Bill would toughen sentences on johns who solicit underage prostitutes

CARSON CITY — Declaring a “brass knuckles” approach to johns, Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced a bill Friday calling for life sentences for people who solicit minor prostitutes.

Assembly Bill 280 mandates sentences of at least one year in prison for people who solicit prostitutes ages 14 through 17. Those who solicit younger prostitutes would be sentenced to at least 10 years under the life imprisonment provision.

Assembly Bill 241, introduced earlier in the week by Hambrick, calls for a $500 administrative assessment on people who are convicted of the solicitation of a prostitute 18 and older and a $2,500 assessment on those who solicit minors.

The bills come during a session that has seen several proposed bills targeting pimps. Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, vowed earlier to target customers — johns — as a way to reduce demand for illegal prostitutes in Nevada.

More than 3,700 people were arrested on misdemeanor solicitation charges in 2010. On a per capita basis, the Nevada rate is four times as high as the second- highest state, California.

Hambrick, a former law enforcement officer, has a reputation as the legislator who helps young victims of prostitution. In an earlier hearing, witnesses said johns usually pay $300 fines and go home, and their families never find out.

Hambrick hopes his bill leads the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and hotels to advise tourists that prostitution is a serious crime.

“The word will get out quickly,” he added.

“What happens here stays here, and you may stay next to O.J. Simpson (in prison in Lovelock),” he said.

Hambrick said administrative fees would go toward the cost of specialty courts and programs to help young prostitutes.

While he doubts buyers’ ignorance that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas and Reno, Hambrick said he would give those who seek adult prostitutes the benefit of the doubt.

But, he has no doubt buyers know the law when seeking the services of an underage prostitute, particularly because the charges are five or more times as high as an adult prostitute.

“Buyers are coming here to pay more money for younger girls,” he said. “As the pimps say, ‘The more the money, the younger the age.’ ”

Hambrick, however, said he is concerned many legislators will oppose the bill because they do not want jail time imposed if the transaction with the prostitute is nonviolent.

Hambrick also fears his bills may die unheard in committees because legislators face an April 18 deadline to pass their bills out of committee, and hundreds of bills have not yet even been introduced.