It's illegal in Nevada to loiter near schools and any other locale populated by children. The purpose of this law is to ward off pedophiles. The downside is that anyone who doesn't know that loitering is a crime may find themselves arrested even if they meant no harm.
A competent Nevada criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a loitering charge down to a full dismissal or other charge that carries less of a stigma. And depending on the case, the attorney may believe it's in the defendant's best interest to fight at trial for a "not guilty" verdict.
This article explains the Nevada offense of loitering near a school or other public space where children gather. Keep reading below to learn about the law, potential penalties and possible defense strategies.
It's a criminal offense in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a person to loiter near a school or public place where children normally congregate if the person doesn't have a "legitimate reason to supervise any of such children or other legitimate reason to be at leisure in such place." (NRS 207.270)
As you can see, this crime is very vague and potentially implicates innocent bystanders who were unaware they were near a school or similar location. In 1971, the Nevada Supreme Court clarified the scope of the law:
"[This statute] was designed to protect school children and young people from local and itinerate sex perverts who might loiter near schools and public places awaiting opportunity to commit their crime." (Minor Girl v. Clark County Juvenile Court Services, 87 Nev. 544 (1971).
Consequently, the Nevada Supreme Court held that this law was not meant to punish a fourteen-year-old high school junior who loitered by the school after failing to follow the principal's order to return to class. He may have broken a school rule but committed no crime.
Therefore, Nevada police will typically make arrests under this law only when they suspect the loiterer could be a pedophile. Otherwise, the cops will give the loiterer a "warning" and advise them to move.
There are many ways to defend against an accusation of loitering near a school in Nevada precisely because the law is so vague. The following are just some of the possible defense tactics:
- Legitimate reason to be there: It's perfectly legal to be near a school or similar location if the person had a good reason such as waiting to pick up their child. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant had a reasonable and harmless explanation for being there, the charge should be dropped.
- No loitering: It's not illegal to hang around a school unless the person is loitering. If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant was there for only a short time and was not truly loitering, then there's a good chance the case will be dismissed.
- False allegations: It's not unusual for people to wrongly accuse others out of rage, jealousy, or a simple misunderstanding. In these cases, the defense attorney would argue that the accuser lacks credibility and that the evidence vindicates the defendant.
The Las Vegas offense of loitering near a school or other public place where children congregate is punished as only a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence for a misdemeanor in Nevada includes:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
But the most damaging penalty is the social stigma. It looks bad on background checks and may cause employers not to hire people who've been charged with it. A good defense attorney would try to get the charged dismissed or switched to something less unseemly such as the Las Vegas crime of trespass. Judges usually impose only a small fine for the Las Vegas crime of trespass.
Charged with loitering? There's help . . . .
If you've been accused of loitering near a school or other locale under NRS 207.270, call Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). The initial consultation is free. Depending on the case your charge may be lessened or even thrown out so your record remains clean.
Also see our article on the Nevada crime of luring.