Nevada Laws on "Operating a Chop Shop"
(NRS 205.2745)

Definition

Both Nevada and federal law prohibit people from knowingly owning or operating a chop shop. Chop shop operators obtain stolen vehicles or car parts in order to remove their identifying information or sell or dispose of the parts.

Penalties

There is always the possibility that the D.A. will agree to a favorable plea bargain. Otherwise, violating NRS 205.2745 is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:

In addition, the judge may levy an extra fine of $50,000.

Defendants prosecuted in federal court face up to 15 years in Federal Prison for a first-time conviction.

Defenses

Depending on the case, a defense attorney can use one or more of the following arguments to fight chop shop allegations:

  1. The defendant was not an owner or operator
  2. The business was not a chop shop
  3. The defendant lacked knowledge that the car was stolen
  4. The defendant lacked knowledge that the business was a chop shop
  5. The police committed misconduct

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:

An array of car parts
Operating a chop shop is illegal in Nevada

1. Are chop shops illegal in Nevada?

Yes. Nevada law prohibits people from knowingly owning or running an operation that obtains stolen vehicles (or parts) in order either to:

  • obscure or alter the identifying information of the cars or parts, and/or
  • sell or dispose of the car or parts1

Sometimes these "chop shops" are in hidden locations not accessible to the general public. Or sometimes chop shops have a legitimate storefront and conduct lawful business during the day while operating the illegal elements in secret or after-hours.

1.1. Federal charges

Operating a chop shop is also a federal crime. Suspects can face charges in both Nevada state and federal courts for the same offense. But in practice, defendants are typically charged in either state or federal court. If all the car parts and customers are located in Nevada, federal prosecutors will probably leave it to state prosecutors to bring charges.2

2. What are the penalties for operating a chop shop in Nevada?

Silhouette of a mechanic working on the underside of a car
Violating NRS 205.2745 is a category C felony in Nevada.

Violating NRS 205.2745 is a category C felony, punishable by:

  • 1 - 5 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 (at the judge's discretion)

Also, the judge may levy an additional fine of $50,000.3

Depending on the case, the D.A. may be amenable to reducing the charge down to a lesser offense or possibly a dismissal.

2.1. Federal penalties

Defendants prosecuted in federal court for operating a chop shop face steeper penalties for successive convictions:

Federal Chop Shop Violation Penalties

1st conviction

  • A fine, and/or
  • Up to 15 years in federal prison

2nd or successive conviction

  • A fine, and/or
  • Up to 30 years in federal prison4

3. What are the defenses to Nevada charges of operating a chop shop?

Car mechanic holding a tool
There are several possible defense strategies to fight NRS 205.2745 charges.

There are five common defenses to NRS 205.2745 allegations:

  1. The defendant was not an owner or operator
  2. The business was not a chop shop
  3. The defendant lacked knowledge that the car was stolen
  4. The defendant lacked knowledge that the business was a chop shop
  5. The police committed misconduct

Note that it is not a defense to NRS 205.2745 charges that some of the cars and car parts in the business are legally obtained.

3.1. The defendant did not operate the chop shop

NRS 205.2745 pertains only to owners and operators of chop shops. Lower-rung employees such as janitors or secretaries probably should not face prosecution, especially if they had no knowledge of the illegal activity.

3.2. The business does not qualify as a “chop shop”

Nevada law has a very specific definition for what constitutes chop shops. For instance, if the defense attorney can show that none of the vehicles or parts there were illegally obtained, then NRS 205.2745 charges do not apply. 

3.3. The defendant had no knowledge that the automobile or parts were stolen

NRS 205.2745 convictions require the defendant's knowledge that the car or car parts were stolen. If the defendant genuinely believed everything was lawfully obtained, then the charge should be dropped.

3.4. The defendant had no knowledge that the business was being used as a chop shop

There have been situations where body shop employees covertly operate a chop shop on the premises without the knowledge of the body shop's owner. If the prosecution cannot prove that the owner knew about the employees' illegal activity, the owner committed no crime.

3.5. The police discovered the chop shop through an unlawful search

Sometimes the police perform an unlawful illegal search and seizure. Perhaps the search warrant is invalid, or the police fail to get a search warrant when necessary...

If the police may have discovered the alleged chop shop through an unlawful search, the defendant's attorney should file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained through this unlawful search. If the judge grants the motion, the D.A. may be forced to drop the charges for lack of proof.

A close-up of where a wheel is missing from a car
A conviction of violating NRS 205.2745 may be sealed 5 years after the case ends

4. When can I seal my chop shop case in Nevada?

A conviction of violating NRS 205.2745 can be sealed no earlier than five (5) years after the case ends.5 But if the case gets dismissed, the defendant can petition for a record seal immediately.6

Learn more about how to get a record seal in Nevada.

5. Can I get deported for operating a chop shop?

Perhaps. The Ninth Circuit recently held that violating California's chop shop statute -- which is similar to Nevada's -- is not deportable as an aggravated felony.7 But the Tenth Circuit recently held that the crime of knowingly possessing a stolen vehicle -- which is frequently prosecuted alongside or instead of operating a chop shop -- is deportable as a crime involving moral turpitude.8

Immigration Court is very unpredictable. Therefore, aliens facing any criminal charges should always consult with a Las Vegas law immigration attorney about whether their case threatens their resident status. The attorney may be able to get the case dismissed or changed to a charge that is definitely not removable. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

6. Related offenses

6.1. Grand Larceny of an Automobile (NRS 205.228)

The penalties for the Nevada crime of grand theft auto depend on the value of the vehicle. If it is worth $3,500 or more, auto-theft is a category B felony, carrying:

Theif in mask behind the wheel of a car
Grand larceny of a motor vehicle is a felony in Nevada.
  • 1 - 10 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

And if the car's value is less than $3,500, then auto-theft is a category C felony, carrying:

  • 1 - 5 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

6.2. Burglary (NRS 205.060)

The Nevada crime of burglary is defined as entering a building or vehicle with the intent to commit any of the following offenses inside:

  1. Petit larceny or grand larceny,
  2. Assault or battery on any person,
  3. A felony, or
  4. Obtaining money or property by false pretenses

Burglary is category B felony carrying a maximum $10,000 fine and possible prison time:

  • If the defendant had no deadly weapon: 1 - 10 years
  • If the defendant had a deadly weapon: 2 - 15 years

6.3. Possession of Burglary Tools (NRS 205.080)

The Nevada crime of possession of burglary tools has two elements:

  1. The defendant makes, repairs, or possesses an instrument used for the commission of a crime, and
  2. The circumstances show the defendant's intent to use the instrument to commit a crime

Violating NRS 205.080 is a gross misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

6.4. Automobile Insurance Fraud (NRS 686A.2815)

Falsely claiming that a vehicle has been stolen or damaged is the Nevada crime of car insurance fraud. It is typically punished as a category D felony, carrying:

  • 1 - 4 years in prison, and
  • $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)

6.5 Possessing a Stolen Vehicle (NRS 205.273)

The penalties for the Nevada crime of knowingly possessing a stolen vehicle depend on the value of the vehicle. If it is worth $3,500 or more, possessing a stolen car is a category B felony, carrying:

  • 1 - 10 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

And if the car's value is less than $3,500, then possessing a stolen car is a category C felony, carrying:

  • 1 - 5 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution
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Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Arrested for 'operating a chop shop' in Nevada? Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed. And if necessary, we can take the matter all the way to a jury trial and fight for an acquittal. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation.

Arrested in California? See our article on California chop shop laws.

Arrested in Colorado? See our article on Colorado chop shop laws.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 205.2745 Owning or operating premises on which illegally obtained motor vehicle is altered, destroyed, disassembled, reassembled or stored for certain purposes; penalties.

          1. A person who owns or operates a building or other premises shall not knowingly allow a motor vehicle or part of a motor vehicle that is illegally obtained by theft, fraud or conspiracy to defraud to be altered, destroyed, disassembled, reassembled or stored at the building or premises for the purpose of:

          (a) Defacing, destroying or altering the identity of the motor vehicle or the part of a motor vehicle, including, without limitation, the identification number, to misrepresent the identity of or prevent the identification of the motor vehicle or the part; or

          (b) Selling or disposing of the motor vehicle or the part of a motor vehicle.

          2. A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.

          3. As used in this section, “motor vehicle” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 482.075.

  2. 18 U.S.C. § 2322 - Chop shops

    (a) In General.—

    (1)Unlawful action.—Any person who knowingly owns, operates, maintains, or controls a chop shop or conducts operations in a chop shop shall be punished by a fine under this title or by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both. If a conviction of a person under this paragraph is for a violation committed after the first conviction of such person under this paragraph, the maximum punishment shall be doubled with respect to any fine and imprisonment.

    (2)Injunctions.—The Attorney General shall, as appropriate, in the case of any person who violates paragraph (1), commence a civil action for permanent or temporary injunction to restrain such violation.

    (b)Definition.—For purposes of this section, the term “chop shop” means any building, lot, facility, or other structure or premise where one or more persons engage in receiving, concealing, destroying, disassembling, dismantling, reassembling, or storing any passenger motor vehicle or passenger motor vehicle part which has been unlawfully obtained in order to alter, counterfeit, deface, destroy, disguise, falsify, forge, obliterate, or remove the identity, including the vehicle identification number or derivative thereof, of such vehicle or vehicle part and to distribute, sell, or dispose of such vehicle or vehicle part in interstate or foreign commerce.

  3. NRS 205.2745.
  4. 18 U.S.C. § 2322.
  5. NRS 179.245.
  6. NRS 179.255.
  7. Carrillo-Jaime v. Holder, 572 F.3d 747 (9th Cir. 2009) ("We hold that a violation of Cal. Veh.Code § 10801 does not categorically qualify as a theft offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G).").
  8. De Leon v. Lynch, 808 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2015)("We affirm the Board's determination that Mr. Obregon is removable because his conviction for possession of stolen vehicles constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude.").

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