Other than the Nevada crime of murder, sexual assault ("rape") is the most serious offense in this state. If you get convicted, in addition to facing a lifelong prison term, you're required to register for life as a sex offender. And even if you eventually get paroled, it will be hard ever to land a job with this on your record.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have three decades of combined experience in defending sexual assault and rape cases and achieving favorable resolutions often without a trial. For your convenience we've summarized below the basics of Nevada sexual assault law including the definition, possible penalties, and how we can help.
The legal definition of sexual assault ("rape") in Las Vegas, Nevada under NRS 200.366 is when a person "subjects another person to sexual penetration, or who forces another person to make a sexual penetration on himself or herself or another, or on a beast, against the will of the victim or under conditions in which the perpetrator knows or should know that the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of his or her conduct."
In short, it's illegal for you to have sex with someone:
- against the person's will, or
- when you know or should have known that the person lacked the capacity to say no or understand what was happening (such as if they were passed out drunk).
In cases where someone unlawfully touches another person in a sexual manner that falls short of sexual assault (such as groping), he/she might then be charged with the lesser Nevada crime of open and gross lewdness (NRS 201.210)
For general information about Nevada child sex crimes, see our article on Nevada child sex crimes.
Even though rape is one of the most serious crimes you can be accused of, it also lends itself to several effective defenses. The following are just some strategies defense lawyers may employ in Nevada sexual assault cases:
False allegations: Judges and prosecutors know that innocent people can get falsely accused of rape whether it's out of anger, revenge, jealousy, a way to win child custody, or just an honest misunderstanding. If your attorney can raise a reasonable doubt by showing that someone may have falsely accused you, your sexual assault case should be dismissed.
Lack of proof: Unless there was video recording the incident, sexual assault can be extremely difficult to prove because it often comes down to a case of "he says, she says." As long as the state cannot show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, sexual assault charges should be dropped.
Consent: Rape is forcing someone to have sex against their will (or when they're too incapacitated to resist). Therefore, if your attorney can show that the "victim" gave his/her consent to have sex, then Nevada sexual assault charges cannot stand.
Sexual assault is a category A felony in Clark County, and anyone convicted of it will usually be ordered to register as a sex offender in Nevada. The standard punishment for a rape conviction in Las Vegas depends upon:
- the age of the victim,
- whether the rape caused the victim substantial bodily harm in Nevada, and
- the accused's criminal history.
When the victim is sixteen or older:
If substantial bodily harm results from the rape, then a Nevada judge may impose a sentence of:
- life in Nevada State Prison without the possibility of parole, or
- life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after fifteen years.
But if no substantial bodily harm results from the rape, then the sentence is life in prison with the possibility of parole after ten years.
When the victim is fourteen or fifteen:
If the rape causes substantial bodily harm to the victim, then the sentence will be life in prison without the possibility of parole. Otherwise, the judge will impose life with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years.
When the victim is thirteen or younger:
If substantial bodily harm occurs from the rape, then the sentence for rape in Nevada will be life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if there's no harm, then it's life in prison with the possibility of parole after thirty-five years.
When the accused is a repeat offender:
If someone has already been convicted of sexual assault (or a sexual offense against a child), and then later gets convicted of sexual assault in Nevada with a child under sixteen, the judge will impose life without the possibility of parole.
It's not uncommon for rape charges to get "pled down" to lesser offenses. Suppose, for example, that the state has evidence a victim was physically assaulted. But they lack the evidence to prove sexual assault specifically. The prosecution may be willing to reduce a rape charge down to the Nevada crime of battery
(NRS 200.481) as part of a plea bargain. The sentence is lower, and you might not have to register as a sex offender in Nevada.
- Nevada crime of open and gross lewdness (NRS 201.210): This is a very vague crime that is often charged when someone allegedly touches another person in a sexual manner that doesn't rise to the level of rape. It's a category D felony in Nevada and therefore carries a much less harsh sentence than sexual assault.
- The Nevada crime of Statutory Sexual Seduction (NRS 200.368): Also called statutory rape, this offense punishes consensual sex between an adult of eighteen or older and a child of fifteen or younger. It can be a category C felony in Nevada or a gross misdemeanor in Clark County depending on the age of the accused.
- The Nevada crime of Spousal Rape in Nevada (NRS 200.373): For the most part, marital rape is treated the same as non-marital sexual assault. Arguably it is not rape for someone to have sex with his/her spouse without consent as long as the sex is not accomplished by force or the threat of force, but the law is still unclear.
- The Nevada crime of date rape (NRS 200.366): Date rape, which refers to nonconsensual sex between dating partners, is prosecuted and punished like a regular sexual assault case under NRS 200.366.
- The Nevada crime of Incest (NRS 201.180): Incest prohibits close relatives from marrying or having sexual intercourse whether it's consensual or not. Depending on the egregiousness of the situation, the punishment ranges from two years in prison to life.
Call us if you're facing charges . . . .
If you've been arrested for rape, then it's imperative you retain counsel as soon as possible to safeguard your rights, investigate the evidence, and try to negotiate with the state to get the case dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge. For more information contact our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation.
To learn about rape laws in California, visit our page on
California sexual battery law. In addition, you may also find helpful information in our related articles on Nevada crime of murder, category A felony in Clark County, substantial bodily harm in Nevada, Nevada crime of battery (NRS 200.481), category D felony in Nevada, Nevada crime of Statutory Sexual Seduction (NRS 200.368), category C felony in Nevada, gross misdemeanor in Clark County, Nevada crime of Spousal Rape in Nevada (NRS 200.373), Nevada crime of date rape (NRS 200.366), Nevada crime of Incest (NRS 201.180), and California sexual battery law.