Nevada "Hate Crime" Laws (NRS 193.1675)

Nevada hate crime laws provide criminal penalties and sentencing enhancements for harming people because of their race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or disabilities. In certain cases, a hate crime allegation can trigger up to double the sentence for the underlying crime.

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:

  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • religion
  • color
  • 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.

For more on federal law refer to FBI Hate Crimes Information and the Human Rights Campaign against Hate Crimes.

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:

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:

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:

In determining the length of the additional penalty, the Nevada court will consider the following information:

  1. The facts and circumstances of the crime;
  2. The criminal history of the defendant;
  3. The impact of the crime on any victim;
  4. Any mitigating factors presented by the person; AND
  5. 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.

Federal penalties

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

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