Failing to return leased property can be a felony in Nevada.
It is unlawful in Nevada either to rent personal property on false pretenses or to fail to return rented property when the lease is up. This crime -- called conversion -- may carry hefty prison terms, fines, and restitution. But a seasoned Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges without a trial.
This article provides a summary of the Las Vegas offense of conversion of rented or leased property. Keep reading to learn about the definition, defenses, and penalties.
The legal definition of "conversion of rented or leased personal property" in Las Vegas, Nevada, makes it a crime either:
- To commit fraud in order to rent personal property, or
- To fail intentionally to return rented property
Both of these are discussed below. But note that "personal property" does not include land or buildings. Instead, personal property refers to any kind of movable good, such as jewelry, clothes, furniture, electronics, etc.
1) Fraudulently obtaining rented property
It is a crime in Nevada for a person who is renting any personal property to obtain or retain possession of the property by fraudulent representation, concealment, pretense, impersonation, trick, artifice, or device, including (but not limited to) a false representation as to his/her:
- employment, or
- operator's license
2) Intentionally failing to return rented property
It is a crime in Nevada for a person (the lessee) not to return rented property to the owner (the lessor) if all of the following conditions are true:
- the lessee and lessor had a written agreement which provides for the return of the personal property to a particular place at a particular time, and
- the lessee fails to return the personal property to such place within the time specified, and
- the lessee has the intent to defraud the lessor or to retain possession of such property without the lessor's permission, and
- the lessor writes a letter to the lessee demanding the return of the property, and this letter is sent through registered mail to the address in the original agreement (or if no address was listed, to the last known place of residence), and
- the lessee fails to return the property to any place of business of the lessor within 72 hours of this written demand.
Note that the court will presume a defendant had "intent to defraud" if the defendant failed to return the personal property to the place specified in the agreement.
Typical examples of NRS 205.940 violations in Las Vegas, Nevada, include:
- Not returning a video to a video store
- Not returning a tuxedo to a tuxedo rental store
- Not returning jewelry on loan to a jewelers
Note that failing to return a rental car is usually prosecuted under Nevada embezzlement laws, not conversion. However, the penalties would be the same.
There are many arguments a criminal defense lawyer can use when fighting a Nevada charge for conversion of rented or leased property. Below is a sampling of these defense strategies:
- There was no written agreement. A defendant cannot be held liable for failing to return rental property if there was no written agreement specifying the time and place of return. As long as the prosecutor cannot prove there was a written agreement authorized by the defendant, the case should be dismissed.
- The property belonged to the defendant. A defendant cannot be criminally liable for converting his/her own property. If the defense attorney can show that the agreement was to buy and not rent the property, then conversion charges cannot stand.
- There is insufficient evidence. Prosecutors bear the burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the defendant to be convicted. If the defense attorney can show that the prosecutor's evidence is not reliable, persuasive, or sufficient, then the state may drop the conversion charges for lack of proof.
Violations of NRS 205.940 are punished just like larceny convictions in Nevada. The specific sentence depends on the rental property's monetary value:
- restitution for the allegedly converted property, and
- up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to six months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail)
- restitution of the allegedly converted property, and
- one to five years in Nevada State Prison and maybe a fine of up to $10,000
And if the value of the property is $3,500 or more, it is also treated like the Nevada offense of grand larceny. But the sentence will be for a category B felony in Las Vegas, carrying:
- restitution of the allegedly converted property, and
- one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
Immigrants convicted of conversion of rented or leased property in Nevada could possibly be deported for it depending on the case. So it is very important that aliens who are charged with conversion retain a criminal defense attorney to try to plead down the case to non-removable charges. Read more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
Call us if you have been arrested for conversion . . .
If you have been accused of conversion of rented or leased property under NRS 205.940, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can speak with you for free on how best to defend your case, clear your name, and keep your record clean. And if necessary they can always take the case to trial in pursuit of a "not guilty" verdict.