Statutes of Limitations for Nevada Crimes

A statute of limitations in Nevada is the amount of time prosecutors have to press charges for a particular offense. In general, the length of this time limit depends on the category of crime:

Nevada crime category

Statute of limitations (with exceptions)

Nevada felonies

3 years after the commission of the crime

Nevada gross misdemeanors

2 years after the commission of the crime

Nevada misdemeanors

1 year after the commission of the crime

But many of the more serious felonies carry even longer statutes of limitations. And in some cases, this time limit stops running if the suspect committed the crime in a secret way or if the victim was too incapacitated to report the crime.

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss how statutes of limitations operate in Nevada as well as how to determine the time limit to prosecute for a particular crime:

book and gavel
The more serious the crime, the longer the D.A. has to prosecute for it.

1. Legal definition of "statute of limitations" in Nevada criminal cases

A statute of limitations is the legal term for how many years prosecutors have to charge a suspect with a crime. Once the time limit for a particular crime passes, prosecutors may not press charges against the suspect for that crime (with some exceptions discussed in the next section).

Example: There is a three (3) year statute of limitations in Nevada drug sale (NRS 453.321) cases. If Joe sold meth in Las Vegas on January 1, 2019, then the Clark County District Attorney would have until January 1, 2022, to begin prosecuting him for it. Once three years pass from the date Joe allegedly sold meth, Joe should not face prosecution for the drug sale even if new evidence emerges that suggests he is guilty.

The purpose of these prosecutorial time limits is to encourage the state to bring charges quickly while memories are fresh and evidence is available.

If prosecutors bring charges after the applicable time limit has passed, it is the defendant's responsibility to raise this issue as a defense. If the defendant fails to claim that the statute of limitations has passed -- and if the defendant then gets convicted -- the defendant cannot later appeal on the grounds that the statute of limitations has passed.1

2. Exceptions to statutes of limitations in Nevada

2.1. Secret crimes

In most cases, the statute of limitations for a crime begins running the moment the crime occurs. But if a person commits a crime in a secret way, the time limit does not begin running until after the offense is discovered.2

Under Nevada law, a crime is done in a secret way "when it is committed in a deliberately surreptitious manner that is intended to and does keep all but those committing the crime unaware that an offense has been committed."3

Example: Helen and Joy are roommates with Anne. Anne leaves January 1, 2019, for a year-long trip to Europe. That same day, Helen and Joy break into her safe and steal $100. This Nevada crime of petty theft (NRS 205.240) qualifies as a misdemeanor and has a one-year statute of limitation.

Anne returns on January 2, 2020, and realizes that Helen and Joy took her money. Anne threatens to call the police, but Helen and Joy say that it is too late since a year has already passed since the theft. But since Helen and Joy stole the money in secret, the statute of limitations should not start running until someone else (like Anne) discovered the crime. Therefore, prosecutors should have until January 2, 2021, to press theft charges

2.2. Rape and sex-trafficking

gavel
Rape carries a longer statute of limitations that most other Nevada felonies.

Ordinarily, the Nevada crime of sex trafficking (NRS 201.300) has a four (4) year statute of limitation, and the Nevada crime of sexual assault (NRS 200.366) has a twenty (20)-year statute of limitations.

But there is no time limit to bring sex trafficking charges if the victim files a police report within four (4) years of the alleged trafficking. And there is no time limit to bring sexual assault charges if the victim files a police report within twenty (20) years of the rape (or if the accused's identity is established by DNA evidence).

In addition, the statute of limitations stops running ("tolls") while the victim is either:

  • insane,
  • intellectually disabled,
  • mentally incompetent, or
  • in a medically comatose or vegetative state

For example, if a sex trafficking victim gets injured while escaping and becomes comatose, the four (4) year time limit would begin running only when the victim regains consciousness.4

2.2.1. Child victims

If the victim of the sex trafficking or sexual assault is a child (under 18), then the statute of limitations is extended to when the victim turns either:      

  • 36 years old if the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- before turning 36 that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse or trafficking; or
  • 43 years old if the victim does not discover -- and reasonably should not have discovered -- that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse or trafficking by the date on which he/she turns 36

But as discussed above, there is no statute of limitations at all if the victim files a police report within the statute of limitations: Four (4) years for sex trafficking, and twenty (20) years for sexual assault.

Also see our related articles What is the statute of limitations for sexual assault in Nevada? and Statute of limitation in Nevada rape cases.

2.3. Crimes with no statutes of limitations

The following crimes have no statute of limitations. In other words, suspects can be prosecuted at any time no matter how many years pass.

  1. Nevada crime of murder (NRS 200.030);
  2. terrorism (NRS 202.445)

As discussed in the previous subsection, sex trafficking (NRS 201.300) has no statute of limitations only if the victim files a police report within four (4) years of the alleged trafficking. And sexual assault (NRS 200.366) has no statute of limitations only if either:

    • the victim files a police report within 20 years of the rape; or
    • the identity of the accused is established by DNA evidence5

Also see our related article Is there a statute of limitations to file murder charges in Nevada?

3. How to determine a crime's statute of limitations in Nevada

In order to determine how long prosecutors have to press charges for a particular crime, refer to the table below. Be sure to check whether the crime falls under an exception.

Nevada crime

Statute of limitations to bring criminal charges

Felonies (scroll to the bottom of this table for sex felonies)

3 years after commission of the crime

Exceptions:

 No statute of limitations for:

  • Murder (NRS 200.030)
  • Terrorism (NRS 202.445)

5 years after the commission of the crime if a police report was filed within 3 years:

4 years after the commission of:

For any felony involving unlawful acts regarding personal identifying information when the victim is less than 18 years old (in violation of NRS 205.461 – 205.4657), the statute of limitations is 4 years after the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- the offense.6

Gross misdemeanors

2 years after the commission of the crime

Misdemeanors

1 year after the commission of the crime

Exceptions:

2 years after the commission of any contractor-related misdemeanor in violation of NRS 624.005 to NRS 624.750

For failing to report a violent or sexual offense against a child aged 12 or younger in violation of NRS 202.882, the statute of limitations is 1 year after either:

  • the violation is discovered; or
  • the sexual abuser is convicted7

Sexual assault (NRS 200.366) of an adult

20 years after the commission of the rape. But there is no statute of limitations at all if either:

  • the victim files a police report within 20 years of the rape, or
  • the identity of the accused is established by DNA evidence

Note that the statute of limitations does not run while the victim is either insane, intellectually disabled, mentally incompetent or in a medically comatose or vegetative state.

Sex trafficking (NRS 201.300) of an adult

4 years after the commission of the trafficking. But if the victim files a police report within 4 years of the trafficking, then there is no statute of limitations.

Note that the statute of limitations does not run while the victim is either insane, intellectually disabled, mentally incompetent or in a medically comatose or vegetative state.

Sexual abuse of a child in violation of NRS 432B.100, which includes:

Before the victim is:          

  • 36 years old if the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- before turning 36 that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse; or
  • 43 years old if the victim does not discover -- and reasonably should not have discovered -- that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse by the date on which he/she turns 36

(In sexual assault cases, there is no statute of limitations at all if the victim files a police report within 20 years of the rape.)

Sex trafficking a child in violation of NRS 201.300

If no police report is filed within 4 years, before the victim is:          

  • 36 years old if the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- before turning 36 that he/she was a victim of the sex trafficking; or
  • 43 years old if the victim does not discover -- and reasonably should not have discovered -- that he/she was a victim of the sex trafficking by the date on which he/she turns 36

Crimes committed in secret

When an offense is done in secret, the applicable statute of limitations does not begin running until after the offense is discovered8

4. Statutes of limitations for 25 common Nevada crimes

Common Nevada Crime

Time limit to press criminal charges after the offense allegedly occurs

Arson (NRS 205.010)

4 years

Nevada crime of assault with a deadly weapon (NRS 200.471(2)(b))

3 years

Nevada crime of battery (NRS 200.481)

1 year for a misdemeanor

2 years for a gross misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Nevada crime of battery domestic violence (NRS 200.485)

1 year for a misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Nevada crime of breach of peace (NRS 203.010)

1 year

Burglary (NRS 205.060)

4 years

Nevada crime of unpaid casino markers (NRS 205.130)

1 year for a misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Nevada crime of child abuse (NRS 200.508)

3 years

Nevada child pornography crimes (NRS 200.710 - 200.730)

3 years

Nevada crime of drug possession (NRS 453.336)

3 years

Nevada crime of drug trafficking (NRS 453.3385)

3 years

Nevada DUI crimes

1 year for a misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Grand larceny (NRS 205.220)

4 years

Nevada crime of hit and run (NRS 484E.010)

1 year for a misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Nevada crime of indecent exposure (NRS 201.220)

2 years for a gross misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Kidnapping (NRS 200.310)

5 years if a police report is filed within 3 years; otherwise, 3 years.

Lewdness with a child under 16 (NRS 201.230)

Before the victim is:          

  • 36 years old if the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- before turning 36 that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse; or
  • 43 years old if the victim does not discover -- and reasonably should not have discovered -- that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse by the date on which he/she turns 36

Murder (NRS 200.030)

No statute of limitations

Open or Gross Lewdness (NRS 201.210)

2 years for a gross misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Petit larceny (NRS 205.240)

1 year

Nevada crime of reckless driving (NRS 484B.653)

1 year for a misdemeanor

3 years for a felony

Robbery (NRS 200.380)

4 years

Sexual assault (NRS 200.366)

No statute of limitations if a police report is filed within 20 years of the rape, or if DNA evidence identifies the suspect; otherwise, 20 years.

If the victim is a child and no police report is filed within 20 years, the statute of limitations is when the victim turns either:      

  • 36 years old if the victim discovers -- or reasonably should have discovered -- before turning 36 that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse; or
  • 43 years old if the victim does not discover -- and reasonably should not have discovered -- that he/she was a victim of the sexual abuse by the date on which he/she turns 36

Nevada crime of solicitation of prostitution (NRS 201.354)

1 year

Nevada crime of trespass (NRS 207.200)

1 year

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Legal References

  1. Hubbard v. State, 112 Nev. 946, 947,  920 P.2d 991 (1996)("The failure to raise the statute of limitation in the trial court waives the defense...non-jurisdictional affirmative defense")

  2. NRS 171.095  Limitations for offenses committed in secret manner, offenses constituting sexual abuse or sex trafficking of child and offenses regarding personal identifying information.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2 and NRS 171.083 and 171.084 and section 1 of Nevada Assembly Bill 142 (2019):

          (a) If a felony, gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor is committed in a secret manner, an indictment for the offense must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within the periods of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085, 171.090 and 624.800 after the discovery of the offense, unless a longer period is allowed by paragraph (b) or (c) or the provisions of NRS 202.885.

          (b) An indictment must be found, or an information or complaint filed, for any offense constituting sexual abuse of a child as defined in NRS 432B.100 or sex trafficking of a child as defined in NRS 201.300, before the victim is:

                 (1) Thirty-six years old if the victim discovers or reasonably should have discovered that he or she was a victim of the sexual abuse or sex trafficking by the date on which the victim reaches that age; or

                 (2) Forty-three years old if the victim does not discover and reasonably should not have discovered that he or she was a victim of the sexual abuse or sex trafficking by the date on which the victim reaches 36 years of age.

          (c) If a felony is committed pursuant to NRS 205.461 to 205.4657, inclusive, against a victim who is less than 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense, an indictment for the offense must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 4 years after the victim discovers or reasonably should have discovered the offense.

          2.  If any indictment found, or an information or complaint filed, within the time prescribed in subsection 1 is defective so that no judgment can be given thereon, another prosecution may be instituted for the same offense within 6 months after the first is abandoned.
  3. Walstrom v. State, 104 Nev. 51, 56, 752 P.2d 225, 228 (1988).
  4. NRS 171.083  No limitation for sexual assault or sex trafficking if written report filed with law enforcement officer during period of limitation; effect of disability on period of limitation.

          1.  If, at any time during the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095, a victim of a sexual assault, a person authorized to act on behalf of a victim of a sexual assault, or a victim of sex trafficking or a person authorized to act on behalf of a victim of sex trafficking, files with a law enforcement officer a written report concerning the sexual assault or sex trafficking, the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095 is removed and there is no limitation of the time within which a prosecution for the sexual assault or sex trafficking must be commenced.

          2.  If a written report is filed with a law enforcement officer pursuant to subsection 1, the law enforcement officer shall provide a copy of the written report to the victim or the person authorized to act on behalf of the victim.

          3.  If a victim of a sexual assault or sex trafficking is under a disability during any part of the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095 and a written report concerning the sexual assault or sex trafficking is not otherwise filed pursuant to subsection 1, the period during which the victim is under the disability must be excluded from any calculation of the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095.

          4.  For the purposes of this section, a victim of a sexual assault or sex trafficking is under a disability if the victim is insane, intellectually disabled, mentally incompetent or in a medically comatose or vegetative state.

          5.  As used in this section, “law enforcement officer” means:

          (a) A prosecuting attorney;

          (b) A sheriff of a county or the sheriff's deputy;

          (c) An officer of a metropolitan police department or a police department of an incorporated city; or

          (d) Any other person upon whom some or all of the powers of a peace officer are conferred pursuant to NRS 289.150 to 289.360, inclusive.

    Nevada Assembly Bill 142 (2019)
    1. If the identity of a person who is accused of committing a sexual assault is established by conducting a genetic marker analysis of a biological specimen and obtaining a DNA profile, the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 is removed and there is no limitation of the time within which a prosecution for the sexual assault must be commenced.
    2. As used in this section:
    (a) “Biological specimen” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 176.09112.
    (b) “DNA profile” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 176.09115.
    (c) “Genetic marker analysis” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 176.09118.
  5. Id.; NRS 171.080  No statute of limitation for murder or terrorism.  There is no limitation of the time within which a prosecution for:

          1.  Murder must be commenced. It may be commenced at any time after the death of the person killed.

          2.  A violation of NRS 202.445 must be commenced. It may be commenced at any time after the violation is committed.
  6. NRS 171.085  Limitations for felonies.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 171.080, 171.083, 171.084 and 171.095, and section 1 of Nevada Assembly Bill 142 (2019), an indictment for:

          1.  Theft, robbery, burglary, forgery, arson, sex trafficking, a violation of NRS 90.570, a violation punishable pursuant to paragraph (c) of subsection 3 of NRS 598.0999 or a violation of NRS 205.377 must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 4 years after the commission of the offense.

          2.  Sexual assault must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 20 years after the commission of the offense.

          3.  Any felony other than the felonies listed in subsections 1 and 2 must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 3 years after the commission of the offense.

    NRS 171.084  Limitation for kidnapping or attempted murder extended if written report filed with law enforcement officer during period of limitation.

          1.  If, at any time during the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095, a victim of kidnapping or attempted murder, or a person authorized to act on behalf of such a victim, files with a law enforcement officer a written report concerning the offense, the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095 is extended for 5 years.

          2.  If a written report is filed with a law enforcement officer pursuant to subsection 1, the law enforcement officer shall provide a copy of the written report to the victim or the person authorized to act on behalf of the victim.

          3.  As used in this section, “law enforcement officer” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 171.083.
  7. NRS 171.090  Limitations for gross and simple misdemeanors.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 171.095, 202.885 and 624.800, an indictment for:

          1.  A gross misdemeanor must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 2 years after the commission of the offense.

          2.  Any other misdemeanor must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 1 year after the commission of the offense.
  8. NRS 171.095; NRS 171.083.

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