Exposing one's private parts or engaging in sexual activity in public or in a context that would offend others is a crime in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada. Penalties for open or gross lewdness include fines, prison, and sex offender registration.
In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys provide a summary of the Nevada crime of "open or gross lewdness." Scroll down to read about the definition, defenses, and penalties.
Definition of Open or Gross Lewdness in Nevada
The legal definition of the Nevada crime of "open or gross lewdness" is extremely broad. It typically comprises the following two circumstances:
- any intentional sexual act that is done either in public or in a private place in an open way where others could see it; OR
- any sexual encounter that is nonconsensual but falls short of actual rape
1) Sex acts done in public or non-secretly in private
Open or gross lewdness is charged in cases where someone allegedly behaves in a sexually explicit way out in the open where others can see. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Jason and his girlfriend Sandy go to a bar in the Fiesta casino and make out heavily in front of the other patrons. After they get home and Sandy goes to sleep, Jason masturbates in front of an open window. If caught, Jason and Sandy could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center. Jason and Sandy would each face charges of open and gross lewdness for their sexual acts at the bar, and Jason would face an additional charge of open and gross lewdness for his sexual acts in front of his open window.
Note that it does not matter in the above example whether other patrons were at the bar, or whether anyone saw Jason through the window. It also does not matter that Jason and Sandy did not mean to offend anyone. Any glaringly noticeable or obviously objectionable sexual act intentionally done in a place where third parties could be exposed to it is open or gross lewdness.
2) Nonconsensual sex acts not amounting to rape
Open or gross lewdness is also charged in cases where someone allegedly touches someone else in a sexual way but with no penetration, and that person does not consent to the touching. North Las Vegas defense attorney Neil Shouse explains.
Example: Joshua goes to a bar in Reno and starts flirting with Susan. Susan tells him she is not interested and to go away, but Joshua then gropes her breasts and backside and bites her neck. If caught, Joshua could be booked at the Washoe Detention Facility for open and gross lewdness for sexually touching Susan, who did not consent to the touching.
The difference between open or gross lewdness and the Nevada crime of sexual assault (the legal term for rape) is that sexual assault involves penetration. This includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, digital sex ("fingering"), or inserting an object into a bodily orifice in a sexual way. Since there was not penetration the above example, Joshua should not be prosecuted for rape.
Note that Nevada law does not consider breast-feeding in public open or gross lewdness.
Entrapment of Gay Men
Police often use open or gross lewdness laws to arrest gay men. Las Vegas Metro Police set up undercover sting operations in public restrooms and parks. Decoy officers pretend to be gay men out cruising and oftentimes will act flirtatious in order to bait unsuspecting gay men into doing something sexual. Then police then arrest the suspects for open and gross lewdness.
Indecent Exposure v. Open or Gross Lewdness
In many cases, prosecutors bring open or gross lewdness charges in conjunction with charges of the Nevada crime of indecent exposure. Indecent exposure is defined as "any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his/her person, or of another person." An example would be to expose someone's buttocks, breasts or genitalia in a place where others could see.
The main difference between the Nevada crimes of indecent exposure and open or gross lewdness is that open and gross lewdness tends to refer to sexual acts, whereas indecent exposure refers to baring private body parts whether or not it is sexually motivated.
Sex Offender Registration
Since open or gross lewdness is classified as a sex offense in Nevada, people convicted of it are required to register as a sex offender. In addition to being a devastating social stigma, this severely inhibits the person's chances of gaining employment.
Note that not every registered sex offender is publicly "searchable" in Nevada ... only people deemed to have a high risk of committing further sex crimes are viewable in a sex offender search. Read more about Nevada Sex Offender Registry laws.
Defenses for Open or Gross Lewdness in Nevada
Nevada open or gross lewdness cases are extremely fact-specific. Consequently, which defenses would work best in fighting open or gross lewdness charges depend on the unique circumstances of the case. The following are three common defense strategies:
- Insufficient evidence. In all criminal cases the D.A. bears the burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is an extremely high bar. If the defense attorney can show the court that the prosecution's evidence is not adequate or reliable enough to justify a conviction for open or gross lewdness, the case should be dismissed.
- Entrapment. it is illegal for undercover police to "entrap" a person into committing a crime if that person was not inclined to commit it. If the defense attorney can demonstrate that cops tricked an otherwise law-abiding person to engage in open or gross lewdness, then the charges should be dropped on the basis of the Nevada defense of entrapment.
- Illegal search. Police may not gather evidence without a valid search warrant or if valid circumstances exist that make getting a search warrant unfeasible. If the police may have obtained evidence unlawfully, the defense attorney might be able to convince the court to disregard it ... this can be done by filing a "motion to suppress evidence" in Nevada with the court. If the judge grants the motion, the prosecution may decide to drop the whole case for lack of sufficient evidence to prove open or gross lewdness.
Penalties for Open or Gross Lewdness in Nevada
The penalties for committing the Nevada offense of open or gross lewdness turns on whether the defendant picked up previous convictions for open or gross lewdness:
A first offense of open or gross lewdness is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes:
- up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, and
- sex offender registration
A subsequent offense of open or gross lewdness is a category D felony in Nevada. The punishment carries:
- one to four years in Nevada State Prison (with a possible fine of up to $5,000), and
- sex offender registration
Indecent Exposure penalties
The penalties for a Nevada violation of indecent exposure law are the same as the penalties for open or gross lewdness:
A first offense of indecent exposure is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying a sentence of:
- up to one year in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, and
- sex offender registration
A subsequent offense of indecent exposure is a category D felony in Nevada, carrying a sentence of:
- one to four years in Nevada state prison (with a possible fine of up to $5,000), and
- sex offender registration
Charged with Open or Gross Lewdness? Call us for help...
If you have been accused of violating Nevada "open or gross lewdness" law under NRS 201.210, contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). we will do what we can to attempt to get the charges dropped or reduced to keep the incident off your criminal record and to steer you clear of the sex offender registry.
We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
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To learn more see our articles on Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys, misdemeanor in Nevada, gross misdemeanor in Nevada, category D felony in Nevada, Nevada crime of breach of peace, Henderson criminal defense attorney, North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, Henderson detention center, Nevada crime of indecent exposure, Nevada defense of entrapment, Washoe Detention Facility, Nevada crime of sexual harassment, Nevada crime of sexual harassment, Nevada immigration laws, crime of moral turpitude in Nevada, Nevada Sex Offender Registry laws, Nevada crime of sexual assault, Nevada pool party crimes, Nevada pool party crimes, Nevada nightclub crimes, Nevada nightclub crimes, Nevada strip club crimes, Nevada strip club crimes, and motion to suppress evidence in Nevada. For information about the California crime of Lewd or Dissolute Conduct in Public | Penal Code 647(a) PC, see our article on California crime of Lewd or Dissolute Conduct in Public | Penal Code 647(a) PC.