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Are Las Vegas prostitution stings legal or entrapment?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Dec 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Prostitution stings are legal if the suspects are predisposed to commit prostitution (NRS 201.354). Otherwise, stings cross the line into entrapment. Entrapment is always illegal.

What are prostitution stings in Las Vegas?

This is when police set up suspected hookers to solicit prostitution. A common sting scenario begins with the police searching Craiglist or other sites for suspected prostitutes.

These suspects typically advertise themselves as escorts. But they use coded language to suggest they are in fact sex workers Then the police pretend they are johns and arrange for a "date."

Soon an undercover officer will meet up with the suspect. This officer may be wearing a hidden camera or a bug. Or there may be other officers watching covertly nearby.

Then if the suspect asks to -- or agrees to -- trade sexual favors for money, the officers will break cover and arrest the suspect. This type of sting is perfectly lawful.

What is entrapment in Las Vegas?

Entrapment is when police trick people into committing a crime they are not predisposed to. Police are allowed to lie and deceive in order to effectuate an arrest. But they cannot cross the line into pushing a law-abiding person into breaking the law.

Example: Jack is an undercover LVMPD officer at a bar known for where hookers drum up business. A scantily-clad woman next to him begins flirting. Jack then offers her $50 to "cop a feel." The woman recoils and says she is not that kind of girl. Jack then says, "If you refuse, I'll find you later and break your neck." Terrified, the woman takes the money and says yes. Jack then breaks cover and arrests her for prostitution.

Here, Jack clearly committed entrapment. The fact the woman was scantily clad and flirty does not mean she was predisposed to prostitution. And the only reason she finally agreed to it was because Jack threatened her life. The D.A. should drop the charges immediately.

Now let us change the circumstances:

Example: Jack is an undercover LVMPD officer at a bar known for where hookers drum up business. A scantily-clad woman next to him begins flirting. Jack asks what she does, and she replies, "I show men a good time, but for a price." Jack then offers her $50 to "cop a feel." The woman accepts. Jack then breaks cover and arrests her for prostitution.

Here, Jack did not commit entrapment. Her own words indicated she was predisposed to trade sexual favors for cash. So Jack did nothing wrong by pretending to be a john and catching her in the act of solicitation.

One way to gauge if entrapment occurred is the "but for" test. If the suspect would not have broken the law but for the police's deception, then the police committed entrapment.

What are the penalties for prostitution?

A first-time conviction is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Note that johns are ordered to pay an additional $400 criminal fine and a $200 civil fine. And johns face steeper penalties for successive convictions.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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