Nevada law permits prostitution and solicitation only in licensed brothels and only in 10 of the state’s 16 counties, all with populations below 700,000 residents. To comply with the law, prostitutes must be at least 18 years of age, must submit to regular STD testing, and condoms must be used when performing sex.
Both prostitution and the solicitation of prostitutes are illegal throughout Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno.
A first prostitution offense is generally charged as a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.00. But courts often impose just a fine and an AIDS awareness class with no actual jail time.
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 brothels must be adults, have work cards, get paid fair wages, and work of their own free will. Examples of illegal prostitution include:
- Escort services, and
- “Happy ending” massage parlors
Currently, about 21 brothels operate throughout seven rural Nevada counties. The nearest legal brothels to Las Vegas are located in Pahrump (in Nye County). State law now allows licensed brothels to employ male sex workers as well as females, but this rarely happens. 1 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 on the county level. But state law prohibits any county with a population of at least 700,000 people from allowing prostitution.3
3. What constitutes prostitution under Nevada law?
Under NRS 201.354, prostitution is defined as the act of trading a fee for sexual favors such as intercourse, oral sex, or anal sex. Even groping over clothing counts as a sexual favor. And the fee can be anything of value. This includes cash, jewelry or drugs.
“Solicitation of prostitution” is offering or agreeing to commit prostitution. In short, it is attempted prostitution. Solicitation laws in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada punish the crime the same as prostitution.
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 online, over the phone, through print ads, or on websites.4
4. What are the penalties?
|Prostitution/Solicitation crime||Nevada penalties |
|The defendant is the alleged prostitute (NRS 201.354)||Misdemeanor: |
|The defendant is 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:
Defendants may do community service in lieu of paying the civil fine.
|The defendant is an alleged prostitute who knows he/she has HIV (NRS 201.358)||Category B felony: |
|The defendant is an alleged customer soliciting a child under 18 (NRS 201.354)||A first offense is a category E felony, which carries probation and a suspended sentence, with a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may order 1 to 4 years in prison, and possibly up to $5,000 in fines.) |
A second offense is a category D felony:
A third or subsequent offense is a category C felony:
Probation or suspended prison sentences are not available for third or subsequent offenses.
|The defendant has three prior soliciting convictions in the last five years, and the defendant gets 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 if the defendant completes 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 arrest 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 on background checks.
5. How can a defendant fight the charges?
Three common defenses to Nevada prostitution charges include:
- Illegal police search, and
- Lack of overtness
Entrapment is an illegal police practice. It is where officers trick a person into committing a crime to which he/she is not predisposed. If a person would not have committed solicitation but for the police meddling, then he/she has been entrapped.5
Example: 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. And there is no evidence to show that she was predisposed to solicitation.
5.2. Illegal police search
Police may conduct searches and seizures within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. If they overreach and obtain evidence illegally, the defendant may ask the judge to throw out (“suppress”) that evidence.
An illegal search recently occurred in Florida when police recorded New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a massage parlor receiving sexual favors. His attorneys 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 acts.
In these cases, a defense attorney may try to argue that the defendant’s 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 the defendant gets the cases sealed.
If the defendant’s charge gets dismissed, he/she can petition for a record seal right away. Otherwise, there is a waiting period depending on what crime category the defendant was convicted of.
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 defendants may never seal convictions for solicitation of a child.
Learn more about how to get a record seal in Nevada.
7. What are related offenses?
Prostitution suspects 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. The defendant 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 the prostitute 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.
Go back to our Nevada sex crimes page.
¿Habla español? Aprender más acerca de las leyes sobre prostitución y la Invitación en Nevada.
Arrested in California? See our article on California prostitution laws | Penal Code 647b PC.
Arrested in Colorado? See our article on Colorado prostitution laws | 18-7-201 C.R.S.
- NRS 201.354.
- 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 244.345.
- NRS 201.354.
- Foster v. State, 116 Nev. 1088, 1092-1093, 13 P.3d 61, 64 (2000).
- Ken Belson and Frances Robles, Robert Kraft Wins Critical Ruling: Video Evidence Is Thrown Out, New York Times (May 13, 2019).
- Dinitz v. Christensen, 94 Nev. 230, 234, 577 P.2d 873, 875 (1978).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.