"Unauthorized Practice of Medicine" in Nevada
(Senate Bill 199; NRS 630.400)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

It's a serious crime in Nevada to practice medicine without a license. Penalties carry prison and hefty fines even if nobody gets hurt. But a skilled Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the entire care dismissed.

This article explains the Nevada crime of the “unauthorized practice of medicine” (“UPM”). Scroll down to learn the definition, defenses, and punishments.

Definition of the Unauthorized
Practice of Medicine

The legal definition of “unauthorized practice of medicine” in Nevada is providing health care without being licensed by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Even if a person completes medical school and is competent, he/she still may not lawfully practice medicine in Nevada without a medical license.1

Practicing medicine without a license
is a felony in Nevada.

UPM cases have been particularly prevalent in Nevada's Latino communities.
The typical scenario involves an allegedly unlicensed “doctor” attracting underprivileged patients by promising cheap medical care. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker summarizes a recent example from the news:

An unlicensed Colombian homeopathic doctor and his wife perform cosmetic surgery on a Las Vegas woman. The patient dies shortly after receiving silicon injections. He and his wife then get booked at the Clark County Detention Center for murder stemming from their unlawful practice of medicine.2

One telltale sign that the doctor in the above example was unlicensed was that his office was located in the backroom of a tile-store. It's not uncommon for “con-artist doctors” to post fake medical degrees on their walls to deceive patients.3

Note that administering health care under a false name or personating a licensed doctor qualifies as UPM as well. Similarly, it's UPM to practice with a medical license that the person fraudulently obtained.4North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

The Nevada Medical Board grants Jake in Henderson a license based on a forged medical school diploma. Even though he succeeded in tricking the Board, he could still be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for UPM. A licensed obtained through false pretenses is the same as having no license at all.

Medical Offices located in suspicious locations and containing old equipment
are signs that the doctor isn't licensed.

Note that Nevada's UPM laws apply not only to general practitioners but also to specialists, surgeons, dentists, nurses, and physician assistants.5

Also note that Nevada authorities have set up a phone number specifically for reporting illegal medical activity: 211. People can also text tips to 898211. Many UPM investigations begin with 211 calls and texts.

For information on the unauthorized practice of nursing in Nevada, see our page on the unauthorized practice of nursing in Nevada.

Unauthorized Practice of Veterinary Medicine

Like medical doctors, vets must have valid,
current licenses in order to treat animals in Nevada.

It's illegal for people to practice veterinary medicine without being licensed by the Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.6 Licensed vets may practice medicine on any of the following animals:

  • Mammals (besides humans)
  • Amphibians
  • Fowls and Birds
  • Fish
  • Reptiles

It doesn't matter whether the animal is wild, livestock or domestic.7

Defenses for Unauthorized Practice
of Medicine in Nevada

Causing no injuries is not a defense
to practicing medicine without a license in Nevada.

There are several possible defenses available to defendants in cases involving the unauthorized practice of medicine. The following are three potential strategies to fight UPM charges:

  • Home remedies. Selling or providing home remedies is not the practice of medicine. (Home remedies typically are comprised of various herbs, vitamins, vegetables, or other foods to help cure an ailment or alleviate pain.) If the defense attorney in a UPM case can show that the defendant's actions fall within the realm of home remedies, the charges should be dismissed. (Note that home remedies are different than homeopathic remedies, which is considered the practice of medicine under Nevada law.8)
  • General advice. Giving someone general medical advice that's not specific to his/her case is not the practice of medicine. For example, offering someone general tips about good nutrition or how to get over a cold does not create a doctor/patient relationship. As long as the prosecution in a UPM case can't show that the defendant's words were specific to a particular patient's health, the defendant shouldn't be held criminally liable.
  • Medical information. Similarly, writing about a medical topic…or giving someone books or articles on a medical topic…doesn't qualify as the practice of medicine either. If the defendant in a UPM case merely provided general medical information to another person, he/she committed no crime.

Note that schoolteachers are usually permitted to administer prescription drugs to students who were prescribed those particular drugs. This is because it may be safer for teachers to store the drugs than for the student to hold onto them him/herself at school.9

Penalties for Unauthorized Practice
of Medicine in Nevada

Unlicensed doctors may face prison
and high fines in Nevada.

Holding oneself out as a doctor or other health care worker without having a license is a felony in Nevada. The type of felony depends on whether the defendant causes a patient substantial bodily harm in Nevada:10

Falsely holding oneself out as a doctor without causing substantial bodily harm is a Category D felony in Nevada carrying:

But if a victim does sustain major injuries, then falsely holding oneself out as a doctor is a Category C felony in Nevada carrying:

  • 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

Medical Procedures

Nevada law also imposes UPM punishments when unlicensed “doctors” perform medical procedures. The extent of the sentence depends on the following factors:11

    • whether the defendant performed surgery or not,
    • whether the defendant performed a health care procedure that resulted in the victim's death or substantial bodily harm in Nevada, and
  • whether the defendant has been previously convicted of performing a medical procedure without a license

UPM Penalties when the Defendant performs a non-surgical Health Care Procedure

Victim's Injuries Defendant's Previous UPM Convictions Type of Crime Sentence
No substantial bodily harm or death Doesn't matter Category D felony in Nevada
NOTE: The punishment may be less
depending on the type
of health care worker the defendant is.
· 1-4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The punishment may be less depending on the type of health care worker the defendant is.
Substantial bodily harm 0 Category C felony in Nevada · 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $10,000 in fines
Substantial bodily harm 1 or more Category B felony in Nevada · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and · $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Death Doesn't matter Category B felony in Nevada · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and · $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The judge may not suspend the sentence or grant probation

UPM penalties expectedly become harsher when surgical procedures are involved, as shown below:

Victim's Injuries Defendant's Previous UPM Convictions Type of Crime Sentence
No substantial bodily harm or death 0 Category C felony · 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $5,000 in fines
No substantial bodily harm or death 1 or more Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Substantial bodily harm Doesn't matter Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Death Doesn't matter Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The judge may not suspend the sentence or grant probation

Note that the Nevada Attorney General's Office prosecutes all cases involving unauthorized practice of medicine in the state.

Unlicensed doctors who injure or kill patients
face several years in Nevada State Prison.

Disciplinary Actions

Licensed doctors who aid unlicensed people to practice medicine risk losing their own medical licenses. The Board may also issue public reprimands and impose administrative fees of $5,000.

Civil Punishments

Victims in UPM cases in Nevada may try to collect money damages from the unlicensed doctor through a civil lawsuit. Possible civil causes of action for the unlicensed practice of medicine are:

  • fraud,
  • tortious battery,
  • wrongful death (if the victim died), and
  • medical malpractice

Note that only doctors may be sued for medical malpractice.

Penalties for Unlicensed Veterinarians

Unlicensed vets in Nevada face similar penalties
as unlicensed doctors.

Practicing medicine on animals without a license is a category D felony carrying:12

  • 1-4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Unlicensed vets may also be charged administrative fines. The money amount depends on whether the person has previous violations for practicing veterinary medicine without a license:13

  • For a 1st violation: $1,000
  • For a 2nd violation: $2,500
  • For a 3rd violation: $5,000

Note that unlicensed veterinary technicians face misdemeanor charges carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.14

Arrested for UPM in Nevada? Call an attorney for help…

If you're facing charges for the “unauthorized practice of medicine” in Nevada, call our Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone consultation. We'll do everything to try to fight the charges so that your record stays clean.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Clark County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

For more information about the California crime of unauthorized practice of medicine, see our webpage on the California crime of the unauthorized practice of medicine.


1 NRS 630.400.

2 Francis McCabe, Colombian doctor, wife appear in court on murder charges, Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 11, 2011.

3See NRS 630.411.

4 NRS 630.400.

5See NRS 630.400.

6 NRS 638.170.

7 NRS 638.002.

8 NRS 630A.

9Findlaw: What is the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine?

10 NRS 630.140.

11 Nev. SB 199 (2013).

12 NRS 638.170.

13 NAC 638.0433.

14 NRS 638.170.

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