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Car Wash Cheerleaders Raise Prostie Issue

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada Supreme Court justices questioned Wednesday whether high school cheerleaders trying to flag down motorists for a car wash might run afoul of a broadly written ordinance targeting pushy Las Vegas-area prostitutes.

Justices Michael Douglas and Ron Parraguirre raised the possibility during a hearing on an appeal filed by Lani L. Silvar, charged under the Clark County ordinance with misdemeanor “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.”

While the high court’s ruling won’t be issued until a later date, Parraguirre expressed concern that the ordinance was “terribly open.” He said an arrest would be based on “essentially a hunch by anyone who’s enforcing the statute” that an illegal act of prostitution might occur.

Under the ordinance, police can arrest someone who “repeatedly beckons to, stops, attempts to stop or engage persons passing by in conversation, or repeatedly stops or attempts to stop motor vehicle operators by hailing, waiving of arms or other bodily gestures.”

Susan D. Burke, Silvar’s lawyer, said that wording “criminalizes totally legal behavior” and could lead to the arrest of people going out of their way to “hook up” with someone else for a date.

Burke, in legal briefs filed in advance of Wednesday’s hearing, said a woman tourist “who happens to have the bad taste to dress in flashy, cheap and somewhat revealing clothing” might mistakenly wave to an undercover officer thinking he’s a friend, and be arrested.

The ordinance is too vague and arbitrary and encourages arbitrary enforcement by police, Burke said, adding that it anticipates overt activity that has not yet occurred, such as soliciting or actual prostitution – which are prohibited under separate ordinances.

Deputy Clark County District Attorney Sonia Jimenez argued that the loitering ordinance wasn’t vague, and people stopped by officers wouldn’t be arrested if they had an explanation for their activity that overcomes an officer’s “reasonable suspicion.”

Silvar was arrested in 2003 by Las Vegas Metro Detective J. Signorello, who said Silvar got into his unmarked car and asked, “Hey honey, you dating?” Police say that’s a street phrase for soliciting prostitution.

The detective said he wasn’t “dating,” and then identified himself as an officer and arrested Silvar. He also said she admitted that she had been offering him sex for money, and a police check turned up an outstanding warrant based on another prostitution charge.

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