"Failure to Register as a Sex Offender" in Nevada (NRS 179D.550)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

The Law

It is a felony in Nevada for convicted sex offenders to fail to:

  1. register with the Sex Offender Registry within 48 hours of getting convicted or being released from custody,
  2. update the registry with new information if they move or get a new job, and/or
  3. submit annual verification forms and check in with local law enforcement on a regular basis

It makes no difference if the defendant simply forgot to register, or intentionally decided not to do so.

Penalties

A first offense of not complying with NRS 179D.550 is a category D felony. The judge may impose:

The judge may grant probation on a first offense. But defendants who neglect to register more than once in seven (7) years face mandatory prison time.

Defenses

Common defenses to charges of NRS 179D.550 violations include taking the position that:

  • There was no registration requirement,
  • The government made a clerical error,
  • The defendant was the victim of false allegations, and/or
  • The defendant was too incapacitated to comply

As long as the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges should not be sustained.

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

failure to register
Not registering as a sex offender is a felony in Nevada, with a first offense carrying up to 4 years in prison.

1. Who has to register as a sex offender in Nevada?

People are required to register as sex offenders in Nevada if they have been convicted of any of the following crimes:

Being a registered sex offender carries a social stigma and can diminish the person's employment and housing prospects. Therefore, it is very important for defendants facing sex offense charges to hire experienced counsel to try to get their charges dismissed or reduced to a non-sex offense.

1.1. Duties to register as a sex offender in Nevada

Convicted sex offenders in Nevada have the duty to register and keep the state informed about their whereabouts. Specifically, they are required to do the following six things:

  1. Register with a local law enforcement agency within 48 hours of getting convicted (or getting released from custody following conviction);
  2. Notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of any change of name, residence, address, employment, or student status;
  3. Notify local law enforcement if they are remaining in a jurisdiction for longer than 30 days after initially reporting a stay of fewer than 30 days;
  4. Complete an annual verification form;
  5. Not provide false or misleading information to the Nevada Central Repository or a local law enforcement agency; and
  6. Appear in person at a local law enforcement agency on a regular basis:
    1. At least once a year for Tier I offenders;
    2. At least once every 180 days for Tier II offenders;
    3. At least once every 90 days for Tier III offenders2

Convicted sex offenders who do not do follow any of these conditions face a felony charge in Nevada.

Note that Nevada law draws no distinction between willfully defying a court order to register as a sex offender and innocently forgetting to register. Both are equally illegal. However, judges may impose lesser penalties when the defendant had no intention to violate the law.3

2. How do I register as a sex offender in Nevada?

The court should provide the defendant with detailed instructions on how to fulfill their registration requirements. Below is general information on:

sex offender
  1. Initial registration,
  2. Change of address, and
  3. Annual verification

Note that Tier I offenders (which comprise defendants with a low risk of re-offending) are not searchable in the online Sex Offender Registry. But Tier II and Tier III offenders are publicly searchable.

2.1. Initial Registration

A person who gets convicted of a sex offense in Nevada has 48 hours to register with the local police department. For instance, people convicted in Las Vegas would register with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

failure to register

If the defendant intends to visit another Nevada city or county for more than 48 hours, he/she will need to register there as well before the 48-hour mark. To find the local police or sheriff's office, go to the State of Nevada Department of Safety website.4

2.2. Change of Address

Whenever defendants change addresses, they need to inform the local law enforcement agency within 48 hours of the move. If the move is to another city, county, or state, defendants need to inform both their former and new local law enforcement agencies.

Depending on the circumstances, defendants may need to update the following information:

  • name,
  • occupation,
  • place of employment,
  • driver's license number,
  • address, and/or
  • motor vehicle(s) registered to or frequently driven by the defendant

Las Vegas residents may be able to update their address online.5

2.3. Annual Verification

Defendants are required to verify their registration once a year. The Central Repository will mail the defendant a form, which the defendant should complete and return along with

  • current fingerprints,
  • a photograph, and
  • any other relevant information.
failure to register

Las Vegas residents may be able to complete part of their annual verification online.6

For more information, contact the Sex Offender Registration Unit at (775) 687-1600 on Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm PST or visit the Nevada Attorney General website.

3. What are the Nevada penalties for not registering as a sex offender?

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Nevada Punishment

First offense

Category D felony

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

The judge may grant probation in lieu of incarceration.

Subsequent offense within 7 years of the first

Category C felony

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

The judge may not grant probation in lieu of incarceration.

Note that the judge will consider the defendant's motivation when determining a sentence. The judge might order a less serious punishment if the defendant accidentally forgot to comply with his/her registration requirements than if he/she deliberately chose not to do so.7

Also note that failure to register is a separate crime from the underlying sex offense. Therefore a conviction for violating NRS 179D.550 counts as a "strike" under Nevada's habitual felon law, which punishes people with three or more felonies on their record.8

Finally, note that the Nevada DMV and Gaming Control Board deny license renewals to people convicted of violating registration requirements. Scroll down to the next question to learn more about how being a sex offender affects Nevada driver's licenses.9

4. How does not registering as a sex offender affect my Nevada driver's license?

Nevadans who have neglected to register as a sex offender will be denied a driver's license renewal when their current license expires.

Note that people convicted of sex offenses are required to renew their driver's license annually once their current license expires. (Non-sex offenders renew their licenses only once every eight years.)

Every year, the DMV mails convicted sex offenders a driver's license renewal notice about 45 days before their license is set to expire. Then they must renew the license in person at a DMV office. They may not renew by mail or online.10

5. What are the defenses to a Nevada charge of failing to register as a sex offender?

There are various defenses an attorney may try to use to fight charges of violating NRS 179D.550. The following are three of the more common strategies:

  1. No registration requirement
  2. Human error
  3. False allegations
  4. Incapacitation

5.1. No registration requirement

Sometimes there is a miscommunication or lack of communication between government agencies about which defendants are required to register and where. These information gaps can lead to false arrests:

failure to register

Example: Kathy is a Tier I sex offender in Nevada. She successfully petitioned the court to get off the sex offender registry after only ten years instead of the usual fifteen. On the eleventh year, Kathy gets arrested for violating NRS 179D.550. But once Kathy's attorney produces the court documents showing that she is no longer required to register as a sex offender, the charge should be dismissed.

In the above example, Kathy did not fail to register because she was not required to. Courts should not penalize defendants for government mistakes.

5.2. Human error

When defendants initially register as sex offenders at their local law enforcement station, human beings are inputting the information into the databases. And sometimes these people enter the wrong information, which may lead to false arrests:

clerical error

Example: Nathan is convicted of indecent exposure in Reno, so he goes to the Reno Police Department to fulfill his registration requirements. The temp worker filling in that day fails to do an accurate job. After 48 hours, the police department gets notified that Nathan has violated NRS 179D.550 and arrests him. But if Nathan's attorney can show that he did everything that was required, the charge should be dropped.

In the above example, Nathan did not fail to abide by NRS 179D.550. Instead, the police station failed to correctly process his registration. Courts should not penalize defendants when the police were in the wrong.

5.3. False allegations

Sometimes disgruntled police permit their individual prejudices to overpower their duty to follow the law. One way they may take out their aggression is to punish convicted sex offenders more by conveniently "losing" their paperwork and falsely claiming that they failed to register.

false allegations

Example: Brian is convicted of a sex offense in Nevada after agreeing to a plea deal where he avoids prison. Henry is a police officer who helped investigate his case, and he is disgusted that Brian gets to avoid further incarceration. After Brian registers as a sex offender, Henry deletes all his information from the database. Then when 48 hours pass, Henry arrests Brian for violating NRS 179D.550 in the hopes that he will finally serve prison time. But if Brian's attorney can show that he abided by all his requirements and that the fault lay with the police station, then criminal charges should not stand.

Therefore, it is very important for defendants to keep detailed records of all their paperwork and postmark dates. They should photograph and keep screengrabs of any relevant documents that show they are compliant with Nevada registration laws. So if a bad police officer ever tries to sabotage them, they will have physical proof that they were compliant.

5.4. Incapacitation

A possible defenses to NRS 179D.550 charges is that the defendant was too incapacitated to comply with his/her registration requirements.

Example: Daniel is a sex offender who has been compliant for eight years. Then Daniel gets injured in a car crash and is put in a coma for several weeks. During this time, the deadline for him to submit his annual verification passes. If a warrant is issued for Daniel's arrest, Daniel's attorney can ask for a court hearing to explain the situation. Then the judge may agree to recall the warrant and dismiss the case, especially since Daniel has been in compliant for so many years.

Courts are more likely to dismiss charges if the defendant is a victim of emergency circumstances beyond his/her control, such as a car accident or illness. If a defendant's flight into Nevada gets cancelled, the judge may be unsympathetic and argue that the defendant should not have waited until the last minute to comply with registration requirements.

6. Can I get my conviction for failing to register as a sex offender sealed in Nevada?

An NRS 179D.550 conviction should be sealable five (5) years after the case ends. But if the case gets dismissed, then there is no waiting period. 

Note that the underlying sex offense conviction that led to the defendant's requirement to register can never be sealed.11

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender Record Seal waiting period

First conviction (category D felony)

5 years after the case ends

Subsequent conviction (category C felony)

5 years after the case ends

Dismissed charge (no conviction)

No waiting period

Underlying sex offense

May never be sealed

7. Can I be deported for failing to register as a sex offender?

gavel

Probably not. Violating NRS 179D.550 is not considered an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. However, the underlying sex offense that the defendant was convicted of almost certainly is a deportable offense.12

Therefore, any aliens facing criminal charges should hire a lawyer as soon as possible to try to get their charges dismissed or reduced to an offense that is definitely not removable. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

8. How long do I have to register as a sex offender in Nevada?

It depends on what sex offender "tier" the defendant has been classified as:

Sex Offender Level in Nevada Length of time the offender has to register

Tier I (low risk of re-offending)

15 years, though it may be lessened to 10 years if the defendant has been fully compliant and has not been convicted of another felony

Tier II (medium risk of re-offending)

25 years

Tier III (high risk of re-offending)

For life, though it may be lessened to 25 years for juvenile court defendants who have been compliant and have not been convicted of another felony

Eligible Tier I and III offenders must petition the court to hold a hearing to determine whether they may get off the sex offender registry early.

Arrested? Call us . . .

If you are accused of violating NRS 179D.550, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) today. Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can meet with you for free to discuss whether we may get the charge reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed completely.

Arrested in California? Go to our article on California laws for failure to register as a sex offender (Penal Code 290 PC).

Arrested in Nevada? Go to our article on Colorado laws for failure to register as a sex offender.


Legal References

  1. NRS 179D.097.
  2. NRS 179D.441; NRS 179D.445; NRS 179D.447; NRS 179D.450; NRS 179D.460; NRS 179D.470.
  3. NRS 179D.550 Prohibited acts; penalties; duties of local law enforcement agency.

          1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, an offender or sex offender who:

          (a) Fails to register with a local law enforcement agency;

          (b) Fails to notify the local law enforcement agency of a change of name, residence, employment or student status as required pursuant to NRS 179D.447;

          (c) Provides false or misleading information to the Central Repository or a local law enforcement agency; or

          (d) Otherwise violates the provisions of NRS 179D.010 to 179D.550, inclusive,

    --> is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

          2. An offender or sex offender who commits a second or subsequent violation of subsection 1 within 7 years after the first violation is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. A court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted pursuant to this subsection.

          3. If a local law enforcement agency is aware that an offender or sex offender in its jurisdiction has failed to comply with a provision of NRS 179D.010 to 179D.550, inclusive, the local law enforcement agency must take any appropriate action to ensure compliance.

  4. NRS 179D.460.
  5. NRS 179D.470.
  6. NRS 179D.480.
  7. NRS 179D.550.
  8. NRS 207.010.
  9. NRS 483.283; see State of Nevada Gaming Employee Registration Application.
  10. NRS 483.283.
  11. NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.
  12. Pannu v. Holder, 639 F.3d 1225 (9th Cir. 2011)("We concluded that 'it is the sexual offense that is reprehensible, not the failure to register' and that although the registration laws may serve useful purposes, 'the mere failure to register as a sex offender cannot constitute morally turpitudinous behavior.'").

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