Arrested on Nellis Air Force Base?
Advice from Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers

Airplanes parked on tarmac at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada

Crimes Committed While Stationed at or Visiting Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada

Crimes committed by military personnel on Nellis Air Force Base are considered violations of federal law. They are punished the same as if they had been committed under the criminal law of Nevada.

Civilians who commit a crime while visiting the base are not subject to military law or jurisdiction. They will be turned over to the appropriate civilian law enforcement agency, usually the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).

Members of the military stationed at Nellis AFB who commit a crime while off-base may be prosecuted by either military or civilian authorities. In rare cases, they can be prosecuted by both. Usually, however, the authorities will come to an agreement and the person stationed at or assigned to AFB will be prosecuted under either the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or the Nevada Revised Statutes, but not both.

Unfortunately, people stationed at Nellis AFB cannot be defended in criminal cases by the legal assistance attorneys at Nellis AFB.

That's where we come in. Our federal and Nevada criminal defense lawyers are versed in all aspects of Nevada and federal criminal law and procedure. If you are stationed at Nellis AFB and are charged by civilian authorities, we can help you fight your Nevada or federal criminal charges. We can also defend you if you are a civilian accused of a crime while visiting Nellis.

To help you learn more about crimes committed by members of the military or those visiting Nellis AFB, our Las Vegas, Nevada criminal lawyers discuss the following, below:

gavel lying next to stack of papers labeled "COURT MARTIAL"

1. What agency prosecutes crimes committed on Nellis AFB?

Nellis AFB falls within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.1 It is sometimes referred to as a “federal enclave” of the United States. Crimes committed on Nellis AFB by military personnel are, therefore, usually subject to court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and prosecuted by the Air Force.2

Civilians who commit a crime at Nellis Air Force Base will be turned over to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department or, for federal crimes, to the appropriate Department of Justice investigative agency.

If it is unknown who committed a crime, the LVMPD will often investigate along with Nellis Air Force Base security.3 Regardless of who investigates, if prosecution against a civilian is warranted, it will handled by the Clark County District Attorney or, for a federal crime, by the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada

Crimes committed by military personnel while in Las Vegas or other off-base locations within Nevada fall within the concurrent jurisdiction of military and civilian authorities. These offenses can be investigated and researched by either military or local law enforcement, or both.

As a practical matter, however, agencies having concurrent jurisdiction will usually come to an agreement about which one is going to handle the matter. In significant cases, investigation and prosecution may be turned over to the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Department of Justice.

2. Who is subject to military jurisdiction?

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, those subject to military jurisdiction include (but are not limited to):

  • Members of a regular component of the armed forces, including those awaiting discharge after expiration of their terms of enlistment; 
  • Volunteers; 
  • Inductees; 
  • Anyone lawfully ordered to duty or training in the armed forces;
  • Retired members of a regular component of the armed forces who are entitled to pay;
  • Anyone serving a military sentence imposed by a court-martial; and
  • Members of certain public agencies when assigned to and serving with the armed forces.4

3. Can people stationed at Nellis be prosecuted twice for crimes committed off-base?

The “Double Jeopardy” clause of the Fifth Amendment prevents people from being tried twice for the same crime. It applies to both state and federal prosecutions, including those by court-martial.
However, if the crime is defined under the UCMJ (as opposed to just adopting Nevada law) and the elements and punishment are even slightly different, the double jeopardy bar may not apply.

As a matter of policy, however, most military personnel tried by a civilian court will not be tried for the same offense by court-martial. However, if you are prosecuted by the Clark County D.A. or another civilian authority, you may still face administrative action by the Air Force (including potential discharge), or punishment by your commanding officer under Article 15 of the UCMJ. You will rarely face court-martial, however, unless you request it in lieu of Article 15 punishment.

4. DUI by Nellis AFB Personnel

If you drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while on Nellis AFB and you fall within military jurisdiction, you will be subject to prosecution by court-martial. The penalties for DUI on the base will generally be the same as Nevada DUI penalties.

An exception, however, is DUI with a minor child in the car. Nevada law imposes extra DUI penalties when a child 14 or younger is in the car with you. Under 18 U.S. Code 13(b)(2), you receive extra punishment when the child is under 18.

Accordingly, if you are a member of the military and you drive while under the influence at Nellis AFB with a child aged 15, 16 or 17 in the car, you face additional penalties in addition to those Nevada DUI law imposes.These can include a significant fine and an additional term of imprisonment of:

  • Up to 1 year if no one is injured,
  • Up to 5 years if serious bodily injury of a minor is caused, or
  • Up to 10 years if death of a minor is caused.

5. About Nellis AFB

Nellis Air Force Base is an 11,300-acre complex located in Clark County Nevada, just 13 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Strip.

The base is a small town in and of itself. In addition to six wings (aviation units), the base houses recreation facilities, schools, a library, a department store, supermarkets, restaurants and the Mike O'Callaghan Federal Medical Center. Power on the base is generated almost entirely by the Nellis AFB solar array

Part of Nellis AFB is a census-designated place (CDP) that includes military family housing, dormitories, and temporary aircrew lodging . As of the 2010 United States Census, the Nellis CDP had a population of 8,896 people in 2,873 households.

Nellis AFB also supports operations at nearby Creech Air Force Base, Tonopah Test Range, and the Nevada National Security Site.

6. History of Nellis AFB

In 1941, at the height of World War II, the city of Las Vegas purchased an airstrip from commercial airline Western Air Express, which it leased to the Army for $10. By October, the site had been renamed the Las Vegas Army Air Field.

In 1947, Congress created the Air Force. Three years later, the Las Vegas Army Air Field was renamed Nellis Air Force Base, after a local P-47 pilot who died during the Battle of the Bulge.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime while stationed at or visiting Nellis Air Force Base, we invite you to contact us to discuss the best defenses to your Nellis AFB charges.

We can be reached at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or by filing out the form on this page.

Your consultation with one of our caring Las Vegas criminal and DUI lawyers is 100% free and entirely confidential. Contact us today to schedule a time to speak to an attorney either in-person or by phone.


Legal references:

  1. 18 U.S. Code 7.
  2. 18 U.S. Code 13 (known as the “Assimilative Crimes Act”).
  3. The 99th Security Forces Squadron provides flight-line security, police services and antiterrorism/force protection for Nellis AFB and nearby Creech AFB. 
  4. UCMJ 802. ART. 2.

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