Nevada law as to child molestation, child sexual abuse or "Lewdness with a Minor under 16" years is defined in NRS 201.230. Nevada law defines this as committing "any lewd or lascivious act upon the body, or any part or member thereof, under the age of 16" with the purpose of sexually gratifying the defendant or the child.
NRS 201.230 is almost identical to California's Penal Code 288 - Lewd Acts with a Child, which defines child sexual abuse. The touching does not have to be on a sexual organ. It can be anywhere on the child's body, as long as it is done with a sexual intent.
Definition of "lewdness with a child under 16" in Nevada
The legal definition of "lewdness with a child under 16" in Nevada is an adult eighteen or older committing the willful and lewd commission of any lewd or lascivious act (other than sexual assault) upon the body of a child under sixteen with intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires of the child or the person. Note this law also prohibits a person under 18 committing the willful and lewd commission of any lewd or lascivious act (other than sexual assault) upon the body of a child under fourteen with intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires of the child or the person.
In short, NRS 201.230 prohibits adults touching children fifteen or younger for sexual purposes. It also makes children touching children thirteen or younger a delinquent act.
Note that a person may be convicted of this crime even if the touching does not involve a sexual organ. The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that touching any part of a child qualifies as lewdness as long as it is done with sexual intent. Tonopah criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Matt, who has a foot fetishist, goes to a park in Henderson and helps a young child tie her shoelaces. A cop, who knows about Matt's fetish, sees Matt and books him at the Henderson Detention Center for lewdness with a minor.
Matt in the above example could be liable for lewdness in Nevada if the court believes he touched the child's feet for his or the child's sexual pleasure. it is immaterial that feet are not in and of themselves sex organs.
Also note that a child under fourteen who lewdly touches another child under fourteen may be adjudicated delinquent for "lewdness with a minor under 16." Being a child who violates the lewdness law does not protect him/her from being punished for victimizing another child.
A conviction for this offense requires lifetime registration as a sex offender
All Nevada crimes carry incarceration and/or fines as possible penalties. But lewdness with a minor also mandates that a convicted defendant register with the Nevada Sex Offender Registry. And oftentimes, the person is required to register for life.
Being a registered sex offender is a devastating penalty for defendants. It alienates them from their community and makes people automatically suspicious of them. Furthermore, prospective employers are less inclined to hire people convicted of sex crimes. Read more about Nevada Sex Offender Registry laws.
Lewdness with a Child versus Statutory Rape
The primary difference between the Nevada crime of "lewdness with a minor under sixteen" and the more serious Nevada crime of statutory sexual seduction ("statutory rape") has to do with the extent of the physical touching. A person commits statutory rape only if the touching of the child involved physical penetration, such as:
- sexual intercourse
- anal sex
- oral sex
- digital penetration ("fingering")
- penetration with an object in a sexual way
But if the sexual touching does not involve penetration, the person is liable for lewdness but not statutory rape. Note that a defendant may not be convicted of both statutory rape and lewdness if they were part of the same criminal act ... if a defendant committed lewdness immediately before the rape, then he/she may be convicted of only rape and not lewdness.
That said, a defendant may be convicted of both lewdness and rape of a minor if the lewdness and rape occurred at separate times. If a defendant is charged with both lewdness and sexual assault of a child, the prosecution has the burden to prove that the lewdness was not incidental to the sexual assault.
Age of Consent
A person may still be liable for "lewdness with a child under sixteen" in Nevada even if the child consents to or initiates the touching. The same holds true for sexual penetration with a child under sixteen ... it is automatically considered rape to have sex with a child fifteen or younger even if the child consents. Read more about Nevada laws for "age of consent".
Nevada law versus California law
Nevada lewdness law is very similar to California's Penal Code 288 - Lewd Acts with a Child.
Statute of limitations
In most cases Nevada prosecutors may not file criminal charges against someone if more than three or four years have passed since the alleged crime. But the statute of limitations is extended in cases of lewdness with a minor under sixteen. The duration of this extension depends on when the victim becomes aware that he/she was allegedly abused:
- A person may be prosecuted for "lewdness with a minor under sixteen" up until the victim turns twenty-one if the victim discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) that he/she was a victim of lewdness by the time he/she is twenty-one.
- Alternatively, a person may be prosecuted for "lewdness with a minor under sixteen" up until the victim turns twenty-eight if the victim does not discover (and reasonably should not have discovered) that he/she was a victim of lewdness by the time he/she is twenty-one.
Beatty criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration of how the statute of limitations operates in Nevada child lewdness cases:
Example: Sally was the victim of lewdness by her uncle in Reno when she was just one year old. Twenty-six years later, the uncle confesses his wrongdoing to Sally. If Sally tells the police, the uncle could be booked at the Washoe County Detention Center for lewdness with a minor under sixteen.
Sally in the above example could not have reasonably been aware of the sexual abuse by the time she was twenty-one because the uncle did not tell her until she was twenty-seven. As long as prosecutors bring charges prior to Sally turning twenty-eight, the uncle may be found liable of lewdness with a child under sixteen in Nevada.
Note that the reduced mental capacity of children is the reason that the statute of limitations to bring child sex offense charges does not begin tolling until the victims become adults. Minors may not have the emotional or intellectual knowledge to realize they have been abused or that they may report the abuse.
For general information about Nevada child sex crimes, see our article on Nevada child sex crimes.
Defenses to Nevada charges of "lewdness with a child under 16"
Experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys and investigators often can uncover factors leading to a person's exoneration for the Nevada offense of lewdness with a child under sixteen. There are many possible defenses to this crime including:
- Lack of sexual intent. A key element of the Nevada crime of lewdness with a minor under sixteen is that the defendant touches the child with sexual intent. As long as the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant's intentions were lascivious, then the charges should be thrown out. Depending on the case, the defendant may still face charges for the Nevada crime of battery , which prohibits unlawful touching.
- Victim too old. Obviously, a person should not be convicted of lewdness with a minor under sixteen in Nevada if the child was sixteen or older. If the prosecution cannot produce competent proof that the victim was fifteen or younger, then the defendant should not be held liable.
- False allegations. Children sometimes lie without realizing the consequences of their actions. An estranged spouse sometimes coaches a child into falsely accusing the other party out of jealousy, anger, manipulation, misconception, misunderstanding, or outright untruthfulness. If a defense attorney can show that the defendant has been wrongly accused of lewdness with a minor under sixteen in Nevada, then the defendant should be acquitted.
Note that the most common defense in any criminal case is that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defense attorney can show the court that the state's evidence is too contradictory, inadequate or unreliable to sustain a conviction of lewdness of a minor under sixteen in Nevada, then the defendant should be acquitted.
Penalties for "lewdness with a child under 16"
Penalties for the Nevada offense of lewdness with a minor depends on the age of the minor. If the minor is under fourteen (14), the accused is prosecuted for a category A felony in Nevada. A first offense includes the following punishment:
- life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after ten years,
- sex offender status, and
- possibly a fine of up to $10,000
But if the defendant already has a prior conviction for the same or comparable sex offense in Nevada or elsewhere in the U.S., there is no possibility of parole.
If the minor is fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) years old, then lewdness with a minor is a category B felony in Nevada, carrying:
- 1 year to 10 years in Nevada State Prison,
- sex offender status, and
- possibly a fine of up to $10,000
Note that lewdness with a minor may be considered a crime involving moral turpitude in Nevada. This means that a non-citizen defendant may be deported from the country upon conviction unless the charges are reduced to a non-removable offense. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
A person under 18 who is accused of lewdness with a person under 14 may be charged in juvenile court for a delinquent act.
Charged with Lewdness with a Child under Sixteen? Call us for help...
Have you been accused of "lewdness with a minor" under NRS 201.230 in Nevada? Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped completely. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation.
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We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
To learn more see our page on Nevada offense of oral copulation with a minor.