Some hate crimes can carry up to twenty additional years in prison in Nevada.
Harming people because of their race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or disabilities is deemed a hate crime under Nevada law. Penalties may include long prison terms and a sullied criminal record that looks bad to employers. But an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the charge dismissed or reduced to something minor.
This page explains hate crimes in Nevada including how they're defined, how to fight charges, and what penalties a conviction carries. Scroll down to learn more.
A hate crime in Nevada is an offense that someone commits against someone else because of that person's:
- sexual orientation
- national origin
- physical or mental disability
- gender identity or expression
A classic example of a hate crime is a bully beating up someone for being gay. Even if the victim wasn't actually gay, it's still considered a hate crime in Las Vegas if the attacker believed the victim was gay and harmed him because of it.
Note that Nevada law treats hate crimes not as independent crimes but rather as enhancements to underlying crimes. For instance that bully above would be charged with battery. If he's convicted, his punishment may be harsher than the typical battery sentence because his reason for committing the battery was out of discrimination.
Federal hate crime laws
Depending on the case a person may be prosecuted under Nevada and/or federal hate crime laws. Federal hate crime laws are largely constructed to penalize people for hate crimes in states where there's insufficient hate crime legislation.
In 2009 the Matthew Shepard Act expanded upon 1964's Federal Civil Rights Law. Federal law now prohibits someone from willingly injuring, intimidating or interfering with someone else by force (or threat of force) because of that person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Read more about the federal offense of hate crimes.
A defense attorney's initial strategy in a Nevada hate crimes case is to attack the underlying allegation with such traditional defenses as:
- self-defense in Nevada
- mistaken identity
- false accusations
- lack of evidence
- police misconduct
If the attorney has a winning argument on the underlying charge, then the case could be dismissed and the hate crime aspect becomes irrelevant. But in cases where the defendant would be found liable of the underlying charge, the defense attorney would then try to minimize the penalties by showing that the defendant's actions didn't amount to a hate crime:
The defendant didn't act out of bias
The most common defense to hate crimes is that the offense was not motivated by discrimination. For example, it's not a hate crime to rob a person in a wheelchair because the defendant believed that person would put up less of a fight than someone who could walk. As long as the robbery wasn't fueled by animosity towards the disabled in general, then the defendant may be found guilty of robbery but not as a hate crime.
The defendant is protected by the First Amendment
The other common defense to hate crimes is that the defendant's conduct was protected "free speech" under the First Amendment. Speech alone cannot qualify as a hate crime unless:
- The defendant's speech threatened violent action against a specific person or group of people protected under hate crime laws; AND
- The defendant had the apparent ability to make good on the threat, and the threat would tend to induce apprehension in the alleged victim.
The reason for this exception is that the government is allowed to regulate speech when that speech poses a threat to public health and safety.
The punishment for a hate crime conviction in Nevada would be the sentence for the underlying crime plus an enhancement for it being a hate crime. How severe the enhancement is varies depending on the case:
Misdemeanors (NRS 207.185)
Certain misdemeanors in Nevada are charged as gross misdemeanors in Nevada if they're allegedly committed as a hate crime. Therefore the final sentence would be up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. This law applies to the following crimes:
- The Nevada crime of assault (NRS 200.471)
- The Nevada crime of battery (NRS 200.481)
- The Nevada crime of elder abuse (NRS 200.5099)
- The Nevada crime of harassment (NRS 200.571)
- The Nevada crime of stalking (NRS 200.575)
- The Nevada crime of breach of peace (NRS 203.010)
- The Nevada crime of threatening or obscene letters or writing (NRS 207.180)
- The Nevada crime of trespass (NRS 207.200)
- The Nevada crime of unlawful assembly (NRS 203.060)
- The Nevada crime of disturbing a meeting (NRS 203.090)
- The Nevada crime of assembling to disturb peace (NRS 203.020)
- The Nevada crime of provoking commission of breach of peace (NRS 203.030)
- The Nevada crime of armed association (NRS 203.080)
- The Nevada crime of offenses in public conveyances (NRS 203.100)
- The Nevada crime of forcible entry and detainer (NRS 203.110)
- The Nevada crime of commission of act in public building or area interfering with peaceful conduct of activities (NRS 203.119)
- The Nevada crime of destruction or damage of property by unlawful assembly (NRS 206.010)
- The Nevada crime of entering property with intention to damage or destroy property (NRS 206.040)
- The Nevada crime of nuisance in building; trespass upon grounds; disturbing assembly (NRS 206.140)
- The Nevada crime of unlawful posting of bills, signs or posters (NRS 206.200)
- The Nevada crime of injury of another's property (NRS 206.310)
- The Nevada crime of destruction of signs or notices forbidding trespass (NRS 207.210)
Narrower rules apply to the Nevada crime of graffiti. If the graffiti is sprayed on a house of worship (or a school or cemetery), it's charged as a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor irrespective of whether the defendant acted out of bias. The judge may also order the defendant to pay victim restitution in Las Vegas. (NRS 206.125)
Gross Misdemeanors & Felonies (NRS 193.1675)
Felonies in Nevada which are committed as hate crimes carry an additional sentence of one to twenty years in Nevada State Prison. However, the enhancement may not exceed the length of the sentence for the underlying crime. This law applies to the following offenses:
- The Nevada crime of mayhem (NRS 200.280)
- The Nevada crime of kidnapping (NRS 200.310)
- The Nevada crime of sexual assault (NRS 200.366) (learn more about Nevada sex crimes)
- The Nevada crime of robbery (NRS 200.380)
- The Nevada crime of false imprisonment (NRS 200.460)
- The Nevada crime of administering drugs to aid commission of a crime (NRS 200.405)
- The Nevada crime of assault with a deadly weapon (NRS 200.471)
- The Nevada crime of child abuse (NRS 200.508)
- The Nevada crime of elder abuse (NRS 200.5099)
- The Nevada crime of aggravated stalking (NRS 200.575)
- The Nevada crime of duels (NRS 200.410)
- The Nevada crime of involuntary servitude (NRS 200.463; NRS 200.4631; NRS 200.464; NRS 200.465)
- The Nevada crime of assuming rights of ownership over another person (NRS 200.465)
- The Nevada crime of battery with intent to commit a crime (NRS 200.400)
In determining the length of the additional penalty, the Nevada court will consider the following information:
- The facts and circumstances of the crime;
- The criminal history of the defendant;
- The impact of the crime on any victim;
- Any mitigating factors presented by the person; AND
- Any other relevant information.
Murder (NRS 200.033)
The Nevada crime of first-degree murder may carry the death penalty in Las Vegas only if the court finds that there's at least one aggravating circumstance and it's not outweighed by any mitigating circumstances. It counts as an aggravating circumstance if the murder was committed as a hate crime. Consequently, hate crime murders can potentially carry capital punishment.
Penalties for violating federal hate crimes legislation turns on the severity of the case. The standard penalty is a fine or imprisonment for up to a year if no bodily injury results or there's no use of firearms, explosives or fire. Otherwise the judge can order up to ten years in prison. Hate crimes involving rape, kidnapping or murder may be punished by life in prison or death.
Arrested? There's help . . . .
If you've been accused of a "hate crime" in Nevada, contact Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). They can talk to you for free about the possibility of negotiating your charge down to a lesser offense or even a full dismissal. And if you wish they're ready to take the matter to a jury in pursuit of a "not guilty" verdict.
For information on California hate crime laws, go to our informational webpage on California hate crime laws.