Prostitution is only legal in the state of Nevada in a licensed house of prostitution or a brothel. Since brothels are not legal in Clark County, it is illegal to engage in prostitution, or solicitation of prostitution, in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. The penalty for misdemeanor prostitution is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The law makes it illegal both to buy and sell sex, or to attempt to buy or sell sex, which is known as “soliciting prostitution” and carries the same penalty as prostitution.
Those accused of soliciting to buy sexual services are primarily arrested by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s undercover “Vice Unit.” Notwithstanding the fact that undercover vice officers plan, in advance, to engage in conversations with potential “Johns,” or sex customers, in the majority of cases, the undercover officers make no attempt to record any of the conversations upon which they build their cases. A thorough cross-examination at trial can expose the fact that a vice officer chose not to record the conversation, which gives her the power to take “creative liberties” when quoting what the accused supposedly said months earlier at the time of the arrest. Oftentimes, what someone intends to be innocent conversation or flirting can be twisted into a soliciting charge by an overzealous officer who is expected to make several arrests per shift and who could not be bothered to record any of the conversation that she claims you had with her.
Further, even though most vice operations take place at casinos in areas covered by surveillance, most vice officers make no effort to retain the surveillance, but instead elect to allow it to be recorded over long before the accused retains counsel. This is one of several reasons why, if you are charged with soliciting prostitution, it is extremely important that you obtain counsel immediately to investigate and possibly subpoena useful defense evidence before the police allow it to be destroyed.
Vice also commonly employs undercover male officers to target suspected sellers of sex. Like their female counterparts, most male undercover vice officers make no attempt to record any of their conversations or retain surveillance videos. With no record of what was said, male officers are able to “summarize” their conversations in a manner that most justifies their arrest. Commonly, male vice officers will cleverly throw the term “date” into a conversation, or claim that they did, in an effort to bolster their case. A skilled defense team can highlight the fact that, because the officer chose not to record anything, even though the interaction was planned in advance, he has the power to exaggerate with impunity. Retaining a defense attorney immediately upon an arrest is critically important to determining what did and did not happen prior to the arrest so that an appropriate defense can be developed.