Nevada bill would criminalize landlords for allowing prostitution in their properties

Entrance to the State Legislature of Nevada in Carson City

Entrance to the State Legislature of Nevada in Carson City

The Assembly Judiciary Committee was urged Friday to pass a bill expanding the law that makes landlords criminally liable for allowing prostitution in buildings they own, lease or rent.

But the measure raised questions by two Assembly members and a protest from a former Las Vegas Municipal Judge because the penalty for the landlord would be significantly greater than for the prostitute or a pimp.

Prime sponsor Jill Tolles, R-Reno, said the purpose of Assembly Bill 182 is to get at human traffickers and those who knowingly allow illegal prostitution in their properties. She said it protects the landlord because he or she will not be arrested but instead will receive a certified letter from police informing the owner that prostitution is happening on his or her property. She said that gives the owner the chance to fix the problem without further police action.

“AB182 punishes a property owner with a felony for prostitution which is a misdemeanor crime,” said Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen, D-Las Vegas.

Assemblyman David Orentlicher, D-Las Vegas, said the landlord of an apartment complex could be punished for renting to a person who uses the apartment for prostitution.

“I understand the goal of capturing the landlord who turns a blind eye,” he said, but raised the question of whether AB182 is too broad.

Dayvid Figler, a Las Vegas defense lawyer and former municipal judge said it is far too broad, creating criminal liability for landlords and property owners and allowing police to “unilaterally claim a single act of prostitution has occurred.”

He said it has no threshold of proof and no procedure to challenge that notice. He added that there is no penalty for law enforcement if they’re wrong.

Figler also argued that the penalty for the landlord or property owner is a Category C felony while the penalty for prostitution is a misdemeanor and for pimping is a felony but a lesser Category D crime

He said the plan invites greater exploitation by police.

Tolles told Judiciary Chairman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, she is more than willing to work with people to refine and tailor the scope of the proposed legislation.

But she said a penalty for the property owner is necessary to get to human traffickers.

That argument was echoed by Jennifer Noble of the Washoe DA’s office who said the property owner is part of the problem.

“You can’t confront the problem without the property owner,” she said.

The committee took no action on AB182.

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