Sex trafficking is a Nevada sex crime that is defined as inducing or forcing a person to engage in prostitution. Penalties may include up to life in prison and a half a million in fines. But our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to get these charges dismissed completely.
The Nevada Legislature is prioritizing the fight against sex trafficking especially when children are involved.1 Scroll down to learn about the Nevada crime of sex trafficking including the definition, defenses, and penalties.
Legal Definition of Sex Trafficking in Nevada
Broadly speaking, “sex trafficking” is causing or forcing someone to be a prostitute. Prostitution is trading money or something of value in exchange for sex acts. (Learn more about the Nevada crime of prostitution.)
Specifically, a person commits sex trafficking in Nevada by either:
- Using threats, force or fraud to induce, cause or compel a person to engage in prostitution or enter a brothel. An example would be threatening to kill the victim's family unless the victim agrees to be a prostitute; OR
- Inducing, recruiting or transporting a person while knowing (or having reason to know) that threats, violence or fraud will be used to cause that person to engage in prostitution or enter a brothel. An example would be a taxi driver driving a woman to a hotel after he overhears someone screaming at her over her cell phone to get “at least three johns” that night “or else”; OR
- Inducing, recruiting, or transporting a child under 18 to engage in prostitution or to enter a brothel. A simple example would be a pimp enticing a minor to become of his prostitutes.2
Note Nevada law has different standards for sex trafficking adults versus children. A person may be convicted of sex trafficking a child even if he/she does not use physical force or threats on the victim. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Example: Don lives in a Henderson house where he wants to run a secret brothel in his basement. Next door lives three known prostitutes: twin sisters Fay and Kay, who are 18, as well as their 17 year old sister May. Don invites the three sisters to the house, where he reveals his basement brothel plans to them. Fay and May volunteer to be his prostitutes. Kay tries to run away, but Don threatens to kill her unless she works there too. Kay manages to call the police, who then arrest Don and book him at the Henderson Detention Center.
Don in the above example will probably be charged on two counts of sex trafficking in Nevada: One for threatening Kay in order to induce her into prostitution, and the other for recruiting May to be a prostitute. Since May is a minor, it is irrelevant that Don did not use threats or force to sex traffic her. Don probably will not be charged with sex trafficking Fay (because she is an adult, and he did not subject her to any force or threats).
Note that if a person under 18 years old and is a victim of sex trafficking (or facilitating sex trafficking) commits the crime of sex trafficking (or facilitating sex trafficking) and is charged as an adult, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child acted under duress.
Also note that taking or detaining a person with the intent to force him/her to get married is also sex trafficking.3 This type of sex trafficking is especially relevant to Las Vegas, where there is no mandatory waiting period to get married.
Finally, note that sex trafficking is a separate crime from human trafficking in Nevada. Human trafficking is transporting a person into Nevada for financial gain or for illegal purposes such as forced labor.4 Learn more about the Nevada crime of human trafficking.
Prosecution of Sex Trafficking:
Law enforcement is permitted to wiretap sex trafficking suspects in compliance with the law. This means police are usually required to get a court order to wiretap someone unless it is an emergency situation. These wiretaps may then be able to come in as evidence if there is a trial.5
Learn more about Nevada wiretapping laws.
Note that Nevada sex trafficking cases may be prosecuted by either the district attorney or the Nevada Attorney General.6 The Nevada Attorney General's “Office of Advocate for Missing or Exploited Children” has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute sex trafficking crimes involving minors.
In addition to all the usual ways of proving criminal guilt, Nevada law now expressly permits the introduction of expert testimony regarding the "prostitution subculture" (NRS 201.305). This means that the prosecutor can attempt to explain otherwise innocuous actions by having an "expert" testify regarding:
(a) The dynamics of, and the manipulation and psychological control measures used in, the relationship between a prostitute and a person who engages in pandering or sex trafficking in violation of NRS 201.300; and
(b) The normal behavior and language used in the prostitution subculture.
Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking:
Sex trafficking is an entirely separate crime from “conspiracy to sex traffic.” Like it sounds, this crime occurs when two or more people scheme to carrying out a sex trafficking operation.7Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Bret and Tim plan to trick a woman they know into working for them as a housekeeper. They communicate with her about wages and job requirements, and they buy her train ticket into Las Vegas. All the while they are planning to lock her in their basement and force her to be a prostitute. Someone tips off the police, who then arrest Bret and Tim and book them at the Clark County Detention Center for conspiracy to sex traffic.
Note that Bret and Tim may be convicted of conspiracy to sex traffic even though their plan never materialized. If Bret and Tim had forced the woman into prostitution, they could be convicted of both conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and the crime of sex trafficking. Learn more about the Nevada crime of conspiracy.
Facilitating Sex Trafficking
The crime of facilitating sex trafficking is when a person either:
- facilitates, arranges, provides or pays for the transportation of a person to or within Nevada with the intent of inducing that person to engage in unlawful sexual conduct or prostitution or, if that person is a child, certain acts relating to pornography involving minors;
- sells travel services that facilitate the travel of another person to Nevada with the knowledge that the other person is traveling to Nevada for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with a victim of sex trafficking, soliciting a child who is a victim of sex trafficking or engaging in certain acts relating to pornography involving minors; or
- travels to or within Nevada by any means with the intent of engaging in sexual conduct with a victim of sex trafficking with the knowledge that the victim has been induced to engage in sexual conduct or prostitution or engaging in certain acts relating to pornography involving minors.
Facilitating sex trafficking is a category B felony carrying:
- If the victim is 18 years of age or older, 1 to 6 years in prison; or
- If the victim is less than 18 years of age, 3 to 10 years in prison. (Nevada Senate Bill 448 (2017))
Federal law prohibits recruiting children under 18 by force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of prostitution.8 Note that a person may be prosecuted and convicted on both Nevada state and federal sex trafficking laws for the same case.
Defenses to Sex Trafficking in Nevada
Sex trafficking cases are extremely complex and typically involve lengthy police investigations. Which defenses would prove most effective against NRS 201.300 charges depends on the circumstances. The following are common defense strategies:
- Lack of knowledge. Defendants with no knowledge that force or threats were used to induce adult victim into prostitution are not criminally liable under NRS 201.300. For instance, a driver paid to transport a victim commits no crime as long as he does not know she will be forced into prostitution at the destination. However, a driver paid to transport the victim to a brothel might be held liable since the driver could then reasonably deduce that the victim will be pimped as a prostitute.
- Illegal search or seizure. Courts can dismiss sex trafficking cases solely because of mistakes the police make. Sometimes cops commit illegal searches and seizures when investigating an alleged crime. In these situations, the defense attorney can file a Nevada motion to suppress. This motion asks the court to disregard any evidence seized from this illegal search. If the court complies, the prosecution may drop the charges for lack of proof.
Another defense to any crime is that the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to produce sufficient evidence to sustain guilt, the case should be dismissed.
Note that it is not a defense that the victim consented to the trafficking. Also note that it is not a defense that the defendant did not know the victim's true age.9
Penalties for Sex Trafficking in Nevada
The punishment for the Nevada crime of sex trafficking depends on the age of the victim when the offense occurred.10
18 years old and older:
Sex trafficking an adult is a category B felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:
- 3 to 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000 in fines
16 or 17 years old:
Sex trafficking a child aged 16 or 17 is a category A felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:
- Life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years, and
- maybe up to $10,000 in fines
14 or 15 years old:
Sex trafficking a child aged 14 or 15 is a category A felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:
- Life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years, and
- maybe up to $10,000 in fines
13 years old and younger:
Sex trafficking a child aged 13 or younger is a category A felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:
- Life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years, and
- maybe up to $20,000 in fines
Additional fines if the victim is a child (under 18):
Nevada courts may impose an extra fine of up to $500,000 in either or both of the following situations:
- The defendant used physical force or violence (or the threat of such force) on the child victim, and/or
- The defendant was involved in a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child.11
In addition to prison and fines, the court may order the defendant pay victim restitution in Nevada. Victim restitution includes:
- The cost of medical and psychological treatment for the victim;
- The cost of transportation, temporary housing, relocation, repatriation, and/or childcare for the victim; and/or
- The cost of lost or damaged property of the victim.
Note that victims who return to their home country are still eligible to receive restitution. Also note that victims' surviving children may receive restitution money as well.12
Sex Offender Registration:
Defendants convicted of sex trafficking are required to register as sex offenders in Nevada. Defendants convicted of sex trafficking adults are usually classified as Tier I offenders. Those convicted of sex trafficking children are usually classified as Tier II offenders. Learn more about Nevada Sex Registry Laws.13
Probation and Suspended Sentences:
Only defendants convicted of sex trafficking adults might be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence. Defendants convicted of sex trafficking children may not receive probation or a suspended sentence in lieu of prison.14
Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking:
The punishment for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in Nevada is a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence carries 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison.
Note that a defendant may be convicted both of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.15
Federal courts may impose 15 years to life in Federal Prison upon conviction of sex trafficking.16 People convicted on both Nevada state and federal sex trafficking charges serve the sentences consecutively (one after the other).
Sex trafficking suspects face civil lawsuits by their alleged victims. Defendants who lose civil lawsuits for sex trafficking face large money damages including:
- Actual damages
- Compensatory damages
- Punitive damages
- Attorney's fees and costs
- Any other relief the court deems appropriate
If the court finds that the defendant acted willfully and maliciously, the court may award “treble” damages…which is three times the amount of the actual and compensatory damages.17
Sex trafficking victims:
Note that victims of sex trafficking who have been convicted of prostitution, loitering, and/or trespass may be able to get their convictions sealed.18
Arrested for sex trafficking in Nevada? Call an attorney for help…
If you have been accused of “sex trafficking” in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. we will help guide you through the Nevada bail process. we will also try to negotiate and litigate the most favorable outcome possible for your case.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Clark County, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.