Nevada "Ex-Felon in Possession of a Firearm" Laws
(NRS 202.360)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

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It is illegal for a person who has been convicted of a felony then to possess a firearm in Nevada. Penalties include prison and high fines. People who have been convicted of a felony may not possess a firearm in Nevada unless they are granted an official pardon.

On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the Nevada crime of ex-felons in possession of firearms. Keep reading to learn about the law, defenses, penalties, and how to apply for a pardon in order to bear firearms again.

Definition

Nevada makes it a crime for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to own, possess, or have custody or control over a firearm. It does not matter whether the felony occurred in Nevada or not. It also does not matter whether the gun is unloaded or inoperable.

The only legal way a person who has been convicted of a felony can bear arms in Nevada is if he/she receives a "pardon" from the state. To learn how to apply for a pardon go to the Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners and visit our page on Pardons for Crimes in Nevada.

Trials

If a defendant stands trial for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, the prosecutor may introduce evidence that shows the "fact" of the defendant's past felony but not the "nature" of it. This is so the jury will not be prejudiced by the defendant's past actions.

And depending on the case, a defendant who is accused of multiple crimes including being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm may have the trial severed ("bifurcated") into two separate trials. This is so that the defendant can fight the other charges without the "ex-felon" charge prejudicing or hindering his/her defense.

Related firearm offenses

It is also illegal for anyone to possess or own a firearm in Nevada if he/she is either:

  • a fugitive,
  • an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance,
  • someone who is been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility, or
  • someone who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States

However the Nevada Supreme Court recently ruled that this law is "unconstitutionally vague" with regard to "fugitive" defendants. So until further notice Las Vegas prosecutors probably would not be pressing any new charges against suspected fugitives just for possessing a firearm. (Gallegos v. State, 163 P.3d 456, 123 Nev. 289 (2007)).

To learn about other Nevada firearm offenses, go to our informational page on Nevada firearm offenses.

Federal vs. Nevada Law

Like Nevada law, federal law prohibits firearm possession by felons. Federal law also prohibits firearm possession if the person was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. The penalty is up to ten years in prison and/or a fine. Read more about the federal firearm ban in our article on the federal firearm ban.

Defenses

Which defenses are most effective for fighting allegations of violating NRS 202.360 depend on the circumstances of the case. But the following are common strategies a defense attorney may use in Nevada:

  • No ownership or possession: It is not a crime for a convicted felon to be in the vicinity of a firearm as long as he/she does not possess or own it. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant had no knowledge of the firearm, then charges for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm should not stand.

  • Illegal Search: If the police may have conducted an unlawful search in order to find the firearm, then the defense attorney would file with the court a motion to suppress evidence in Nevada. A motion to suppress evidence in Nevada asks the judge to throw out all the evidence that arose from an illegal search and seizure. If the judge agrees the search was illegal and disregards the evidence, then the case may be dismissed for lack of proof.
  • Lack of evidence: No one may be convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm unless the D.A. proves his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as the defense attorney can show that the prosecutor lacks sufficient and reliable evidence, then the defendant should not be held criminally liable.

Note that it is not a defense to argue that the defendant was exercising his/her Constitutional right to bear arms or that the defendant did not mean any harm by possessing the weapon.

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Penalties

The Las Vegas offense of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment under NRS 202.360 is:

The sentencing judge takes various factors into consideration when deciding whether to impose a laxer or harsher sentence. Some of these factors include:

  • the nature and circumstances of the defendant's criminal history
  • the dangerousness of the firearm (whether it was semi-automatic, etc.)
  • where the defendant got the weapon (whether it was stolen, etc.)
  • whether the defendant used the gun in self-defense

Related crimes

It is also a category B felony in Nevada for fugitives, unlawful drug users or drug addicts to possess a firearm. The sentence includes:

It is a slightly less serious crime for people to possess a firearm if they are in the U.S. illegally or are mentally ill. The D.A. prosecutes it as a category D felony in Nevada, which carries:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Sealing Nevada criminal records

Anyone convicted of a category B felony has to wait 15 years after the case is closed to petition the court to seal it. And for a category D felony in Nevada the wait is 12 years. Therefore it is important to retain counsel early in any firearms case to try to get the charge reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed. Read more about sealing Nevada criminal records.

Immigration consequences

All firearm-related offenses are deportable crimes in Las Vegas. Therefore non-citizens convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm in Nevada may face removal. (Furthermore, this offense is also an "aggravated felony," which is deportable as well.) Learn more about deportable crimes in Las Vegas.

Arrested? Call . . . .

If you have been accused of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm under NRS 202.360, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) are happy to meet with you for a free consultation. They might be able to negotiate a full dismissal that keeps your record clean. Otherwise, they are ready to fight at trial in pursuit of a not guilty verdict.

For information on California felon with a firearm law, go to our informational webpage on California felon with a firearm law.

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