This post was authored by Otten Johnson summer law clerk David Brewster. David is a rising third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Last month, street performers in the Ninth Circuit got a bigger tip than anticipated when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Nevada federal district court’s order granting summary judgment to three Las Vegas police officers, where the police officers ticketed two street performers on the famous Las Vegas Strip. In its ruling, the appeals court found that the street performers—who dressed up as “sexy cops” to take photos with tourists—could not constitutionally be required to obtain a business license for engaging in expressive activity and association.
Michele Santopietro is an actress turned street performer who occasionally dresses up as a “sexy cop” on the Las Vegas Strip. In March of 2011, Santopietro and her colleague Lea Patrick performed as “sexy cops” on the Strip as they were approached by three individuals indicating a desire to take a photograph. The “sexy cops” happily obliged. Following the photograph, Patrick persistently reminded the three individuals that the “sexy cops” work for tips. Unbeknownst to Santopietro and Patrick, the three individuals in question were real Las Vegas Metro police officers dressed down in street clothes. Due to Patrick’s persistence and claim that the officer entered into a “verbal contract” to give a tip, the Metro police officers arrested the two women under Clark County Code § 6.56.030 which states: “It is unlawful for any person, in the unincorporated areas of the county to operate or conduct business as a temporary store, professional promoter or peddler, solicitor or canvasser without first having procured a license for the same.” Continue Reading Las Vegas “Sexy Cops” Don’t Need a Business License, At Least For Now