Nevada "Cyber-stalking" Laws (NRS 200.575(3))
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Definition

Cyber-stalking is using text-messaging, emails, or other online means in a way that causes the victims to reasonably feel frightened for their safety or the safety of their family or housemates. Defendants can be convicted of violating NRS 200.575(3) even if they did not mean to alarm the victim.

Penalties:

It may be possible to plea bargain cyber-stalking charges down to a lesser charge or a dismissal. Otherwise, cyber-stalking is a category C felony, carrying:

The defendant may be placed on probation for up to 5 years instead of going to prison.

Defenses

Typical cyber-stalking defense strategies include:

  • Misidentification,
  • Lack of stalking, or
  • False accusations

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

Girl with her face in her hands in front of her computer, where a menacing hand is emanating from the screen and pointing at her
Cyber-stalking is prosecuted more harshly than stalking in Nevada.

1. What is cyber-stalking in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The Nevada crime of cyber-stalking has four elements:

  1. The defendant acts in such a way that reasonably causes the victim to feel frightened, terrorized, or fearful for the immediate safety of his/her housemate, spouse, ex-spouse, parent, child, or other relative by blood or marriage;
  2. The defendant's actions are intentional;
  3. The stalking is done using the internet, email, text-messaging, or similar means of communication; and
  4. The defendant uses these electronic means to publish or distribute information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to the victim[1]

Cyber-stalking is a relatively new crime, and there have been no Nevada Supreme Court cases interpreting NRS 200.575(3). Therefore, it is difficult to know exactly what cyber-stalking is...

According to the language of the statute, it appears that sending someone several annoying emails would not qualify as cyber-stalking. This is because receiving emails in and of itself does not "substantially increase the risk of harm or violence" to the victim.

The following hypothetical scenarios may rise to the level of cyber-stalking:

  • sending group texts to the victim and several strangers inviting the strangers to come over to the victim's house for an orgy;
  • publicly posting incendiary and false information about the victim on Facebook meant to incite others to harass the victim; or
  • sending a series of disturbing emails about snuff films to the victim, causing the victim to fear for her life

Note that purported victims of cyber-stalking commonly take out restraining orders against the alleged culprit. Temporary protective orders (TPO) typically remain in effect for 30 days, and the judge may issue TPOs without giving the defendant an opportunity for a hearing. But the judge must permit the defendant an opportunity to be heard before issuing an extended protective order (EPO), which may last up to one (1) year.[2]

Girl with her face in her hands in front of her computer, where a menacing hand is emanating from the screen and pointing at her
Cyber-stalking is a category C felony in Nevada.

2. What are the penalties for cyber-stalking in Nevada?

Cyber-stalking is prosecuted as a category C felony. The sentence includes:

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

The defendant may be placed on probation for up to five (5) years in lieu of incarceration.[3]

2.1. Penalties for violating a restraining order

Violating a restraining order against stalking

Punishments

Temporary protective orders (TPOs)

Gross misdemeanor:

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

Extended protective orders (EPOs)

Category C felony:

  • 1 – 5 years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)[4]

The judge may also find the defendant in contempt for violating the court order and impose a fine and possibly incarceration.[5]

2.2. Plea bargains

Depending on the case, the D.A. may be willing to reduce a cyber-stalking charge down to breach of peace. Also called disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct, breach of peace It is a misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines[6]

Ideally, the defense attorney will be able to convince the prosecutor to dismiss the charge by using one of the defenses discussed in the next section.

3. What are the defenses to Nevada cyber-stalking charges?

Just some of the possible defense strategies to NRS 200.575(3) charges include:

  1. Misidentification
  2. Lack of stalking
  3. False accusations

Recall that it is not a defense that the defendant had no intention to make the victim feel frightened.

3.1. The defendant was misidentified as the perpetrator

The risk of law enforcement arresting the wrong person for cyber-stalking is relatively high considering that computers make it so easy for would-be stalkers to cover their tracks. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:

Example: Nick is angry at Eric and wants to scare him. Nick uses his brother's laptop to send him several threatening, anonymous emails. Eric informs the police, who track the messages back to Eric's brother's computer. The brother gets arrested for violating NRS 200.575(3). But if the brother's attorney can show that he was not the person who sent the messages, the charges against him should be dismissed.   

Computer keyboard with a red "hate" key
A defense to cyber-stalking charges is that the defendant was misidentified.

Judges and juries understand that people use computers to mask their identities in order to throw law enforcement off the scent. As long as the state fails to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant should not be convicted.

3.2. The behavior was not stalking

NRS 200.575(3) does not prohibit behavior that is merely annoying and does not make the victim feel endangered. Boulder City criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

Example: Jacob is late repaying Brandt's loan. Angry, Brandt texts Jacob thirty times in one day with the message, "Please pay me back as soon as you can. Thank you." Jacob is annoyed that his phone is constantly buzzing, and he files a police report that Brandt is cyber-stalking him. But when law enforcement investigates, it determines that Brandt's polite text messages do not rise to the level of cyber-stalking. This is because while the frequency of Brandt's messages may be annoying, the content is polite and should not make Jacob feel reasonably threatened.

Even if Jacob in the above example sincerely felt terrified, Brandt committed no crime since a reasonable person in Jacob's position should not feel terrified by thirty polite text messages.

3.3. The defendant was falsely accused

Sometimes people levy false accusations at others out of anger, revenge, or a genuine misunderstanding. Laughlin criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration of how easily a person can be wrongly charged with cyber-stalking:

Example: Merle is angry at Ryan for breaking up with her. She knows Ryan's email password, so she sends herself from Ryan's account several threatening emails. Merle then contacts the police, who proceed to arrest Ryan for cyber-stalking. But once their forensic team determines that the emails were sent from Merle's computer, the D.A. realizes that Merle probably lied and dismisses all charges against Ryan.

Helpful evidence in these types of cases consists of eye-witnesses, video surveillance, and experts in technology and hacking. Note that Merle in the above example would probably get prosecuted for filing a false police report for lying about Ryan.

4. Can I get my cyber-stalking case sealed in Nevada?

Hands over a computer keyboard
People convicted of violating NRS 200.575(3) can petition for a record seal 5 years after the case ends.

A cyber-stalking conviction in Nevada can usually be sealed five (5) years after the case ends. But if the charge gets reduced to the misdemeanor "breach of peace", the waiting period is only one (1) year after the case ends.[7]

Note that there is no waiting period to petition for a record seal if the case gets dismissed (meaning there is no conviction).[8] Learn more about how to get a Nevada criminal record seal.

5. Can I get deported for cyber-stalking?

Yes, an NRS 200.575(3) conviction may lead to deportation.[9] Consequently, immigrants who are under investigation or have been charged should retain counsel in attempt to get their case reduced to a non-removable crime. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada

6. Related offenses

6.1. Capturing image of another person's private area (NRS 200.604)

The Nevada crime of capturing the image of a private area is when a person intentionally photographs or videotapes another person's private parts without that person's consent. A first offense is a gross misdemeanor, carrying:

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

6.2. Stalking (NRS 200.573)

Penalties for the Nevada crime of stalking without a cyber component depend on the person's criminal history and whether the victim was threatened with death or severe injury ("aggravated stalking").

Nevada stalking offense Penalties

First offense

Misdemeanor:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Subsequent offense

Gross misdemeanor:

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

The defendant may be placed on probation for up to 3 years instead of incarceration.

Aggravated stalking

Category B felony

  • 2 – 15 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)

The defendant may be placed on probation for up to 5 years instead of incarceration.

6.3. Harassment (NRS 200.571)

The Nevada crime of harassment is when a person threatens to injure another person's body, mental health, or property. As with stalking, a first offense of harassment is a misdemeanor carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

6.4. Sexual Harassment

The Nevada crime of sexual harassment is when a person annoys or bullies someone else in a sexual manner. Depending on the facts of how the sexual harassment is carried out, sexual harassment may be prosecuted as either peering, coercion, harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, open or gross lewdness, rape, extortion, breaching the peace, assault, battery, and/or as hate crimes. The punishment depends on the charge.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers want to help negotiate your stalking case down to a lesser charge or a dismissal. If you have been arrested for violating NRS 200.575(3), then call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation today.

Arrested in California? Go to our article on California cyber-stalking laws.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our article on Colorado cyber-stalking laws.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 200.575  Stalking: Definitions; penalties.

          1.  A person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, commits the crime of stalking. Except where the provisions of subsection 2 or 3 are applicable, a person who commits the crime of stalking:

          (a) For the first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

          (b) For any subsequent offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

          2.  A person who commits the crime of stalking and in conjunction therewith threatens the person with the intent to cause the person to be placed in reasonable fear of death or substantial bodily harm commits the crime of aggravated stalking. A person who commits the crime of aggravated stalking shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.

          3.  A person who commits the crime of stalking with the use of an Internet or network site, electronic mail, text messaging or any other similar means of communication to publish, display or distribute information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to the victim shall be punished for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

          4.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2 of NRS 200.571, a criminal penalty provided for in this section may be imposed in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same conduct or for any contempt of court arising from the same conduct.

          5.  The penalties provided in this section do not preclude the victim from seeking any other legal remedy available.

          6.  As used in this section:

          (a) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct which consists of a series of acts over time that evidences a continuity of purpose directed at a specific person.

          (b) “Family or household member” means a spouse, a former spouse, a parent or other person who is related by blood or marriage or is or was actually residing with the person.

          (c) “Internet or network site” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4744.

          (d) “Network” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4745.

          (e) “Provider of Internet service” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4758.

          (f) “Text messaging” means a communication in the form of electronic text or one or more electronic images sent from a telephone or computer to another person's telephone or computer by addressing the communication to the recipient's telephone number.

          (g) “Without lawful authority” includes acts which are initiated or continued without the victim's consent. The term does not include acts which are otherwise protected or authorized by constitutional or statutory law, regulation or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, including, but not limited to:

                 (1) Picketing which occurs during a strike, work stoppage or any other labor dispute.

                 (2) The activities of a reporter, photographer, camera operator or other person while gathering information for communication to the public if that person is employed or engaged by or has contracted with a newspaper, periodical, press association or radio or television station and is acting solely within that professional capacity.

                 (3) The activities of a person that are carried out in the normal course of his or her lawful employment.

                 (4) Any activities carried out in the exercise of the constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

    NRS 205.4744  “Internet or network site” defined.

          1.  “Internet or network site” means any identifiable site on the Internet or on a network.

          2.  The term includes, without limitation:

          (a) A website or other similar site on the World Wide Web;

          (b) A site that is identifiable through a Uniform Resource Location;

          (c) A site on a network that is owned, operated, administered or controlled by a provider of Internet service;

          (d) An electronic bulletin board;

          (e) A list server;

          (f) A newsgroup; or

          (g) A chat room.

    NRS 205.4745  “Network” defined.  “Network” means a set of related, remotely connected devices and facilities, including more than one system, with the capability to transmit data among any of the devices and facilities. The term includes, without limitation, a local, regional or global computer network.

    NRS 205.4757  “Provider” defined.  “Provider” means any person who provides an information service.

    NRS 205.4758  “Provider of Internet service” defined.  “Provider of Internet service” means any provider who provides subscribers with access to the Internet or an electronic mail address, or both.

  2. See Nevada Protection Order Handbook, Nevada Supreme Court.
  3. NRS 200.575(3).
  4. NRS 200.591.
  5. NRS 22.100  Penalty for contempt.

          1.  Upon the answer and evidence taken, the court or judge or jury, as the case may be, shall determine whether the person proceeded against is guilty of the contempt charged.

          2.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 22.110, if a person is found guilty of contempt, a fine may be imposed on the person not exceeding $500 or the person may be imprisoned not exceeding 25 days, or both.

          3.  In addition to the penalties provided in subsection 2, if a person is found guilty of contempt pursuant to subsection 3 of NRS 22.010, the court may require the person to pay to the party seeking to enforce the writ, order, rule or process the reasonable expenses, including, without limitation, attorney's fees, incurred by the party as a result of the contempt.

    NRS 22.110  Imprisonment until performance if contempt is omission to perform an act; penalty for failure or refusal to testify before grand jury.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, when the contempt consists in the omission to perform an act which is yet in the power of the person to perform, the person may be imprisoned until the person performs it. The required act must be specified in the warrant of commitment.

          2.  A person so imprisoned as a result of his or her failure or refusal to testify before a grand jury may be imprisoned in the county jail for a period not to exceed 6 months or until that grand jury is discharged, whichever is less.

  6. NRS 203.010.
  7. NRS 179.245.
  8. NRS 179.255.
  9. 8 U.S. Code § 1227; see Student Deported After Cyberstalking Conviction, Campus Safety Magazine (December 30, 2014); see Steve Miletich, Ex-UW student convicted of cyberstalking deported to India, The Seattle Times (December 26, 2014).

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