.
  • Brothels may not be close to a school or a church.
  • Brothels may not be on a principal street.
  • Brothels may not advertise in counties that outlaw prostitution.

Currently, there are about 21 legal brothels in Nevada. The nearest ones to Las Vegas are in Pahrump (in Nye County).

Penalties for prostitution outside of a licensed brothel

People convicted of selling sexual favors for money face a Nevada misdemeanor charge of:

  • up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
  • up to 6 months in jail

Customers ("johns") convicted of paying for sexual favors face harsher penalties for each successive conviction.

A first-time conviction of paying for sex is punished as a misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail, and
  • an additional fine of $400, and
  • a civil penalty of $200 (or 20 hours of community service)

A second-time conviction of paying for sex is punished as a gross misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 364 days in jail, and
  • an additional fine of $800, and
  • a civil penalty of $200 (or 20 hours of community service)

A third-time conviction of paying for sex is also punished as a gross misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 364 days in jail, and
  • an additional fine of $1,300, and
  • a civil penalty of $200 (or 20 hours of community service)

Prostitution becomes a category B felony if the defendant knew he/she had HIV. The sentence is:

People convicted of misdemeanor prostitution in Nevada must wait no less than one (1) year after the case ends to get their criminal record sealed. And prostituting with HIV carries a five (5) year waiting period to get a record seal. But if the charge gets dismissed, the defendant can pursue a record seal right away.

Note that the solicitation of prostitution is punished identically to prostitution. So, offering to trade sex for cash carries the same sentence as actually going through with the trade.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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