A Las Vegas man was found guilty last month of sex trafficking, marking the first conviction for the state offense. The offense of sex trafficking was created with the passage of AB 67 in 2013. Prosecuting sex trafficking has been a major focus of law enforcement in recent years, and a successful conviction is likely to herald more people facing these charges. It is critical, therefore, to understand the differences between charges relating to sex work.

Sex work, generally, is a broad term that applies to people who engage in sexual acts as a profession. Sex work crosses the legal line when it becomes prostitution. Nevada law defines prostitution as the act of engaging in “sexual intercourse, oral-genital contact, touching the sexual organs or other intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person” for pay or anything of value.

Both the act of engaging in prostitution and soliciting prostitution (being a “John” or customer) are misdemeanors, unless the person involved was in a licensed brothel. There are no licensed brothels in Clark County.

Penalties are more significant for people accused of being the business of managing and recruiting prostitutes. In the past, these people, often called “pimps,” have faced charges of pandering.

Pandering remains a crime under Nevada law. If charged with pandering, a person is accused of inducing a person to engage in prostitution or to continue to engage in prostitution without engaging in physical force or the threat of physical force. The charges are a Class C felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Under the new, more serious sex trafficking charges, a person who takes, places, harbors, induces, causes or compels a person into sex work using force, threats, fraud or intimidation can be convicted of a Class B felony. It is the same charge to harbor, induce, recruit, transport, obtain or maintain a sex worker knowing force, threats, fraud or intimidation to compel that person into that work.  A Class B felony is punishable by three to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Additionally, if any sex worker involved was a child, the charges become sex trafficking, whether or not force or threats were involved. Charges are a Class A felony. If the child was between 16 and 18 years old, there is a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. For a child between 14 and 16, the mandatory minimum is 10 years. Trafficking any child sex worker younger than 14 will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under state law.

Regardless of the offense, any charge involving sex work is serious. It’s important to immediately contact a Las Vegas prostitution defense lawyer if accused.

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