It's a criminal offense in Las Vegas to disseminate false or misleading advertisements even if no one actually is deceived or sustains losses from the advertisement. A judge may punish deceptive advertising by fines, injunctions, and possible jail. But a skilled Nevada defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
This article explains the Nevada offense of false advertising. Scroll down to learn more about the law, defenses, and penalties in Las Vegas.
The legal definition of "deceptive advertising" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is making any false or misleading statement through any advertising medium to induce a person into a transaction. A typical example of deceptive advertising in Las Vegas, Nevada is intentionally misstating a product's price in a sales flyer.
The Las Vegas crime of false or misleading advertising applies to any communications medium including:
- print publications such as newspapers and magazines
- in person solicitation
NRS 207.175 also comprises advertising by telephone, though it has an additional rule: Soliciting anyone to purchase products, property or services over the phone without admitting upfront that it's a sales call qualifies as deceptive advertising even if the solicitor tells no other lies.
Note that it's immaterial whether anyone was actually defrauded and made a purchase because of the deceptive advertising . . . simply the act of false advertising qualifies as an offense in Las Vegas whether or not anyone is taken in by it.
Also note that presidents and other higher-ups of companies may be prosecuted for deceptive advertising in Nevada even if they didn't personally create the false ads. As long as they knew or instructed their workers to engage in misleading advertising, they may be held liable.
There are many possible defenses to allegations of NRS 207.175 violations in Las Vegas depending on the specific facts of the case. But the two most frequently used strategies are "truthful advertising" and "lack of intent to deceive":
- The advertising was true: The standard for untrue or misleading advertising in Nevada is the likelihood that the public will be misled. This is extremely subjective. As long as the prosecution can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the advertising was deceptive, the defendant committed no crime. (Landex, Inc. v. State ex rel List, 94 Nev. 469 (1978).)
- Good faith: Making a false advertisement is not a crime as long as the defendant did so in good faith and without knowledge of its untrue, deceptive or misleading character. Therefore if a defense attorney can show that the advertisement was an accident or honest mistake, the defendant shouldn't be held liable. (NRS 207.172)
Penalties for the Las Vegas crime of false advertising depend on how many past false advertising convictions the defendant already has.
Note that each individual act of false advertisement is prosecuted as a separate offense even if the acts are identical. For example, accosting twenty people on the street at different times and pitching each one the same false sales price for a Rolex would be prosecuted as twenty offenses, not just one.
A first or second offense of violating NRS 207.175 is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment is:
- up to 6 months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail), and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Meanwhile, a third or subsequent offense of deceptive advertising is prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence is:
- up to 364 days in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail), and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
People suspected of false advertising in Nevada may face prosecution in not just criminal court but also civil court. Civil liability for deceptive advertising carries a fine of up to $2,500 for each violation.
Furthermore, the D.A. or Nevada Attorney General may request an injunction to order the defendant to cease their alleged false advertising. The penalty for violating an injunctive order carries a gross misdemeanor sentence of:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
Finally, any conviction for false advertising could cause state agencies such as the Nevada Consumer Affairs Division or other organizations such as the Nevada Better Business Bureau to investigate the matter. Depending on the actions they take a defendant may be at risk of losing his/her business license.
Sealing Nevada criminal records
If a defendant gets convicted of a misdemeanor in Nevada, he/she would need to wait one (1) more year before the court is permitted to seal the criminal record. If the defendant gets convicted of a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, the waiting period is raised to two (2) years.
However, if the defense attorney negotiates a case dismissal or achieves an acquittal at trial, then the defendant may petition to seal the record right away. Read more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
For cases in California, please see our article on Business & Professions Code 17500 - California's false advertising law.
Arrested? Call . . . .
If you've been accused of deceptive advertising under NRS 207.175, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) can meet with you for a free meeting to discuss how to fight the allegations. They may be able to negotiate a full dismissal or charge reduction. Otherwise, they're prepared to go to trial in pursuit of a "not guilty" verdict.