Vandalism -- which means to damage or destroy property without the owner's permission -- is illegal in Nevada. Vandalism laws apply to both public and private property. It does not matter whether the property is real estate, vehicles, or personal belongings. Vandalism also goes by the name “malicious mischief” or “malicious destruction of property.”1
Nevada Vandalism Defenses:
Three of the common defenses to Nevada vandalism charges are:
- The defendant did not act willfully or maliciously.
- The defendant had the owner's consent.
- The defendant was falsely accused.
Nevada Vandalism Penalties:
Nevada vandalism penalties may include fines, victim restitution, community service, a suspended driver's license, and possibly incarceration. Vandalism may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case.2
In general, the extent of damage done corresponds with the severity of the punishment. Causing at least $5,000 worth of damage usually carries a minimum of 10 days in jail.3
Scroll down for more detailed information about Nevada vandalism laws including how to fight the charges and possible penalties. Click on a heading to go directly to that topic:
The legal definition of “vandalism” in Nevada is to willfully damage, destroy, or deface another's property without consent.4 Vandalism goes by the names “malicious mischief,” “malicious destruction of property,” or “public offense” in Nevada courts.5 It is an extremely broad crime. Just some common examples of vandalism include:
- Tearing down a billboard
- Carving words into building facades
- Breaking church windows
- Breaking off a piece of park statutes
- Pouring acid on farm crops
- Driving over a neighbor's fence
- Spraying graffiti (“tagging”) on a highway overpass
- Writing with a marker on the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign6
Note that Nevada vandalism suspects often face related criminal charges as well depending on the circumstances. For example, a person who allegedly breaks down a door and goes inside to steal a computer would face charges for both the Nevada crime of burglary as well as vandalism (for breaking down the door).7
Also note that Nevada has specific laws governing punishments for graffiti. For more information, refer to our article on Nevada graffiti laws.
Finally, note that many Nevada vandalism cases often involve alleged gang members. Defendants who vandalize for the benefit of a gang face several years of additional incarceration.8 Learn more about criminal gang enhancements in Nevada.
Nevada graffiti convictions carry driver's license suspensions.
Note that it is a crime in Nevada merely to enter another person's property with the intent to vandalize.9 And it does not matter whether any vandalism ever occurs. Laughlin criminal defense attorney Michael Becker illustrates how this law works:
Jeff and Jason are neighbors in Laughlin. Jeff is angry at Jason for having loud parties. Jeff plans to get back at him by throwing eggs at his house. Jeff takes a basket of eggs and crosses over to Jason's property. Jeff takes an egg and readies his arm to pitch it at the front door. But before Jeff can throw anything, Jason spots him and yells at him to get off his land. Jason then calls the police, who arrest Jeff and book him at the Tucker Holding Facility for entering property with intent to vandalize.
Jeff in the above example could be convicted because he entered another's property with the intent to deface. It is irrelevant that Jason stopped him before he could do any damage. All the Nevada courts would care about was Jeff's state of mind when entering Jason's land.
The struggling housing market prompted the Nevada Legislature to pass a new law regarding vandalism of foreclosed properties. A person may be convicted of violating NRS 206.045 if the all the following conditions are true:
- The person occupies real property; AND
- The person has personal knowledge of a foreclosure action against the property; AND
- The person removes, conceals, or destroys any portion of the real property; AND
- The person vandalizes with property with to defraud the secured party in the foreclosure proceeding; AND
- The person causes the secured party to suffer a monetary loss upon the conclusion of the foreclosure of the property10
Nevada recently passed a law aimed at preventing and punishing vandalism of foreclosed homes.
In short, it is illegal for inhabitants of property being foreclosed upon to vandalize that property if 1) they intend to defraud the mortgagee, and 2) the vandalism causes the mortgagee to lose money. Searchlight criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates this law with an example:
Harry gets fired from his job in Henderson. His mortgagee Bank of America (BOA) begins foreclosure proceedings on Harry's house because he has missed several mortgage payments. Angry at Bank of America, Harry breaks all the kitchen and bathroom appliances. After the house is ultimately foreclosed upon, Bank of America sells it at a great loss due to the destroyed appliances. Henderson police then arrest Harry and book him at the Henderson Detention Center for vandalizing the house with intent to defraud the mortgagee.
Harry in the above example may be convicted of breaking NRS 206.045 if the D.A. can prove that he intended to defraud BOA. Note that it would not matter if Harry did not personally own the home…anyone who occupies property facing foreclosure may be convicted of this law.11
The unique facts of each vandalism case dictate which defenses have the greatest chances of success in court. The following are three common strategies that come into play when fighting malicious mischief charges in Nevada:
No malicious mischief occurred in Nevada if the property's owner gave the permission to you damage it.12 If the defense attorney can show that the defendant reasonably believed he/she had the owner's approval, the vandalism charges should be dropped.
Nevada vandalism laws are not meant to punish people for honest accidents or for defacing property out of necessity or emergency, such as during a natural disaster. Mesquite criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Sally is taking a walk near her home in Mesquite. Suddenly a flash flood comes, and she climbs over a neighbor's fence and climbs a tree until the flood passes. But in the process of climbing the fence she damages several of the pickets. Afterwards the neighbors call the Mesquite Police, who arrest Sally and book her at the Mesquite Detention Center for vandalism (as well as the Nevada crime of trespass).
In the above example, Sally acted neither willfully nor maliciously. She faced a dire situation that threatened her life. Therefore Sally acted reasonably by climbing the fence in order to take cover even if it resulted in property damage. Sally will probably be found not guilty of any criminal charges in Nevada.
Vandals typically come out at night and act quickly, and some even wear obscuring clothes such as face masks. Therefore it is often very difficult for eyewitnesses (if any) to recognize who committed the vandalism. And this leads to false arrests and misidentifications during criminal line-ups. If the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is the person who caused the damage, then the Nevada vandalism case should be dismissed.
Common punishments for the malicious destruction of property in Nevada include:
- Restitution in Nevada
- Community service
- Driver's license suspension, and/or
Nevada judges determine a vandalism sentence based on various factors including:
- The extent of the damage
- The defendant's previous vandalism convictions, and
- The location of the vandalism and the type of property vandalized
In general, the length of incarceration (if any) for Nevada vandalism offenses depends on the extent of the damage done:
|Amount of Damage||Class of Crime||Length of Incarceration|
|Less than $250||Misdemeanor in Nevada||Up to 6 months in jail|
|$250 to less than $5,000||Gross misdemeanor in Nevada||Up to 364 days in jail|
|$5,000 or higher||Category E felony in Nevada||1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison. However the court may impose probation instead prison, but the defendant still must serve at least 10 days in jail.|
In general, the amount of fines and community service for Nevada vandalism crimes turns on whether the defendant has previous convictions.
|Previous vandalism convictions||Fine||Community Service|
|None||$400 - $1,000 plus a $250 administrative assessment fee||100 hours|
|One||$700 - $1,000 plus a $250 administrative assessment fee||200 hours|
|Two or more||$1,000 plus a $250 administrative assessment fee||Up to 300 hours for 1 year.|
Adults aged 18 and up convicted of graffiti crimes will have their Nevada driver's licenses suspended for 6 months to 2 years. If the defendant does not currently have a driver's license, then he/she will be prohibited from getting for one for 6 months to 2 years.13
Malicious mischief is a category E felony when it results in the impairment of:
- Public communication (such as phone lines),
- Transportation (such as trains), or
- Police or fire protection.
The sentence in Nevada for impairing public utilities through vandalism includes:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Note that the judge may impose probation instead of prison, but the defendant would still have to serve up to 10 days in a county jail.14
Vandalizing Nevada historic sites carries fines and possible incarceration.
Nevada has a specific law prohibiting the act of willfully defacing, excavating or destroying a historic or prehistoric site on state land. A first offense is a misdemeanor carrying a $500 fine. A second or subsequent offense is a gross misdemeanor carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $3,000 in fines.15
It is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada to knowingly vandalize, place graffiti on, deface or otherwise damage the following locales:
- Any church, synagogue or other place used for religious worship or another religious purpose, or
- Any cemetery, mortuary or other facility used for the purpose of burial or memorializing the dead, or
- Any school, educational facility, transportation facility, public transportation vehicle or community center, or
- Any grounds near or personal property in the above-mentioned locations.
The penalties depend on the number of times the defendant has been convicted of this crime in the past:
- A first offense carries restitution, a fine of $400 - $1,000, and 100 hours of community service.
- A second offense carries restitution, a fine of $750 - $1,000, and 200 hours of community service.
- A third or subsequent offense carries restitution, a fine of $1,000, and 200 hours of community service.16
Willfully vandalizing property belonging to the Nevada Department of Wildlife is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $50 to $500 and/or up to 6 months in jail.17
Intentionally destroying or tearing down any proclamation or notification that had been posted under government authority in Nevada carries a $500 fine.18
Unlawfully posting bills, signs or posters is a misdemeanor up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.19
For any other type of willful or malicious destruction of Nevada property, the judge will impose a punishment proportionate to the value of the property affected.20
Willfully entering another's property with the intent to take, injure or destroy any property there and under circumstances not amounting to burglary is a misdemeanor. The sentence includes up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.21
The malicious destruction of property in foreclosure proceedings is a misdemeanor carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.22
Accused of vandalism in Nevada?
Call an attorney for help…
If you have been charged with “malicious mischief” or vandalism in Nevada, call our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone consultation. We may be able to persuade the prosecution to reduce the charges or to drop them altogether so your record stays clean.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Clark County, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
To learn about Penal Code 594 | California vandalism laws, visit our page on Penal Code 594 | California vandalism laws.
1 NRS 206.310 Injury to other property. Every person who shall willfully or maliciously destroy or injure any real or personal property of another, for the destruction or injury of which no special punishment is otherwise specially prescribed, shall be guilty of a public offense proportionate to the value of the property affected or the loss resulting from such offense.
3 NRS 206.330 Placing graffiti on or otherwise defacing property4Id.
5 NRS 206.310
6See e.g. “Vandals deface iconic 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 24, 2009.
7 See e.g. Villa v. State, 2011 WL 222208 (2011).
8 NRS 193.168.
9 NRS 206.040 Entering property with intention to damage or destroy property. Every person who willfully and maliciously enters, without the consent of the owner or occupant, any real property of another under circumstances not amounting to a burglary, with intent to take, injure or destroy any real or personal property there situated, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
10 NRS 206.045 Removing, concealing or destroying real property with intention to defraud secured party.
12 NRS 206.330(1).
13 NRS 206.330(6).
14 NRS 206.330(1)(c).
15NRS 383.435 Prohibited acts; penalties; exceptions; civil remedy.
16 NRS 206.125 Damage of property used for purpose of religion, for burial or memorializing of dead, for education, as transportation facility, as public transportation vehicle or as community center; damage of personal property contained therein; penalties; restitution.
17 NRS 501.383 Unlawful vandalism of sign or notice erected by Department. It is unlawful for any person maliciously to tear down, mutilate or destroy any sign, signboard or other notice which has been erected by the Department or through an agency of the Department.
18 NRS 206.270 Defacing proclamations and notices.
19 NRS 206.200 Posting of bills, signs or posters unlawful. Any person who shall willfully, unlawfully or maliciously:
20 NRS 206.310.
21 NRS 206.040.
22 NRS 206.045.