(Annie Black) – The stated purpose of Assembly Bill 182, as reported by the Nevada Appeal, was to “get at human traffickers” by going after business owners.
Indeed, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, “said a penalty for the property owner is necessary to get to human traffickers.”
The vote in the Assembly on the bill was 41-1. And, yep, I was the one. Here’s why…
Existing law already holds a business responsible if it “Knows or should know that one or more prostitutes engaging in such illegal prostitution are victims of involuntary servitude.”
But the bill takes the “involuntary servitude” part out!
Which means the bill is actually about stopping prostitution in general, not stopping sex trafficking in particular.
And while I believe myself to be a religious person, I’m also a live-and-let-live Nevadan. What happens between consenting adults behind closed doors is none of my business, let alone the government’s.
And there’s a big difference between adult women who freely choose to do sex work and women being forced into it.
The Nevada Appeal article continued…
“Dayvid Figler, a Las Vegas defense lawyer and former municipal judge said (the bill) 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.”
Indeed, as Prof. Barb Brents – who has done extensive research on sex work in Nevada – noted in her written testimony, the bill gives law enforcement officials the power to target business owners if illegal prostitution is merely suspected, not confirmed with by arrest and/or conviction.
Assemblyman David Orentlicher agreed the bill was too broad, even though he voted for it anyway.
And Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen pointed out that “AB182 punishes a property owner with a felony” while the illegal prostitution itself “is a misdemeanor crime.” Yet she, too, voted for the bill anyway.
Lastly, I have concerns about how this law would be applied. Would it target only cheap motels in low-income neighborhoods? Or would it also apply to the luxury Strip hotels and casinos in Las Vegas?
And make no mistake, illegal prostitution IS going on in these resorts. Those mobile billboards and flyers advertising “Girls to your room” aren’t promoting Bible studies.
Indeed, a suspected illegal prostitute was arrested just last week who was accused of stealing a pair of expensive watches ($37,000 and $45,000 respectively) and cash from two men who may have been drugged in their rented Cosmopolitan Resort rooms.
If this bill passes, will law enforcement apply it equally to the owners of both cheap motels and luxury resorts? Somehow, I have my doubts.
If you really want to target “involuntary servitude,” I’m all for it. But this bill doesn’t do that – except in a very broad and general way that targets legitimate business owners, like the Cosmopolitan, rather than sex traffickers.
So I chalked up my first 41-Annie vote, even though I know it’s a very controversial issue.
Annie Black is the Nevada State Assemblywoman representing District 19. You can get more information and subscribe to her AnnieGram newsletter by visiting www.AnnieBlack.net