Today's vending machines don't just sell dollar candies ... they also dispense expensive cameras and iPods. Stealing from vending machines can be a felony carrying prison. But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped completely.
This article explains the Nevada crimes of tampering with and stealing from vending machines. Keep reading to learn the law, defenses, and possible penalties.
There are two crimes in Nevada specific to vending machines: 1) Using unlawful money or devices in a vending machine, and 2) Stealing from a vending machine. Both offenses are discussed below.
Use of unlawful coin or cheating device in vending machines
It's unlawful in Nevada for anyone to either:
- use counterfeit money in a vending machine, or
- to use (or to have on his/her person) a thieving device to remove contents from a vending machine
In other words, it's illegal to use fake or incorrect coinage in a vending machine or to use a tool to break into a vending machine. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Max goes to a vending machine at the Henderson Library and uses pennies he doctored to look like quarters to get candy. Later on Sam goes to the vending machine and uses a crowbar to remove the money and candy. If caught, they each could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for violating Nevada vending machine laws.
Note that it wouldn't matter in the above example if Max and Sam failed in getting any candy or other contents from the vending machine. Merely tampering with the machine by using improper coinage and the crowbar is sufficient to invite criminal liability.
Theft of money or property from vending machines (NRS 205.2707)
It's a crime in Nevada to intentionally steal, take and carry away property valued at $650 or more from vending machines within a one-week period. It's irrelevant whether the theft involves just one or several vending machines. Boulder City criminal defense lawyer Neil Shouse provides an illustration.
One weekend Jan goes to every vending machine in the McCarren Airport and steals from each. She's eventually caught and booked at the Clark County Dention Center If authorities determine that she allegedly took at least $650 worth of property, she could be liable for violating NRS 205.2707.
Note that it doesn't matter in the above example whether Jan stole cash from the machines or the items for sale in the machine. Any unlawful taking of any property worth $650 or more from vending machines is illegal under this law.
Also note that people accused of stealing less than $650 from vending machines still face criminal charges. The same goes for people accused of stealing $650 or more over a period longer than a week. But in those cases, prosecutors would instead probably pursue more general charges for the Nevada crime of shoplifting.
The best defenses to Nevada vending machine crimes always depend on the facts of the individual case. The following are just some general strategies for combating theft charges:
Insufficient damages. NRS 205.2707 doesn't apply to vending machine theft if the damages amount to less than $650 within a week time-span. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant took items or caused destruction amounting to less than $650, the charge for vending machine theft should be dismissed. However, the defendant may still face more minor charges for
petty shoplifting and/or injury to property.
- Mistaken identity. It's not uncommon for people to be mistakenly accused of crimes they didn't commit. Typical evidence that may help prove mistaken identity includes any available surveillance video or eyewitnesses. As long as the prosecution can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the thief, the vending machine theft charge should be dropped.
- Human error. It's technically not a defense to NRS 205.2705 if a person absent-mindedly uses the wrong coins or unknowingly uses counterfeit money. However, if the defense attorney can show the prosecutor that the defendant honestly meant no harm and didn't mean to cheat the vending machine, the prosecutor may be amenable to throwing out the case anyway or at least reducing the charge to something minor.
Breaking into vending machines and stealing from vending machines are separate crimes in Nevada. The same defendant may be charged and convicted of both offenses depending on the circumstances of the case.
Breaking to vending machines (NRS 205.2705)
Using counterfeit or incorrect cash or coins in a vending machine ... or using or possessing a device for the purpose of breaking into a vending machine ... is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment carries:
- Up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, AND
- Nevada restitution for the value of property damaged and/or stolen
Stealing from vending machines (NRS 205.2707)
The penalty for stealing from vending machines depends on the value of the damage. This includes the cost of the items taken as well as the cost of repairing or replacing the vending machine.
Stealing goods and causing damage valued from $650 to less than $3,500 within a one week period is a category C felony in Nevada. The sentence carries:
- one to five years in Nevada State Prison and maybe $10,000 in fines, AND
- restitution for the value of property damaged and/or stolen
Meanwhile, taking goods and causing damage valued at $3,500 or more within a one week period is a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence carries:
- one to ten years in Nevada State Prison, AND
- $10,000 in fines, AND
- restitution for the value of property damaged and/or stolen
Note that people charged with stealing and/or causing damage to vending machines amounting to less than $650 will probably face charges for the Nevada crime of petty larceny (NRS 205.240) and/or the Nevada crime of Injury to Other Property (NRS 206.310). Petty larceny is a misdemeanor in Nevada carrying:
- up to six months in jail and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines,
Meanwhile, the penalty for Injury to Other Property is restitution proportionate to the value of the property affected or the loss resulting from the theft and damage.
Civil Liability (NRS 205.980)
Note that vending machines owners may bring a civil lawsuit against people suspected of stealing from them or damaging them. The owners may seek money damages for the value of the property stolen and not recovered in its original condition.
Accused of theft? Call an attorney for help . . .
If you've been arrested for 'stealing from a vending machine' 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 your charges reduced or dismissed so your record stays clean.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.