Federal Laws for "Failure to Pay Child Support" (18 U.S.C. § 228)
Explained by Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys

Img-handcuffs

Deliberately dodging child support payments can be a federal crime in Nevada. The judge may impose high fines and prison in addition to full restitution. But the entire case may be dismissed or reduced to lesser offenses with an experienced Nevada criminal defense lawyer fighting for the defendant.

On this page is a summary of the federal crime of failure to pay legal child support obligations. Keep reading to learn about what constitutes nonsupport, how to defend against charges, and standard punishments in Nevada.

Definition

The legal definition of "nonsupport of legal child support obligations" under federal law in Nevada is when someone either:

  • willfully fails to pay a support obligation for a child who lives in another state, OR
  • travels to another state with the intent to evade a support obligation1

if such obligation has remained unpaid for longer than one (1) year or is greater than $5,000.

Consequently, federal court has jurisdiction only if the situation involves more than one state. Beatty NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an example:

Example: Mike lives in Henderson, NV, and his daughter lives in Laughlin, NV. Mike frequently travels out of state for work but his primary residence is in Nevada. Mike willfully stops paying his child support payments for over a year. If caught, he may be booked at Henderson NV Detention Center on state charges for deliberately not paying child support. However, he should not face federal charges because Mike lived in the same state as his daughter despite that he traveled often.

Another element of federal law for nonpayment of child support is that the defendant stop paying for over a year or that the back payments amount to over $5,000. Tonopah NV criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains this concept:

Example: Jeremy lives in Reno and his son lives in San Francisco. Jeremy willfully stops paying his $1,000-a-month child support obligation. After six months, the U.S. Marshals Service may book Jeremy at the Washoe County Detention Center for nonsupport of child support obligation because he is more than $5,000 behind.

Alternatively, if Jeremy in the above example only had to pay $100 a month and deliberately stopped paying, he could then be booked on federal charges once over a year has passed even though the amount in arrears is only $1,200.

Federal v. Nevada state law

The main difference between federal and Nevada state law for nonpayment of child support has to do with geography. Federal law doesn't attach unless the defendant resides in a different state from the child or the defendant escapes to another state in order to evade payment. Contrarily, a non-paying parent may be prosecuted under Nevada law even if the child also resides in Nevada.

The other difference between federal and Nevada state law regarding failing to pay child support has to do with the amount of money in question. In Nevada, a person may face prosecution even for missing one payment for a small amount of money. But federal law doesn't apply until the defendant misses more than $5,000 or over a year of payments.

Note that all federal cases of nonsupport of children in Nevada are handled in either the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, or the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse in Reno. Read more about the Nevada crime of nonpayment of child support.

Defenses

Failing to pay child support is a crime under federal law only if the nonpayment is willful. Therefore, the most common defenses to allegations of nonpayment in Nevada is that any nonpayment was the result of an accident, a mistake, or that the defendant merely had no means to pay.

Federal law presumes that a defendant is financially able to pay a legal child support obligation. However, this presumption may be "rebutted" if the defense attorney can show that the defendant either:

  • lost his/her job and hasn't been able to find more work despite diligently looking for employment, or
  • became too sick or disabled to work, or
  • was arrested and did not have enough money in his/her account to continue paying child support

As long as the U.S. Attorney's Office can't prove to the court beyond a reasonable doubt that that the defendant willfully ceased paying child support, he/she should not be held criminally liable.

Another defense to federal charges of nonpayment of child support is that Nevada Federal Court has no jurisdiction. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant and child reside in the same state, or that the defendant's nonpayment amounts to no more than $5,000 and spanned no more than one year, then the defendant may be charged only in Nevada state court, not federal.

Prison_1616955-300x199
Penalties

The punishment for violating federal law in Nevada by not paying child support depends on four factors:

  1. the amount of unpaid child support,
  2. the length of time the defendant has not paid child support
  3. whether the defendant tried to escape to another state to avoid paying child support, and
  4. whether the defendant has a previous conviction in federal court for failing to pay child support.

For a first-time conviction of willfully not paying child support for longer than one (1) year, or if the amount is greater than $5,000, the federal judge may order a sentence of:

  • six (6) months in Federal Prison and/or a fine, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

For a second- or subsequent conviction of willfully not paying child support for longer than one (1) year, or if the amount is greater than $5,000, the federal judge may order a sentence of:

  • two (2) years in Federal Prison and/or a fine, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

For any conviction of traveling out of state with the intent to evade paying child support, if the money has remain unpaid for longer than one (1) year, or if the amount is greater than $5,000, the federal judge may order a sentence of:

  • two (2) years in Federal Prison and/or a fine, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

For any conviction of willfully not paying child support, if the money has remain unpaid for longer than two (2) years, or if the amount is greater than $10,000, the federal judge may order a sentence of:

  • two (2) years in Federal Prison and/or a fine, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

Nevada penalties for nonsupport of a child

Similar to federal law, Nevada law levies punishment for nonsupport of a child based on the amount of unpaid support and the defendant's criminal history:

A first violation on nonpayment of child support, if the defendant is behind less than $10,000 in support, is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence is:

  • up to six (6) months in jail such as Clark County Detention Center and/or up to $1,000 in fines, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

A first violation of nonpayment of child support, if the defendant is behind $10,000 or more in support, is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada. The sentence is:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in Nevada State Prison and maybe up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

A second or subsequent violation of nonpayment of child support, if the defendant is behind less than $5,000, is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence is:

  • up to six (6) months in jail such as Clark County Detention Center and/or up to $1,000 in fines, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

A second or subsequent violation of nonpayment of child support, if the defendant is behind $5,000 or more, is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada . The sentence is:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in Nevada State Prison and maybe up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution in Nevada in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing

Note that a defendant may be charged for nonpayment of child support in both state and federal courts in Nevada if the child is in another state from the defendant. If the defendant is convicted in both courts, then he/she will serve the sentences consecutively (one after the other).

Charged? Call . . . .

If you have been arrested for violating federal "child support payment" law in Nevada, dial our Nevada federal criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. We will do our best to negotiate and litigate the best resolution available for your matter so you can get back to concentrating on your family.

To learn more see our pages on: Nevada federal criminal defense attorneys, Nevada state prison, Nevada crime of nonpayment of child support, Bruce R. Thompson federal courthouse, Lloyd D. George federal courthouse, Nevada motion to suppress evidence, Beatty NV criminal defense attorney, Tonopah NV criminal defense attorney, Washoe County Detention Center, Henderson NV Detention Center, U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Attorney's Office.

Legal References:

1 18 U.S.C. § 228

(a) Offense.— Any person who— (1) willfully fails to pay a support obligation with respect to a child who resides in another State, if such obligation has remained unpaid for a period longer than 1 year, or is greater than $5,000; (2) travels in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to evade a support obligation, if such obligation has remained unpaid for a period longer than 1 year, or is greater than $5,000; or (3) willfully fails to pay a support obligation with respect to a child who resides in another State, if such obligation has remained unpaid for a period longer than 2 years, or is greater than $10,000; shall be punished as provided in subsection (c).

(b) Presumption.— The existence of a support obligation that was in effect for the time period charged in the indictment or information creates a rebuttable presumption that the obligor has the ability to pay the support obligation for that time period.

(c) Punishment.— The punishment for an offense under this section is— (1) in the case of a first offense under subsection (a)(1), a fine under this title, imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both; and (2) in the case of an offense under paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (a), or a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a)(1), a fine under this title, imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or both.

(d) Mandatory Restitution.— Upon a conviction under this section, the court shall order restitution under section 3663A in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing.

(e) Venue.— With respect to an offense under this section, an action may be inquired of and prosecuted in a district court of the United States for— (1) the district in which the child who is the subject of the support obligation involved resided during a period during which a person described in subsection (a) (referred to in this subsection as an “obliger”) failed to meet that support obligation; (2) the district in which the obliger resided during a period described in paragraph (1); or (3) any other district with jurisdiction otherwise provided for by law.

(f) Definitions.— As used in this section— (1) the term “Indian tribe” has the meaning given that term in section 102 of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 479a); (2) the term “State” includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States; and (3) the term “support obligation” means any amount determined under a court order or an order of an administrative process pursuant to the law of a State or of an Indian tribe to be due from a person for the support and maintenance of a child or of a child and the parent with whom the child is living.

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California and Nevada. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (888) 327-4652