Nevada "Incest" Laws (NRS 201.180)

Similar to the Nevada crime of sexual assault, incest is an extremely serious Nevada sex crime. Possible penalties include not only decades behind bars and hefty fines but also a sullied criminal record that may cause prospective employers to not hire you.

For decades our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have successfully negotiated serious felony charges down to minor offenses or even full dismissals.  For a brief overview of Nevada incest law and how we can help, keep reading below.


The legal definition of the crime of "incest" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is when two relatives who are closer than second cousins (or cousins by half blood) get married, have sexual intercourse or commit adultery.  The purpose of incest laws is to discourage inbreeding, which leads to a greater chance of birth defects.

The Nevada crime of incest is different from sexual assault (also called rape).  Whereas incest is illegal even if the two people involved are consenting adults, a rape charge cannot stand unless it involved a victim who didn't agree to the sex or who was a child at the time of the sex.

It is possible for someone to be charged with both rape and incest for the same act.  For instance, if a father has sex with his adult daughter against her will, he commits both rape (because she didn't agree to the sex) and incest (because they were too closely related).  But had the daughter agreed to the sex, then both the father and daughter may face criminal prosecution for incest.


Las Vegas incest law is very technical and prohibits a narrow range of behaviors.  Therefore, it may be possible to get an incest charge dismissed if your attorney can show that your situation falls outside the realm of prohibited acts.  The following are some possible defenses:

  • No fornication.  Las Vegas incest law prohibits closely related people from fornicating.  Although the law is vague in this area, it's arguable that fornication refers only to sexual intercourse between a man and woman and not to any other sex acts.  If the prosecutor can't prove that you engaged in sexual intercourse specifically, then the charge could be dropped.
  • No marriage.  Clark County incest law also prohibits closely related people from getting married.  If your attorney can show that you may have held yourselves out as man and wife but didn't legally get married, then the prosecution's case is significantly weakened.
  • No relations.  It's common for people who are close to refer to themselves as cousins, siblings or other blood relatives when they are in fact not.  Or perhaps one of the parties in an incest case was actually adopted or born to someone outside of the family.  Either way if your attorney can show that you are not in fact blood related to the other party or that you are distant family (such as second cousins or more), then the case should be dismissed.


The Las Vegas crime of incest is punished under NRS 201.180 as a category A felony in Nevada, which is the most serious class of crimes. Incest can be probationable with no jail sentence attached. Otherwise, the maximum possible sentence includes:

  • custody in Nevada state prison for two (2) years to life with the possibility of parole, and
  • maybe a fine of up to $10,000

In addition, a conviction carries lifetime supervision under NRS 176.0931 and sex offense registration. Depending on the case, it may be possible to get out of lifetime supervision early.

As you can see, the range of possible prison time is very wide.  In determining the final sentence, a Nevada judge may consider the following factors:

  • how closely related the two parties are,
  • whether the parties are both adults (over 18), both children, or one of each, and
  • whether the marriage and/or sexual intercourse was consensual.

For example, adult first cousins once removed who had consensual intercourse would probably receive a less serious sentence because it's arguably a "victimless" crime where neither party got hurt.  In contrast, an adult male who rapes his minor sister would surely receive a harsher prison term because it involved an underage victim who was forced to have sex against her will.

We're here if you've been arrested . . . .

If you're facing charges for the Nevada crime of incest (NRS 201.180), it's imperative you retain criminal defense counsel right away to negotiate with prosecutors in an effort to get the case dismissed or reduced to something much less serious.  Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) are here to provide a free consultation about your options today.

For information about the Nevada crime of bigamy, read our article on the Nevada crime of bigamy. For information on the law in California, please read our article on incest laws in the state of California (Penal Code 285 PC).

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