A federal hate crime in Nevada is defined as intentionally causing bodily injury to another person when the motivation is based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.
Under 18 U.S.C. 249, federal hate crime penalties in Nevada are up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine. But courts can impose a life sentence if the incident involved murder, kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is a federal hate crime in Nevada?
- 2. Can I go to prison?
- 3. How do I fight hate crime charges?
- 4. What is the statute of limitations for federal hate crimes?
- 5. How is Nevada law for hate crimes different than federal law?
1. What is a federal hate crime in Nevada?
A person commits a federal hate crime when he/she physically injures someone for reasons having to do with any person’s:
- race (such as being African American, Latinx, Asian, etc.),
- national origin,
- sexual orientation (such as LGBTQ),
- gender identity (such as non-binary or transgender people), or
- disability of any person
It is still a hate crime even if the assailant was mistaken about the person’s race, gender, etc.
Example: Jack – who is anti-gay – punches a man at a Henderson bar because Jack believes he is homosexual. It does not matter if it turns out the victim was heterosexual. Jack’s homophobic motivations automatically make his assault a hate crime.
Note that merely attempting to physically injure someone due to any of the above characteristics is also a hate crime if the person uses either:
- a firearm,
- a dangerous weapon, or
- an explosive or incendiary device.
Also note that hate crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin are always a federal crime under Congress’s Thirteenth Amendment authority. But for hate crimes based on other protected characteristics, federal law applies only if the incident affects interstate or foreign commerce or somehow involves crossing state or national lines.1
2. Can I go to prison?
Possibly. Federal hate crimes typically carry up to 10 years in federal prison and/or a fine. But defendants face up to a life sentence if someone dies or if the crime involved either:
- kidnapping (or an attempt to kidnap); or
- aggravated sexual abuse (or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse); or
- murder (or attempted murder).
Defendants granted supervised release following prison may have the additional penalty of completing educational classes or community service directly related to the community harmed by the defendant’s offense.2
Note that there are no federal prisons in the state of Nevada. So defendants convicted in Nevada federal court would be transferred out of state for their sentence.
Note that victims of hate crimes may also file civil lawsuits against the defendant.
3. How do I fight hate crime charges?
Seven potential defenses to charges of any violent crime are that:
- The defendant acted in lawful self-defense;
- The incident was an accident, and the defendant did not willfully injure the victim;
- The defendant was mistakenly identified (such as wrongly picked out of a lineup);
- The defendant was falsely accused;
- The police officers entrapped the defendant;
- The police department coerced a confession; and/or
- Other misconduct by federal law enforcement or local law enforcement agencies, such as finding incriminating evidence from an illegal search and seizure
If any of the above defenses apply, the hate crime charges may be dropped. And the defendant’s biases and prejudices would be irrelevant.
Another potential defense is that the incident did not involve interstate or foreign travel or otherwise affected interstate commerce. But this defense only works for hate crimes based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Otherwise, the defendant would argue that he or she was not motivated by anyone’s race, gender, or other protected characteristic. If the prosecutors cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident qualified as a hate crime, then the defendant would just face charges for the underlying assault or attempted assault.
4. What is the statute of limitations for federal hate crimes?
If an alleged hate crime resulted in someone dying, then the federal government can press charges at any time in Nevada. But if no death resulted, the statute of limitations to bring federal hate crime charges is seven years after the alleged incident.3
5. How is Nevada law for hate crimes different than federal law?
Unlike federal law, Nevada state law does not list gender as a basis for hate crime prosecution. (But it does list gender identity.) And Nevada hate crime charges apply even when the underlying offense is not a violent crime.
- $2,000 in fines, and/or
- 364 days in jail
Note that people facing hate crime charges under Nevada state law are prosecuted in one of Nevada’s eleven district courts by the county district attorney or Nevada Attorney General.4 Meanwhile, federal hate crime cases in Nevada are prosecuted in the Nevada Federal Court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Nevada has two federal courthouses:
- The Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, which is located in Las Vegas; or
- The Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse, which is located in Reno.
Also note that defendants who are convicted of hate crimes in both state and federal court serve both sentences consecutively (one after the other).
Learn more about Nevada hate crime laws.
- Department of Justice (DOJ.gov):
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) – Hate Crimes
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Human Rights First – Hate Crimes
- The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249. (Race, color, and national origin typically include ethnicity.) See also United States v. Metcalf, (8th Cir., 2018) 881 F.3d 641; United States v. Cannon, (5th Cir., 2014) 750 F.3d 492; Wisconsin v. Mitchell, (U.S. Supreme Court, 1993) 508 U.S. 476.
- 18 U.S.C. § 249.
- 18 U.S.C. § 249.
- NRS 207.185; NRS 193.1675. Nevada’s hate crime legislation was codified by the legislature in 1995. Most states and the District of Columbia have hate crime statutes except for Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming. Indiana’s hate crime law was signed only in 2019. Georgia’s was signed only in 2020.