Nevada is the only state in the U.S. with legalized prostitution. However, it is only permitted in a handful of licensed brothels in 10 of the state’s 16 counties. Prostitution is illegal in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno.
Here are five key things to know:
- A first offense of prostitution or soliciting prostitution is generally a misdemeanor in Nevada.
- The maximum jail sentence is 6 months, though courts typically impose probation, up to $1,000 in fines, and an AIDS Awareness class.
- Typical defenses are that the police entrapped you or that you did not make an “overt act” of solicitation.
- In the counties that permit prostitution, the sex workers must be at least 18, submit to regular STD testing, and use condoms.
- Soliciting a child prostitute is always a felony.
1. Is prostitution legal in Nevada?
Yes. Regulated, licensed brothel prostitution is currently legal in Nevada but only in the following counties:
- Churchill County
- Elko County (only in incorporated Elko, Carlin, Wendover, and Wells)
- Esmeralda County
- Humbolt County (only in incorporated Winnemucca)
- Lander County
- Lyon County (only in Mound House)
- Mineral County
- Nye County
- Storey County
- White Pine County (only in incorporated Ely)
These counties prohibit any act of prostitution outside of Nevada’s legal brothels. All sex workers employed by a licensed house of prostitution must
- be adults (at least 18 years old),
- have work cards,
- get paid fair wages,
- use condoms,
- work of their own free will, and
- regularly test for sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and HIV.
Examples of illegal prostitution include streetwalking, escort services, and “happy ending” massage parlors
Currently, about 21 brothels operate throughout seven rural Nevada counties. At one time, there were 35 operating brothels in Nevada. Brothels may not be located on principal streets or within 400 yards of schools or places of worship. Nor may they advertise in public theaters, on public streets, or in any city or county where prostitution is illegal.
The nearest legal brothels to Las Vegas are in Pahrump (in Nye County).1 State law now allows licensed brothels to employ male sex workers and females, but this rarely happens.2
2. In which Nevada counties is prostitution illegal?
All forms of prostitution remain illegal in:
- Clark County (which contains Las Vegas)
- Douglas County
- Eureka County
- Lincoln County
- Pershing County
- Washoe County (which contains Reno)
- Carson City
Prostitution is typically regulated at the county level. However, state law prohibits any county with a population of at least 700,000 people from allowing prostitution.3
3. Are prostitution and solicitation the same crime?
Prostitution and solicitation are treated as the same crime in Nevada and carry the same penalties, although the terms have slightly different meanings.
Under NRS 201.354, Nevada law defines prostitution as the act of trading a fee for sexual favors such as
- oral sex, or
- anal sex.
Even groping over clothing counts as a sexual favor. The “fee” can be anything of value. This includes cash, jewelry, or drugs.
Nevada law defines “solicitation of prostitution” as offering or agreeing to commit prostitution. In short, it is attempted prostitution. You can be charged with solicitation even if the sexual act never actually happens, as merely agreeing to exchange sex for compensation is illegal.
Example: Mario is an undercover cop stationed at a public restroom known for prostitution. At one point he overhears a woman offering a truck driver to have sex with him for $100. The truck driver declines. Then Mario breaks cover and arrests the woman for solicitation of prostitution. Had the truck driver accepted the woman’s offer, Mario could have arrested him as well for solicitation of prostitution.
Had Mario caught the woman and truck driver later on after they had sex and exchanged the money, the prosecutors would still bring the same charges since prostitution and solicitation are treated as the same crime.
Typical solicitation settings in Las Vegas are street corners, bars, lounges, strip clubs, nightclubs, massage parlors, reflexology parlors, gentlemen’s clubs, and casinos. People also solicit prostitution
- over the phone,
- through print ads, or
- on websites.4
See our related articles, Examples of soliciting a prostitute and Are prostitution and solicitation the same thing in Nevada?
4. What are the penalties?
|Prostitution/Solicitation crime||Nevada penalties |
|You are the alleged prostitute (NRS 201.354)||Misdemeanor: |
|You are the alleged customer (NRS 201.354)||A first offense is a misdemeanor: |
A second offense is a gross misdemeanor:
A third offense is also a gross misdemeanor:
You may do community service in lieu of paying the civil fine.
|You are a prostitute who knows you have HIV or other communicable disease (NRS 441A.180)||Misdemeanor: |
|You are an alleged customer soliciting a child under 18 (NRS 201.354)||A first offense is a category D felony: |
A second offense is a category C felony:
A third or subsequent offense is a category B felony:
Probation or suspended prison sentences are not available for soliciting a child for prostitution.
|You have three prior soliciting convictions in the last five years, and you get caught again soliciting in a casino – “Repeat Solicitation” (NRS 207.203)||Misdemeanor: |
Prosecutors usually press for jail.
4.1. Getting the charge dismissed
Some prosecutors will dismiss a first-time prostitution charge through a diversion program if you complete these terms:
- A $250 fine or 25 hours of community service;
- An AIDS Awareness class. This is commonly called “John School”; and
- Avoiding any other arrests or citations (other than for minor traffic violations) until the case is closed.
If the prosecutor refuses to dismiss the charge, the defense attorney may instead be able to get the charge reduced to trespass (NRS 207.200) or disorderly conduct (NRS 203.210). These low-level offenses carry less of a stigma with potential employers and background checks.
5. How can I fight the charges?
Three common defenses that Las Vegas prostitution attorneys use to fight solicitation charges include:
- Illegal police search, and
- Lack of overtness
Entrapment is an illegal police practice. It is where law enforcement officers trick you into committing a crime you are not predisposed to. If you would not have committed solicitation but for the police meddling, then you have been entrapped.5
Example: As part of a sting operation, a decoy policeman is plying a random female bar patron with drinks and then suggests he pay her cash for oral sex. She says yes, and the policeman then arrests her for solicitation of prostitution.
Here, solicitation charges should not stand. This is because the police entrapped the woman by making her drunk. Plus there is no evidence to show that she was predisposed to solicitation.
5.2. Illegal police search
In Florida, an illegal search recently occurred when police recorded New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a massage parlor receiving sexual favors. His defense lawyers persuaded the judge that the video was unlawfully obtained. Without that video evidence, the state’s prostitution case against Kraft fell apart.6
5.3. Lack of overtness
Nevada law requires that solicitation be “overt” in order to be criminal.7 The most common example of overt solicitation is a verbal agreement to trade a specific amount of money for certain sexual conduct.
In these cases, a criminal defense attorney may try to argue that your words were too ambiguous to qualify as solicitation. Typical evidence in these cases includes surveillance video and witness testimony.
6. Will this show on a background check?
Yes, prostitution cases show up on background checks unless you get the criminal record sealed.
If your charge gets dismissed, you can immediately petition for a record seal. Otherwise, there is a waiting period depending on your convicted crime category.
Record seal waiting time in Nevada
|Misdemeanor (the majority of cases)||1 year after the case ends|
|Gross misdemeanor||2 years after the case ends|
|Category B felony||5 years after the case ends|
|Dismissal (no conviction)||Immediately8|
Note that you may never seal convictions for solicitation of a child in the state of Nevada.
Learn more about how to get a record seal in Nevada.
7. Are escorts legal in Las Vegas?
Escort services are legal in Las Vegas as long as:
- The escorts work for an “escort bureau” that has a current and valid business license;
- The escorts have current and valid work cards;
- The escorts’ services are limited to accompanying patrons to social engagements; and
- The escort bureau does not advertise sexual services.9
In reality, escort bureaus are often fronts for prostitution. Police routinely conduct undercover stings to catch escorts offering or agreeing to trade money for sexual acts.
8. What are related offenses?
If you are suspected of prostitution, you can face additional criminal charges depending on the circumstances of the case. Examples include:
- Open and gross lewdness (NRS 201.210). A prostitute and customer commit open and gross lewdness if they have sex in public. A first-time offense is a gross misdemeanor carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. You will also have to register as a sex offender (NRS 179D).
- Battery (NRS 200.481). Many encounters between prostitutes and customers turn violent. Battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether the victim sustains substantial bodily harm (NRS 0.060).
- Sexual assault (NRS 200.366). Johns who rape prostitutes may face up to life in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.
- Trick-rolling. This is when hookers steal cash or other valuables from “johns.” Prosecutors charge trick-rolling as robbery (NRS 200.380) if you used threats or force. Otherwise, prosecutors will bring a charge for larceny from a person (NRS 205.270). Either way, the punishment can include high fines and years of incarceration.
- Pandering (NRS 201.300(1)). Pandering is inducing, forcing, or arranging someone else to commit prostitution or to enter a location where prostitution is conducted, encouraged, or permitted, for the purpose of committing prostitution. A category C felony, pandering carries 1 to 5 years of prison time and up to $10,000.
- Sex trafficking (NRS 201.300(2)). Trafficking an adult for sex is a category B felony carrying three to 10 years in prison. Otherwise, trafficking is a category A felony carrying life in prison. (Victims of human trafficking can find help and resources here.)
- Nevada Revised Statute 201.354. See, for example, Belcher v. State (2022) 508 P.3d 410.
- Barbara Brents & Kathryn Hausbeck, State-Sanctioned Sex: Negotiating Formal and Informal Regulatory Practices in Nevada Brothels, 44 Soc. Persp. 307, 324 (2001); NAC 441A.800. NRS 201.380. NRS 201.390. NRS 201.430.
- NRS 244.345.
- NRS 201.354.
- Foster v. State, (2000) 116 Nev. 1088, 1092-1093, 13 P.3d 61, 64.
- Ken Belson and Frances Robles, Robert Kraft Wins Critical Ruling: Video Evidence Is Thrown Out, New York Times (May 13, 2019).
- Dinitz v. Christensen, (1978) 94 Nev. 230, 234, 577 P.2d 873, 875.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.
- LVMC 6.36 (“The escort bureau shall provide to each patron a written contract for services. The contract shall clearly state the type of services to be performed, the length of time such services shall be performed; the total amount of money such services shall cost the patron and any special terms or conditions relating to the services to be performed. The contract shall additionally include a statement in clear and concise language that prostitution is illegal in the City and is punishable by both fine and imprisonment and that no act of prostitution shall be performed in relation to the services contracted for. Further, the contracts provided for in this Subsection shall be numbered and utilized in numerical sequence by the escort bureau.” LVMC 6.36.060).