NRS 201.550 - "Sexual Conduct between College Students and Employees" in Nevada


NRS 201.550 is the Nevada sex crime law which prohibits sexual relations between certain university employees and students. The statute states it is a category C felony in Nevada for a college employee who is at least 21 and in a position of authority to:

Engage[] in sexual conduct with a student who is 16 years of age or older, who has not received a high school diploma, a general educational development certificate or an equivalent document and who is enrolled in or attending the college or university at which the person is employed[.]

The penalties for violating NRS 201.550 include:

But the D.A. may be willing to lessen or drop the charges as part of a Nevada plea bargain. Possible defenses to charges of student-teacher sex in Nevada include:

  1. the student had a high school diploma or GED (or equivalent);
  2. the defendant was not in a position of authority; or
  3. no sexual conduct occurred

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of sexual conduct between certain employees of college or university and students under NRS 201.550. Click on a topic to jump directly to that section. 

campus
NRS 201.550 prohibits college employees in Nevada in a position of authority to have sexual conduct with certain students.

1. Definition of sexual conduct between college employees and students in Nevada

NRS 201.550 makes it a Nevada crime for a college or university employee to engage in sexual conduct with a student if the following five conditions are true:

  1. the employee is 21 or older;
  2. the employee is a teacher, instructor, professor, administrator, or a head or assistant coach;
  3. the student is 16 or older;
  4. the student has not received a high school diploma, a GED, or equivalent document; and
  5. the student is enrolled in or attending the college or university where the employee works

In short, a college employee in a position of authority may not be sexual with a student enrolled there who is at least 16 and does not have a high school diploma (or equivalent degree).1 The purpose of this law is to deter authority figures in higher education to abuse their power over students. Prohibited sexual conduct includes:

  • vaginal sexual intercourse;
  • anal intercourse;
  • fellatio, cunnilingus, or other oral-genital contact;
  • physical contact with the unclothed genitals or pubic area of another person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person;
  • penetration, however slight, by a person of an object into the genital or anal opening of the body of another person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person;
  • masturbation or the lewd exhibition of unclothed genitals;
  • sado-masochistic abuse; or
  • any lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of another person.2

NRS 201.550 applies to both private and public institutions such as UNLV and Nevada State College. Certainly, NRS 201.550 does not apply when the student and university employee were married at the time of the sexual conduct.3

Note that if a student is younger than sixteen -- the age of consent in Nevada -- then a university employee who has sexual relations with the student could instead face charges for the Nevada crime of statutory sexual seduction (NRS 200.368) or the Nevada crime of lewdness with a minor (NRS 201.230).

1.1. Sexual conduct between high school employees and students

Nevada law also prohibits sexual conduct between high school students and certain high school employees (as well as volunteers). It carries the same penalties as NRS 201.550 violations. Learn more about Nevada high school student-teacher sex laws (NRS 201.540).

2. Penalties for university employees who engage in sexual conduct with students

Violating NRS 201.550 is a category C felony, carrying:

felony sign
Violating NRS 201.550 is a Nevada felony.

Note that Tier II sex offenders are required to register every 180 days for 25 years. And their information is publicly searchable on the Nevada Sex Offender Database.6

3. Fighting charges to Nevada charges of sexual conduct between college employees and students

NRS 201.550 is a very narrow law. Consequently, the defense attorney would try to show that anything the defendant might have done was not prohibited behavior. Common defenses include:

  1. the student had a high school diploma (or equivalent);
  2. the defendant was not in a position of authority; or
  3. no sexual conduct occurred

Note that it is not a defense that any sexual contact that occurred was consensual.

3.1. The student had a high school diploma or equivalent

Most students enrolled in Nevada colleges have a high school diploma or equivalent. If the defense attorney can show proof that the student in the case has a degree, then the charges should be dropped immediately.

3.2. The defendant was not in a position of authority

Most university employees are not in a position of authority. Many are lower- or middle-level staffers who have no power or control over students' lives or grades.

If the defense attorney can show that the defendant was not employed in a position of authority, then the D.A. should dismiss the charges right away.

3.3. No sexual conduct occurred

he said she said sign
Criminal prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Perhaps any contact that occurred was perfectly legal, such as a hug. Or perhaps the defendant was falsely accused by an angry student.

Either way, there is often no direct proof (such as videos) of sexual conduct between people. As long as the D.A. lacks evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, no criminal charges should stand.

4. Deportation for sexual conduct between university students and employees

It is unclear whether an NRS 201.550 violation qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude in Nevada and is therefore deportable. To be safe, aliens facing this or any other criminal charge should retain experienced counsel to help safeguard their legal status. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

5. Sealing Nevada criminal records for sexual conduct between universities students and employees

NRS 201.550 convictions are never sealable in Nevada.7 But if the charge gets dismissed, the defendant can pursue a record seal immediately.8 Learn more about the Nevada record seal process.

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Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Have you been arrested for sexual contact with a student 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 charge dismissed so you remain out of prison and off the sex offender registry. And most of the time we can achieve a favorable resolution with no trial.


Legal References

  1. NRS 201.550  Sexual conduct between certain employees of college or university and student: Penalty; exception.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, a person who:

          (a) Is 21 years of age or older;

          (b) Is employed in a position of authority by a college or university; and

          (c) Engages in sexual conduct with a student who is 16 years of age or older, who has not received a high school diploma, a general educational development certificate or an equivalent document and who is enrolled in or attending the college or university at which the person is employed,

    --> is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

          2.  For the purposes of subsection 1, a person shall be deemed to be employed in a position of authority by a college or university if the person is employed as:

          (a) A teacher, instructor or professor;

          (b) An administrator; or

          (c) A head or assistant coach.

          3.  The provisions of this section do not apply to a person who is married to the student at the time an act prohibited by this section is committed.

          4.  The provisions of this section must not be construed to apply to sexual conduct between two students.
  2. NRS 201.520.
  3. NRS 201.550.
  4. Id.
  5. See U.S. Department of Justice's review of Nevada sex offender law.
  6. NRS 179D.115.
  7. NRS 179.245.
  8. NRS 179.255.

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