2

We got into an interesting debate at work today after someone joked that a prostitute would be cheaper than dating someone. The crutch of the debate was whether Federal employees or military could use a prostitute if they went to Las Vegas.

Prostitution is legal in certain parts of LV. However, the debate was whether there was a Federal law that would prohibit travelling to another state for the express purpose of using a prostitute. At least one person suggested it was illegal due to human trafficking's laws, though I'm not convinced that is accurate.

So, could a Federal employee legally travel to LV with the intent of using a prostitute there? As a related question is it possible that it's legal, i.e. I won't end up in jail, but would be grounds for termination from Federal employment; though I realize the latter question may be more policy than a legal question.

5
  • 3
    Do you mean LV where you said LA? Aug 5 at 16:45
  • 1
    Military personnel may be subject to the uniform code (code of ethics and code of conduct) which could result in a military trial and even imprisonment. I'm not sure if this type of behavior is covered under those...
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 5 at 17:00
  • 1
    @RonBeyer: Apparently patronizing a prostitute is not a specific offense in the UCMJ, but it can be prosecuted under Article 134, which is a catch-all article barring anything "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces". This has been DOD policy since at least 2006, though it may have been prosecuted differently before that. Aug 5 at 19:09
  • 1
    @ThomasMarkov yes I meant LV, I'm incompetent. fixed that.
    – dsollen
    Aug 5 at 19:20
  • 1
    @MichaelSeifert I'm not military myself so it doesn't effect me personally, but I really hate the idea of such an open ended "we can prosecutor you for whatever we feel like it" ordinance like that. There is nothing worse then doing something you think should be completely allowed and then getting in trouble just because some random person took offense to it and decided it 'discredited' them. One should be able to know rather or not their actions are allowed before they take them.
    – dsollen
    Aug 5 at 19:23
4

Short Answer

It is not illegal for a federal employee or anyone else, who is not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to travel to Nevada for the purposes of engaging the services of a prostitute in the counties of Nevada (Clark County where Las Vegas, Nevada is located is not one such county) where it is legal.

But, this is an offense under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice applicable primarily to U.S. military personnel while serving in that capacity, even in cases where prostitution is legal under local law and the service member is not married.

Long Answer

Legal Prostitution In Nevada, In General

As another answer correctly notes that in Nevada:

Clark County, the county in which Las Vegas is located, has made prostitution illegal. . . . You also can't do it in Reno (it's illegal in Washoe County) and the nearby independent city of Carson City (Nevada State Capital).

In fact, the law only permits counties with a population of 70,000 or less to do it per county law. And before you ask, you can't go to Rachel, Nevada (closest settlement to Area 51) for some extraterrestrial ladies of the night as well as Lincoln County, while qualifying for legalized prostitution . . . prohibits it.

Of the 16 counties in Nevada, only 10 allow prostitution, all of which must be done through regulated licensed brothels only. Even then, only 8 counties have at least one active brothel in operation.

Civilian Legal Considerations In The U.S. Not Involving International Travel

It seems as if the concern of the original post might be with the Mann Act.

The Mann Act (also known as the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910) is a federal law that criminalizes the transportation of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”

(Source)

This has been revised in a manner that, among other things, is now gender-neutral and limiting it to circumstances in which the act for which the prostitute is transported is illegal. It was the first federal human trafficking law in the U.S.

This act applies to transporting the prostitute across state lines, not the prostitute's customer.

Closer to the mark is the Travel Act:

The Travel Act or International Travel Act of 1961, 18 U.S.C. § 1952, is a Federal criminal statute which forbids the use of the U.S. mail, or interstate or foreign travel, for the purpose of engaging in certain specified criminal acts.

But, since the travel would be for the purpose of an act that is legal at its destination, it wouldn't apply.

International treaties on sex tourism are inapplicable to domestic travel, and I don't try to analyze their applicability here.

None of these relevant laws treat military personnel or federal employees differently.

Prosecutions Under The Uniform Code of Military Justice

The Uniform Code of Military Justice provides an internal means of prosecuting military service members who are currently serving and a small number of other persons, via courts-martial, which are quasi-criminal proceedings with quasi-criminal punishments.

Article 134 of the UCMJ is its general provision which is a catch-all article barring anything "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces", and also certain unenumerated offenses which are illegal under local law where the offense is committed, or under federal law. Article 134 encompasses many sub-offenses which are enumerated in the Manual For Courts-Martial but not in the statutory language of the UCMJ itself.

One of the offenses which the Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in the United States prohibits is adultery (which only a handful of U.S. states do and Nevada does not), so this would be an activity, if carried out, that would be subject to court-martial for a married member of the military who is currently serving in the military and thus subject to court-martial jurisdiction. Adultery prosecutions under the UCMJ are reasonably common even now.

(A lesser included offense of adultery under the UCMJ is "wrongful cohabitation" which is akin to adultery and bigamy but does not require a showing a sexual intercourse.)

Also, as noted in the comments to the question, while patronizing a prostitute is not a specific offense in the UCMJ in the statute itself, it is another offense that can also be prosecuted under Article 134. It has been DOD policy since at least 2006 to prosecute service members under Article 134 for engaging in prostitution, whether or not the service member is married, and whether or not prostitution is legal under local law. (Prostitution is not illegal under federal law other than the UCMJ.)

This is not obvious from the language of Article 134 of the UCMJ (which is codified at 10 U.S. Code § 934), itself, which states:

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court. As used in the preceding sentence, the term “crimes and offenses not capital” includes any conduct engaged in outside the United States, as defined in section 5 of title 18, that would constitute a crime or offense not capital if the conduct had been engaged in within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, as defined in section 7 of title 18.

But, the primary and authoritative interpretive authority for Article 134 of the UCMJ is the Manual for Courts-Martial, with the force of a law or validly adopted regulation. This indicates that prosecutions for pandering a prostitute under Article 134 does not require a showing that it is illegal to do so under local law.

8
  • I'm confused, does not adulatory require one to be married? could a single military man be prosecuted for adulatory for using a prostitute even though he was never married?
    – dsollen
    Aug 5 at 20:26
  • 1
    @dsollen Article 134 has many suboffenses. Adultery is one suboffense. Patronizing a prostitute is another such office. Illegal cohabitation is the third suboffense. You can be prosecuted for more than one offense. A married service member would be guilty of adultery and patronizing a prostitute. A single one would be guilty only of patronizing a prostitute. The punishment for adultery and patronizing a prostitute is more serious than the punishment for only patronizing a prostitute.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 5 at 20:28
  • 1
    @dsollen Answer revised to clarify.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 5 at 20:34
  • Please take a look at Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2013 & 2017. Plus 22 USC § 7102. If you're a Federal Employee, you should also be receiving annual training titled something like "Trafficking in Persons" which not only says hiring a prostitute where it is legal is still a firing offense and carries penalties of fines and possible jail time (and shows all of the applicable laws and EOs).
    – CGCampbell
    Aug 11 at 14:17
  • 1
    @ohwilleke It is an Obama EO to combat human trafficking: federalregister.gov/documents/2012/10/02/2012-24374/… Frankly, I think it's dumb that in most parts of the world the only way someone can legally get paid to have sex is to film it, but with the current reality these sorts of regulations make a lot of sense.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 16 at 20:24
1

First of all, contrary to popular legend, it is not legal for anyone regardless of employer to solicite prostitution in Las Vegas. While Prostitution is Legal in Nevada, Clark County, the county in which Las Vegas is located, has made prostitution illegal. So the Federal Employee is violating the law if he/she does this in Las Vegas specifically. You also can't do it in Reno (it's illegal in Washoe County) and the nearby independent city of Carson City (Nevada State Capital). In fact, the law only permits counties with a population of 70,000 or less to do it per county law. And before you ask, you can't go to Rachel, Nevada (closest settlement to Area 51) for some extraterrestrial ladies of the night as well as Lincoln County, while qualifying for legalized prostitution with a total population of , prohibits it. Of the 16 counties in Nevada, only 10 allow prostitution, all of which must be done through regulated licensed brothels only. Even then, only 8 counties have at least one active brothel in operation.

Despite this, the U.S. laws against Sex Tourism only allow for prosecution of individuals who travel to foreign nations to engage in sex with a minor (under 18 years old) regardless of that nation's laws. Federal policy also prohibits all federal agents from foreign travel for these purposes regardless of age of the prostitute. In addition, the states of Hawaii, Missouri, and Washington make it illegal for travel agencies to promote sex tourism in the state (again regardless of age) but are not able to penalize individuals who travel for such purposes (since the federal government regulates interstate and international commerce, this is their job.).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.