Breastfeeding in public continues to be a controversial issue, but the law in Nevada is clear: It's perfectly legal.
However, breastfeeding does not entitle mothers to bare their breasts longer than necessary to feed their babies. Otherwise breastfeeding mothers may face charges for indecent exposure, which carries fines and possibly jail.
This page explains both federal and Nevada "breastfeeding" laws. Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys also explain when mothers may pump breast milk in the workplace and how breastfeeding may cross the line into "indecent exposure."
Breastfeeding is legal in Nevada
In 1995 the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 317 which recognized that breastfeeding a baby until age two offers health benefits to both mother and child.
The law then specifies that breastfeeding is legal in any public or private location
where the mother is otherwise authorized to be. Beatty criminal defense
attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
While waiting for the bus in Henderson, Sarah sits down on the bench and intends to breastfeed her infant. Before Sarah can pick up the infant, a cop rides by and sees Sarah's newly exposed breast. Sarah is then booked at the Henderson Detention Center for indecent exposure. Once Sarah's defense attorney explains that Sarah was preparing to breastfeed her infant, the charge should be dismissed.
Note that breastfeeding in public is permitted even if the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is also legal even if people around the mother are offended or discomforted by the sight of the breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding versus Indecent Exposure in Nevada
The Nevada crime of indecent exposure is "any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his/her person, or of another person." Typical examples include flashers, streakers, or exhibitionists. Breastfeeding is not a type of indecent exposure.
Note that mothers who expose their breasts for an unreasonably long time before or after breastfeeding potentially face indecent exposure charges. Tonopah criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains:
Mimi is breastfeeding her baby by a community pool in Las Vegas. Once the breastfeeding is finished, she leaves off her bikini top and proceeds to sunbathe topless. If caught, Mimi could be booked at the Clark County Detention Center for indecent exposure.
Mimi in the above example did nothing unlawful by breastfeeding in public. It was the action of sunbathing topless that opened her up to criminal liability.
A first offense of indecent exposure is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying a punishment of:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
Any subsequent offense of indecent exposure is a category D felony in Nevada, carrying a sentence of:
- 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe a fine of up to $5,000
Pumping breast milk at the workplace in Nevada
(29 U.S.C. § 207)
Federal law mandates that employers provide reasonable break times throughout the workday for employees who are mothers to pump breast milk. Employers must provide these breaks for at least one year after the child's birth.
Employers must also offer a place other than a bathroom to express milk. Furthermore this place needs to be shielded from view and free of intrusion from coworkers and the public.
Note that employers don't have to accommodate federal breast pumping laws if the employer employs less than fifty people and accommodating federal breast pumping laws would impose an undue financial or logistical hardship.
Also note that employers are not required to compensate employees for the time they spend breast pumping.
Arrested for breastfeeding? Call us for help ...
If you've been arrested for indecent exposure for "breastfeeding" in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We may be able to get the charge dismissed completely. Learn more about local breastfeeding initiatives at the Nevada Breastfeeds Coalition.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.