May 30, 2008

Myths & Truths About Nevada Prostitution Law

Truth: Nevada is the one state in the US where prostitution is legal.

Myth: A person can visit Las Vegas and purchase a prostitute legally.

The fact is that Nevada prostitution law makes the trade legal only in counties with a population of less than 400,000. This immediately excludes Nevada’s two largest counties, Clark County (home to Las Vegas) and Washoe County (home to Reno). Moreover, even the smaller counties can outlaw prostitution if they choose, and several of the small counties have chosen to do so.

Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers indicate that a substantial number of tourists get arrested there on Las Vegas solicitation for prostitution charges. Some of the arrestees are under the mistaken belief that the activity is legal in Las Vegas, or that vice enforcement really doesn’t take place in Sin City. But many undercover sting operations take place, and these net numerous arrests.

Under NRS 201.354 , a person convicted for engaging in or soliciting prostitution in Nevada sustains a misdemeanor and the judge can send him/her to jail for as long as 6 months. If the person knowingly has HIV or another sexually transmitted disease, the penalties can be substantially greater.

May 20, 2008

California & Nevada Lewd Conduct Laws

Nevada law as to lewd conduct offenses is generally modeled upon California law. But Nevada’s statutes cast a wider net and impose harsher punishments.

California’s Penal Code 647a Lewd Conduct in Public prohibits touching oneself sexually in public, when third parties are present who might be offended. Nevada’s NRS 201.210 Open or Gross Lewdness is based on a similar concept, but applies regardless of whether a third party who might be offended is present. Two persons engaged in sexual activity in a public location can be charged under NRS 201.210 even if they are the only two people at the location.

In terms of penalties, a person convicted of second offense of Nevada’s NRS 201.210 is guilty of a felony. A second offender under California Penal Code 647a still faces only a misdemeanor.

California’s Penal Code 288 defines lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 . Nevada’s NRS 201.230lewdness with a child under 14 —is almost an identical statute. Both make it a crime to touch anywhere on the child’s body if the touching is done for the sexual gratification of either the perpetrator or the child.

But California Penal Code 288 carries a penalty of up to 8 years in prison for a first offense, and 25 to life for a repeat offender. An NRS 201.230 conviction, however, carries life in prison (with the possibility of parole) on a first offense, and life without parole for the repeat offender.

Although the two states’ laws are very similar, Nevada’s has a further reach and a stronger punch.

May 15, 2008

California Marijuana Law Differs for Users versus Sellers

Marijuana law in California could be described as unusually lenient when it comes to casual users, and rather draconian as to sellers and distributors.

A casual user caught with under an ounce is charged with Health & Safety Code 11357 : Marijuana Possession. The maximum sentence for the offense is a $100 fine, plus county penalty assessments. But the person convicted could not be put in jail. Compare this with cocaine possession, which can land a person in the joint for 3 years.

The situation changes if the person is charged with Marijuana Possession for Sale under Health & Safety Code 11359 . If convicted, he faces probation, fines and up to 3 years in state prison. If the person is caught for sale of marijuana under Health & Safety Code 11360 , the prison term can be up to four years.

Finally, for cultivation of marijuana one can be convicted of Health & Safety Code 11358 . This offense carries up to 3 years is state prison. But California marijuana law makes an exception for someone who grows just a few plants for medical purposes.

The aim of the law is obviously to punish growers and sellers severely, but give casual users and possessors just a slap on the wrist. But if the substance is benign enough that it doesn’t warrant going after simple users, why do we invest enormous resources going after the suppliers?