Nevada Sex Crimes Laws


Many Nevada sex crime convictions carry not only incarceration and high fines but also sex offender registration in Nevada. This can cost a person both freedom and job prospects.

Nevada's most serious sex crimes include:

However, it may be possible to reduce or even dismiss the charges through aggressive plea bargaining in Nevada. In many cases, defense attorneys can use the following defenses during negotiation and litigation:

  • the defendant was the victim of false accusations,
  • the accuser agreed to the sexual contact in accordance with Nevada consent laws, or
  • no sexual contact occurred

In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense lawyers discuss:

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Many Nevada sex offenses require the defendant to register as an offender.

1. Definition of "sex crime” in Nevada

A “sex crime” in Nevada comprises everything from rape to groping to flashing. Any Nevada felony or Nevada misdemeanor with a sexual component qualifies as a sex crime.1

Depending on the charge, a person convicted of a sex crime may be required to register as a sex offender -- sometimes for life.

Nevada's Sex Offender Registry has three tiers of offenders: Tiers III and II are searchable to the public. Tier I offenders are not searchable.2

2. Common Nevada sex crimes

As discussed below, common Nevada sex offenses include:

  1. Sexual assault (rape)
  2. Statutory sexual seduction (statutory rape)
  3. Open or gross lewdness
  4. Lewdness with a child under 16
  5. Sex between pupils and school employees
  6. Sexually-motivated coercion
  7. Indecent exposure
  8. Prostitution
  9. Child pornography
  10. Sodomy
  11. Bestiality
  12. Incest
  13. Sexual harassment
  14. Child sex abuse and exploitation
  15. Sex trafficking (pandering/ pimping)
  16. Battery with intent to commit rape
  17. Felony-murder (in the commission of a rape)
  18. Teen sexting
  19. Peering
  20. Capturing the image of the private area of another person
  21. Exhibition and sale of obscene materials to minors
  22. Administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony (such as rape)
  23. Intentional transmission of HIV
  24. Failure to register as a sex offender

Note that oral copulation with a minor with Nevada is typically prosecuted as either lewdness or rape. There is no specific Nevada law for it, unlike California.

2.1. Sexual assault (rape)

male hand holding down woman's hand in bed
Rape carries a possible life sentence in Nevada.

The Nevada crime of sexual assault occurs when someone has vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without the other person's consent. Having non-forced sex with a person who is too intoxicated or incapacitated to give consent is also considered rape unless the two parties are married -- and even then the D.A. may still choose to bring charges. 

Sexual assault is a category A felony in Nevada carrying life in Nevada State Prison and sex offender registration. Whether the defendant gets parole turns on:

  • the age of the victim,
  • whether the victim sustained substantial bodily harm,
  • the defendant's criminal history

Violations of Nevada date rape laws and Nevada spousal rape laws are punished the same as rape.3

2.2. Statutory sexual seduction (statutory rape)

Nevada's age of consent is 16 years old. Consequently, the Nevada crime of statutory sexual seduction occurs when an adult 18-years old or older has penetrative sexual contact with a child of 15-years old or younger. It makes no difference if the child initiates or fully consents to the sex.

Statutory rape may be a felony or a gross misdemeanor in Nevada depending on the age of the defendant and his/her criminal history. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.4

2.3. Open or gross lewdness

The Nevada crime of open or gross lewdness comprises any nonconsensual sexual touching short of penetrative sex (rape). Open or gross lewdness also comprises cases of people having consensual sexual contact in public.

Open or gross lewdness may be a category D felony in Nevada or a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.5 

2.4. Lewdness with a child under 16

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Lewdness with a child carries a possible life sentence in Nevada.

The Nevada crime of lewdness with a child under 16 occurs when adults touch children 15 or younger for sexual gratification. It is irrelevant if no sexual organ is touched.

Lewdness with a child can be either a category A felony or a category B felony in Nevada depending on whether the child is under 14. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.6

2.5. Sex between pupils and school employees

Nevada law prohibits teachers from having sexual contact with their students. Whether the crime is a category B felony or category C felony in Nevada depends on:

  1. whether the setting is secondary school or college, and
  2. the age of the student

Learn more about the Nevada crime of sexual contact between teachers and students.7

2.6. Sexually-motivated coercion

The Nevada crime of coercion occurs when a person bullies another to do something that he/she does not legally have to do. If the coercion was sexually-motivated, the judge will probably order a harsher penalty.

Coercion can be a category B felony or a misdemeanor in Nevada depending on whether the defendant engaged in the Nevada crimes of assault or battery.8

2.7. Indecent exposure

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A person can be convicted of indecent exposure in Nevada even if no one else sees the exposure.

The Nevada crime of indecent exposure comprises showing one's genitalia or anus. It does not matter whether the exposure happens in public or in a private place where the public can see (such as through a window).

Indecent exposure may be a category D felony or a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.9

2.8. Prostitution

The Nevada crime of prostitution comprises trading sexual favors for money (or other things of value). Merely soliciting prostitution is a crime even if no sex takes place.

A first-time offense is typically a misdemeanor. But penalties are greater for:

  • "johns" with prior offenses;
  • soliciting a minor; or
  • soliciting with HIV

Note that judges may dismiss charges for repeat prostitution offenders in Nevada if they successfully complete rehab.10

2.9. Child pornography

Nevada child pornography laws prohibit:

child abuse sign
Making child pornography carries a possible life sentence in Nevada.
  • Possession of child porn;
  • Advertising child porn;
  • Using a computer to control or view the child porn; and
  • Using a child to make porn

The punishment can be one year to life in prison depending on the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.11

2.10. Sodomy

Nevada sodomy laws make it a category D felony to perform oral or anal sex in public.12 Note that prosecutors are more likely to bring charges for open or gross lewdness rather than for sodomy in cases involving public displays of sex.

2.11. Bestiality

Nevada bestiality laws prohibit people from having sexual contact with animals. Prosecutors charge it as a gross misdemeanor or a category D felony depending on whether the animal was injured.13

2.12. Incest

The Nevada crime of incest occurs when two relatives who are closer than second cousins (or cousins by half blood) either:

  • get married,
  • have sexual intercourse, or
  • commit adultery

Incest is a category A felony carrying possible life in prison, though it may be possible to get probation.14

2.13. Sexual harassment

Nevada has no singular "sexual harassment" crime. Rather, alleged harassers may be prosecuted for violations of:

sexual harassment sign with a no symbol
Alleged sexual harassers in Nevada face various criminal charges.
  1. Nevada stalking laws
  2. Nevada harassment laws
  3. Nevada assault laws
  4. Nevada peering laws
  5. Nevada coercion laws
  6. Nevada extortion laws
  7. Nevada indecent exposure laws
  8. Nevada open or gross lewdness laws
  9. Nevada breaching the peace laws
  10. Nevada hate crimes laws

Learn more about sexual harassment laws in Nevada.

2.14. Child sexual abuse & exploitation

The Nevada crime of child sex abuse and exploitation is a "catch-all" offense that encompasses any situations of child sexual abuse not covered in other child Nevada sex crimes.

Child sexual abuse is a category A felony in Nevada carrying life in prison. Parole depends on whether the sexual abuse was willful or whether the defendant merely allowed for it to happen. The defendant will also be required to register as a sex offender.15

2.15. Sex trafficking

sex trafficking sign
Sex trafficking means pandering in Nevada.

Previously called "pandering", the Nevada crime of sex trafficking is inducing or forcing someone to engage in prostitution. In other words, "pimping."

Sex trafficking can be a category A or B felony depending on the age of the victim. A conviction also carries mandatory sex offender registration.16

2.16. Battery with intent to commit rape

The Nevada crime of battery with intent to commit a crime such as rape is a category A felony if the victim was a child or the victim sustained injuries.17

2.17. Felony murder (in the commission of rape)

Nevada felony murder laws make it a first-degree murder in Nevada to kill someone in the commission of a sexual assault. It makes no difference if the suspect had no intention of killing the victim.

First-degree murder is a category A felony carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison or possibly the death penalty.18

2.18. Teen sexting

Nevada's teen sexting law prohibits minors from sending sexual images of themselves or others to each other. A first-time offense is not a crime. But the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services may label the child as "in need of supervision." And any subsequent sexting offense makes the teen vulnerable to delinquency charges in juvenile court. Learn more about Nevada juvenile laws.19

2.19. Peering ("Peeping Tom")

The Nevada crime of peering outlaws going onto another's property for the purpose of secretly spying on them. Peering is generally a misdemeanor. But it becomes a gross misdemeanor if the suspect has a camera, and it becomes a category B felony if the suspect has a deadly weapon.20

2.20. Capturing the image of the private area of another person

The Nevada crime of capturing the image of the private area of another person outlaws taking photos or video of someone else in a state of undress without their permission. A first offense is a gross misdemeanor.21

2.21. Exhibition and sale of obscene materials to minors

The Nevada crime of giving or selling obscene materials to minors is a misdemeanor. Common examples of obscene materials include pornographic magazines or movies.22

2.22. Administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony

Giving drugs to someone in an effort to have sexual contact with him/her is the Nevada crime of administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony. This is a category B felony, and the sentencing range depends on the types of drugs involved.23

2.23. Intentional transmission of HIV

The Nevada crime of intentional transmission of HIV occurs when a person knows he/she has HIV and then purposely acts in a way that would probably infect another person with it. An example is having unprotected sex. This crime is a category B felony.24

2.23. Failing to register as a sex offender

Convicted sex offenders are required to register with their local law enforcement agency within 48 hours of being released from custody or crossing state lines into Nevada. Nevada residents are required to re-register regularly depending on their tier.

Convicted sex offenders who fail to register as a sex offender in Nevada face additional category D felony charges even if they never commit another sex crime.25

3. Sealing Nevada sex crime convictions

A Nevada record seal is when a court agrees to hide a defendant's past convictions from view so they no longer come up in background checks. People with sealed criminal records usually have a better chance of getting a job than people who have not had their record sealed.

Nevada law prohibits record seals for the following felony sex crime convictions:

  • sexual assault
  • statutory sexual seduction
  • battery with intent to commit rape
  • child sex abuse
  • child pornography
  • sex trafficking children
  • prostitution with children
  • incest
  • felony open or gross lewdness
  • felony indecent exposure
  • lewdness with a child
  • sex between teachers and students
  • sex with a corpse

It may be possible to get sex-related misdemeanor convictions sealed one (1) year after the case ends. And sex-related gross misdemeanor convictions may be sealable two (2) years after the case ends.26

Note that sex charges that get dismissed may be sealed right away.27

4. Fighting Nevada sex crimes charges

There are several possible strategies for fighting Nevada sex crime charges depending on the unique circumstances of the case. The three most common defenses include:

"sex offender" written in scrabble letters
False accusations are a defense to any criminal charge.
  • The defendant was falsely accused (such as out of anger or mistaken identification);
  • The victim consented to the sexual contact; or
  • No sexual contact occurred

Note that defendants who were intoxicated during the alleged sexual offense cannot use their intoxication as a defense unless they were drugged unknowingly. Learn more about intoxication as a defense in Nevada.28

If the case goes to trial, the prosecution has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as the defense attorney can show that the prosecution's evidence is too holey, insufficient, or unreliable to sustain a conviction, the defendant should be acquitted.

5. Legal strategies for defending sex crimes

Tactics criminal defense attorneys rely on to fight sex offense charges include the following:

5.1. Negotiating with police

Nevada police scrutinize every sex crime allegation they receive. Even if the victim recants, police may still arrest the suspect and let the case work through the criminal courts.

However, police may be willing to drop an investigation if the suspect's attorney can present his/her side of the story and explain why he/she is innocent.

5.2. Private investigations

Police reports are just one side of the story, and they often contain inaccuracies and gaps. In some cases, accusers innocently misconstrue their circumstances or identify the wrong person. Occasionally, accusers make false allegations on purpose to get the suspect in trouble.

Therefore, it is crucial for the suspect's defense attorney to conduct an independent investigation of:

  • the crime scene,
  • the accuser, and
  • the witnesses

These investigations may be able to uncover proof that officer was biased or that the accuser lied. Then once the defense attorney presents this evidence to the prosecution, they may be willing to drop the charges right away or offer a plea deal.

5.3. Pre-trial advocacy and motions

rape sign shattered by a hammer
Many sex assault cases are won in pre-trial litigation.

Although most cases never make it to trial, it is important for defense attorneys to prepare for trial:

It is during this pre-trial period that defense attorneys bring motions to suppress evidence in Nevada. These are where defense attorneys ask the judge to disregard certain evidence that is irrelevant or that the police may have obtained through an unlawful Nevada search and seizure.

If the defense attorney succeeds in getting enough evidence "suppressed", the prosecutors may realize the case is too weak to sustain a conviction. They may then agree to dismiss the charges or reduce the charge.

5.4. Plea bargains

The majority of cases resolve through a plea bargain, where the prosecution allows the defendant to plead to a lesser charge in exchange for not going to trial.

The first plea bargain the prosecution offers is rarely that favorable to the defendant. But through aggressive negotiation, a criminal defense attorney may be able to achieve a deal where the criminal charge(s) get reduced substantially or possibly dismissed. Ideally, the defense attorney would strike a deal requiring no jail time or sex offender registration.

5.5. Trial advocacy

If a case proceeds to jury trial in Nevada, the defendant does not have to prove anything. The prosecution has the burden of proof, and it is very high -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the defense attorney's job is to raise that reasonable doubt by:

  • cross-examining witnesses,
  • presenting favorable ("exculpatory") evidence, and/or
  • presenting expert witnesses (if necessary)

A skilled defense attorney knows how to "impeach" a witness's credibility on the stand, which may cause jurors to doubt their testimony. All it takes is for one juror to side with the defendant to avoid a guilty verdict. 

5.6. Appeals and post-conviction relief

image of planet
Any guilty verdict at trial may be appealed in Nevada.

Even a guilty verdict does not have to be the end of the story:

At the Nevada sentencing hearing, the defense attorney may argue for the laxest possible punishment by presenting such mitigating factors as:

  • the defendant has no criminal history,
  • the defendant was abused as a child, and/or
  • the defendant is an asset to the community

If the defendant entered a guilty plea, he/she may have grounds to file a motion to withdraw the plea in Nevada.

Or if the defendant was convicted at trial, he/she should then file:

It also may be possible to apply to get a Nevada sentence commutation (reduction) and ultimately a Nevada pardon.

In short, there are a host of legal avenues criminal defense attorneys can explore when fighting to get a guilty verdict overturned or sentence mitigated.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation today.

Call us for help...

Are you facing charges of a sex-related offense in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We may be able to get the charges dismissed or negotiate a favorable plea bargain while keeping you off the sex offender registry.

Arrested in California? See our article on California sex crimes.

Arrested in Colorado? See our article on Colorado sex crimes.


Legal references:

  1. NRS 179.245(6)(b) ("Sexual offense" has a narrower meaning for the purpose of record seals).
  2. NRS 179D.
  3. NRS 200.366; NRS 200.373.
  4. NRS 200.368.
  5. NRS 201.210.
  6. NRS 201.230.
  7. NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550.
  8. NRS 201.220.
  9. NRS 201.220.
  10. NRS 201.354; NRS 201.356; NRS 201.358.
  11. NRS 200.700 to NRS 200.760.
  12. NRS 201.190.
  13. NRS 201.455.
  14. NRS 201.180.
  15. NRS 200.508.
  16. NRS 201.300.
  17. NRS 200.400.
  18. NRS 200.030.
  19. NRS 200.737.
  20. NRS 200.603.
  21. NRS 200.604.
  22. NRS 201.265.
  23. NRS 200.405; NRS 200.408.
  24. NRS 201.205.
  25. NRS 179D.
  26. NRS 179.245.
  27. NRS 179.255.
  28. See United States v. Henderson, 680 F.2d 659 (9th Cir. 1982).

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