NRS 630.400 - "Unauthorized Practice of Medicine" in Nevada law


NRS 630.400 is the Nevada crime which prohibits practicing medicine without a license. The unauthorized practice of medicine is a felony in Nevada that carries prison and hefty fines even if nobody gets hurt. The statute states:

It is unlawful for any person to:

      (a) Present to the [Nevada State Medical] Board as his or her own the diploma, license or credentials of another;

      (b) Give either false or forged evidence of any kind to the Board;

      (c) Practice medicine, perfusion or respiratory care under a false or assumed name or falsely personate another licensee;

      (d) Except as otherwise provided by a specific statute, practice medicine, perfusion or respiratory care without being licensed under this chapter;

      (e) Hold himself or herself out as a perfusionist or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a perfusionist without being licensed by the Board;

      (f) Hold himself or herself out as a physician assistant or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a physician assistant without being licensed by the Board; or

      (g) Hold himself or herself out as a practitioner of respiratory care or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a practitioner of respiratory care without being licensed by the Board.

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the Nevada crime of the “unauthorized practice of medicine” (“UPM”) under NRS 630.400. Scroll down to learn the definition, defenses, and punishments.

doctor with clipboard (NRS 630.400)
The unauthorized practice of medicine is a felony in Nevada under NRS 630.400.

Definition in Nevada of the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine under NRS 630.400

The legal definition of “unauthorized practice of medicine” in Nevada is providing health care without being licensed by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Even if a person completes medical school and is competent, he/she still may not lawfully practice medicine in Nevada without a medical license.1

Practicing medicine without a license
is a felony in Nevada.

UPM cases have been particularly prevalent in Nevada's Latino communities.
The typical scenario involves an allegedly unlicensed “doctor” attracting underprivileged patients by promising cheap medical care. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker summarizes a recent example from the news:

An unlicensed Colombian homeopathic doctor and his wife perform cosmetic surgery on a Las Vegas woman. The patient dies shortly after receiving silicon injections. He and his wife then get booked at the Clark County Detention Center for murder stemming from their unlawful practice of medicine.2

One telltale sign that the doctor in the above example was unlicensed was that his office was located in the backroom of a tile-store. It's not uncommon for “con-artist doctors” to post fake medical degrees on their walls to deceive patients.3

Note that administering health care under a false name or personating a licensed doctor qualifies as UPM as well. Similarly, it's UPM to practice with a medical license that the person fraudulently obtained.4North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

The Nevada Medical Board grants Jake in Henderson a license based on a forged medical school diploma. Even though he succeeded in tricking the Board, he could still be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for UPM. A licensed obtained through false pretenses is the same as having no license at all.

Medical Offices located in suspicious locations and containing old equipment
are signs that the doctor isn't licensed.

Note that Nevada's UPM laws apply not only to general practitioners but also to specialists, surgeons, dentists, nurses, and physician assistants.5

Also note that Nevada authorities have set up a phone number specifically for reporting illegal medical activity: 211. People can also text tips to 898211. Many UPM investigations begin with 211 calls and texts.

For information on the unauthorized practice of nursing in Nevada, see our page on the unauthorized practice of nursing in Nevada (NRS 632.315) .

Unauthorized Practice of Veterinary Medicine

It's illegal for people to practice veterinary medicine without being licensed by the Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.6 Licensed vets may practice medicine on any of the following animals:

  • Mammals (besides humans)
  • Amphibians
  • Fowls and Birds
  • Fish
  • Reptiles

It doesn't matter whether the animal is wild, livestock or domestic.7

Defenses for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine in Nevada

There are several possible defenses available to defendants in cases involving the unauthorized practice of medicine. The following are three potential strategies to fight UPM charges:

  • Home remedies. Selling or providing home remedies is not the practice of medicine. (Home remedies typically are comprised of various herbs, vitamins, vegetables, or other foods to help cure an ailment or alleviate pain.) If the defense attorney in a UPM case can show that the defendant's actions fall within the realm of home remedies, the charges should be dismissed. (Note that home remedies are different than homeopathic remedies, which is considered the practice of medicine under Nevada law.8)
  • General advice. Giving someone general medical advice that's not specific to his/her case is not the practice of medicine. For example, offering someone general tips about good nutrition or how to get over a cold does not create a doctor/patient relationship. As long as the prosecution in a UPM case can't show that the defendant's words were specific to a particular patient's health, the defendant shouldn't be held criminally liable.
  • Medical information. Similarly, writing about a medical topic…or giving someone books or articles on a medical topic…doesn't qualify as the practice of medicine either. If the defendant in a UPM case merely provided general medical information to another person, he/she committed no crime.

Note that schoolteachers are usually permitted to administer prescription drugs to students who were prescribed those particular drugs. This is because it may be safer for teachers to store the drugs than for the student to hold onto them him/herself at school.9

Penalties for Unauthorized Practice of Medicine in Nevada under NRS 630.400

Holding oneself out as a doctor or other healthcare worker without having a license is a Nevada felony. The type of felony depends on whether the defendant causes a patient substantial bodily harm in Nevada:10

Falsely holding oneself out as a doctor without causing substantial bodily harm is a Category D felony in Nevada carrying:

But if a victim does sustain major injuries, then falsely holding oneself out as a doctor is a Category C felony in Nevada carrying:

  • 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

Medical Procedures

Nevada law also imposes UPM punishments when unlicensed “doctors” perform medical procedures. The extent of the sentence depends on the following factors:11

    • whether the defendant performed surgery or not,
    • whether the defendant performed a healthcare procedure that resulted in the victim's death or substantial bodily harm in Nevada, and
  • whether the defendant has been previously convicted of performing a medical procedure without a license

UPM Penalties when the Defendant performs a non-surgical Health Care Procedure

Victim's Injuries Defendant's Previous UPM Convictions Type of Crime Sentence
No substantial bodily harm or death Doesn't matter Category D felony in Nevada
NOTE: The punishment may be less
depending on the type
of healthcare worker the defendant is.
· 1-4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The punishment may be less depending on the type of healthcare worker the defendant is.
Substantial bodily harm 0 Category C felony in Nevada · 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $10,000 in fines
Substantial bodily harm 1 or more Category B felony in Nevada · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and · $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Death Doesn't matter Category B felony in Nevada · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and · $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The judge may not suspend the sentence or grant probation

UPM penalties expectedly become harsher when surgical procedures are involved, as shown below:

Victim's Injuries Defendant's Previous UPM Convictions Type of Crime Sentence
No substantial bodily harm or death 0 Category C felony · 1-5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· maybe $5,000 in fines
No substantial bodily harm or death 1 or more Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Substantial bodily harm Doesn't matter Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
Death Doesn't matter Category B felony · 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison, and
· $2,000 - $5,000 in fines
NOTE: The judge may not suspend the sentence or grant probation

Note that the Nevada Attorney General's Office prosecutes all cases involving unauthorized practice of medicine in the state.

Unlicensed doctors who injure or kill patients
face several years in Nevada State Prison.

Disciplinary Actions

Licensed doctors who aid unlicensed people to practice medicine risk losing their own medical licenses. The Board may also issue public reprimands and impose administrative fees of $5,000.

Learn more about suspending and revoking medical licenses in Nevada.

Civil Punishments

Victims in UPM cases in Nevada may try to collect money damages from the unlicensed doctor through a civil lawsuit. Possible civil causes of action for the unlicensed practice of medicine are:

  • fraud,
  • tortious battery,
  • wrongful death (if the victim died), and
  • medical malpractice

Note that only doctors may be sued for medical malpractice.

Penalties for Unlicensed Veterinarians

Unlicensed vets in Nevada face similar penalties
as unlicensed doctors.

Practicing medicine on animals without a license is a category D felony carrying:12

  • 1-4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Unlicensed vets may also be charged administrative fines. The money amount depends on whether the person has previous violations for practicing veterinary medicine without a license:13

  • For a 1st violation: $1,000
  • For a 2nd violation: $2,500
  • For a 3rd violation: $5,000

Note that unlicensed veterinary technicians face misdemeanor charges carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.14

Arrested for UPM in Nevada? Call an attorney for help…

If you're facing charges for the “unauthorized practice of medicine” in Nevada, call our Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone consultation. We'll do everything to try to fight the charges so that your record stays clean.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Clark County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

For more information about the California crime of unauthorized practice of medicine, see our webpage on the California crime of the unauthorized practice of medicine | Business & Professions Code 2052. For Colorado cases, please see our article on Unlawful practice of medicine in Colorado | CRS 12-36-129.


Legal References

1 NRS 630.400  Penalty for certain violations.

      1.  It is unlawful for any person to:

      (a) Present to the Board as his or her own the diploma, license or credentials of another;

      (b) Give either false or forged evidence of any kind to the Board;

      (c) Practice medicine, perfusion or respiratory care under a false or assumed name or falsely personate another licensee;

      (d) Except as otherwise provided by a specific statute, practice medicine, perfusion or respiratory care without being licensed under this chapter;

      (e) Hold himself or herself out as a perfusionist or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a perfusionist without being licensed by the Board;

      (f) Hold himself or herself out as a physician assistant or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a physician assistant without being licensed by the Board; or

      (g) Hold himself or herself out as a practitioner of respiratory care or use any other term indicating or implying that he or she is a practitioner of respiratory care without being licensed by the Board.

      2.  Unless a greater penalty is provided pursuant to NRS 200.830 or 200.840, a person who violates any provision of subsection 1:

      (a) If no substantial bodily harm results, is guilty of a category D felony; or

      (b) If substantial bodily harm results, is guilty of a category C felony,

--> and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

      3.  In addition to any other penalty prescribed by law, if the Board determines that a person has committed any act described in subsection 1, the Board may:

      (a) Issue and serve on the person an order to cease and desist until the person obtains from the Board the proper license or otherwise demonstrates that he or she is no longer in violation of subsection 1. An order to cease and desist must include a telephone number with which the person may contact the Board.

      (b) Issue a citation to the person. A citation issued pursuant to this paragraph must be in writing, describe with particularity the nature of the violation and inform the person of the provisions of this paragraph. Each activity in which the person is engaged constitutes a separate offense for which a separate citation may be issued. To appeal a citation, the person must submit a written request for a hearing to the Board not later than 30 days after the date of issuance of the citation.

      (c) Assess against the person an administrative fine of not more than $5,000.

      (d) Impose any combination of the penalties set forth in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).

2 Francis McCabe, Colombian doctor, wife appear in court on murder charges, Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 11, 2011.

3See NRS 630.411.

4 NRS 630.400.

5See NRS 630.400.

6 NRS 638.170.

7 NRS 638.002.

8 NRS 630A.

9Findlaw: What is the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine?

10 NRS 630.140.

11 Nev. SB 199 (2013).

12 NRS 638.170.

13 NAC 638.0433.

14 NRS 638.170.

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