A criminal offense in Nevada becomes a hate crime when the victim was targeted because of their race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Nevada hate crimes are not charged as separate offenses; instead, the sentence for the underlying crime is increased.
Here are five key things to know:
- Felonies and gross misdemeanors committed as hate crimes carry an extra 1 to 20 years in prison.
- Misdemeanors committed as hate crimes get prosecuted as gross misdemeanors, carrying double maximum penalties.
- These penalty enhancements apply even if the defendant was wrong about the victim being part of a protected class.
- A conviction of domestic violence, stalking, or any felony strips people of their firearm rights (whether committed as a hate crime or not).
- Nevada’s hate crime law is broader than the federal hate crime law, which is limited to violent offenses.
A classic example of a hate crime is a bully beating up someone for being homosexual. Even if the victim was not actually gay, the beating is still considered a hate crime as long as the attacker believed the victim was gay and inflicted the harm because of anti-gay sentiment.1
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What hate crimes does Nevada recognize?
- 2. Are hate crimes separate charges from the underlying crime?
- 3. What is the punishment?
- 4. What are the defenses?
- 5. How is the federal hate crime law different?
- 6. Do hate crimes affect gun rights?
- 7. How do I report hate crimes?
- 8. Additional resources
1. What hate crimes does Nevada recognize?
Ten of the most common felony or gross misdemeanor hate crimes are:
- murder (NRS 200.030)
- assault with a deadly weapon (NRS 200.471(2)(b))
- battery (NRS 200.481)
- involuntary servitude (NRS 200.463 – 465)
- burglary (NRS 205.060)
- theft (NRS 205.0832)
- grand larceny (NRS 205.220)
- robbery (NRS 200.380)
- graffiti (NRS 206.330)
- arson (NRS 205.010 – 025)2
Ten of the most common misdemeanor hate crimes are:
- assault (NRS 200.471)
- battery (NRS 200.481)
- harassment (NRS 200.571)
- stalking (NRS 200.575)
- threatening or obscene letters or writing (NRS 207.180)
- petit larceny (NRS 205.240)
- disturbing a meeting (NRS 203.090)
- breach of peace (NRS 203.010)
- injury of another’s property (NRS 206.310)
- graffiti (NRS 206.330)3
2. Are hate crimes separate charges from the underlying crime?
No. Hate crimes in Nevada are a sentencing enhancement, not a separate offense. People convicted of hate crimes will receive a harsher penalty than they would have otherwise.4
Example: Harriet gets convicted of “injury of another’s property” for vandalizing a neighbor’s home. She faces an additional penalty because her motivation was based on the neighbor’s gender identity.
Had Harriet vandalized the neighbor’s house to get back at the neighbor for playing loud music, then there would be no hate crime enhancement because the motivation had nothing to do with prejudice.
3. What is the punishment?
Nevada misdemeanors that are committed as hate crimes are instead charged as gross misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanor penalties – which are simply twice that of misdemeanor penalties – include:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines 5
Meanwhile, felonies and gross misdemeanors which are committed as hate crimes carry an additional sentence of one to twenty years in Nevada State Prison. However, this enhancement may not exceed the length of the sentence for the underlying crime.
Example: Jeff receives a 15-year prison sentence for burning down a black man’s house and a 15-year prison enhancement since it was a hate crime. The judge may not impose an enhancement longer than 15 years because the underlying sentence was only 15 years.
In determining the length of the additional hate crime sentence for gross misdemeanors and felonies, Nevada judges consider the following information:
- The facts and circumstances of the crime;
- The criminal history of the defendant;
- The impact of the crime on any victim;
- Any mitigating factors presented by the person; and
- Any other relevant information. 6
Note that first-degree murder committed as a hate crime can potentially carry the death penalty. 7
4. What are the defenses?
The most effective way to fight Nevada hate crime allegations is to defend against the underlying criminal charge. If the underlying charge gets dropped, the hate crime enhancement becomes moot.
Depending on the case, common defenses that could get a criminal case dropped include:
- mistaken identity
- false accusations
- police department misconduct
Even if the underlying criminal charge stands, it still may be possible to get the hate crime enhancement dismissed. That way, the defendant would not face an additional penalty. The most common defense to hate crime allegations is that the defendant did not commit the crime out of bias.
Example: Jeremy is arrested for a hate crime after pick-pocketing Henry, who is in a wheelchair. Jeremy could be convicted of theft but not with the hate crime enhancement as long as the district attorney cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeremy’s motivations were based on prejudice (and not just because Henry was an easy target).8
Another potential defense against certain hate crime allegations is that the defendant’s conduct was
- protected free speech and
- free expression under the First Amendment.9
5. How is the federal hate crime law different?
Like Nevada state law, the federal hate crime law criminalizes harming others because of their race, color, religion, national origin/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender/gender identity, or disability. Unlike Nevada law, federal law limits the scope of hate crimes to violent crimes. It specifically prohibits:
- willfully causing bodily injury to any person, or
- attempting to cause bodily injury to any person through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device
The typical penalty is a fine and/or up to 10 years in Federal Prison. Though the maximum prison sentence becomes life in prison if either:
- death results;
- the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap;
- the offense includes aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse; or
- the offense includes an attempt to kill.10
Learn more at FBI.gov.
6. Do hate crimes affect gun rights?
No. Any Nevada conviction for a felony, domestic violence, or stalking will result in the defendant losing their gun rights whether or not it was a hate crime.11
7. How do I report hate crimes?
Victims or witnesses of hate crimes can report it by calling the local police or 911. Then contact the FBI at either:
8. Additional resources
- Victim Connect Resource Center
- Matthew Shepard Foundation
- Human Rights Campaign
- Safe Horizon
- Equality Nevada
- NRS 207.185; NRS 193.1675. See, for example, David Ferrara and Glenn Puit, Prosecutors ponder hate-crime charges in Henderson shooting spree, Las Vegas Review-Journal (December 1, 2020) and Associated Press, Terror, Hate-Crime Counts Mulled in Vegas in 2-State Rampage, US News (December 1, 2020) (re. alleged shootings by Texas residents Shawn McDonnell, Christopher McDonnell and Kayleigh Lewis alleged on Thanksgiving Day in Henderson – according to Michael Schwartzer, a chief deputy Clark County district attorney – as well as a police chase involving the Arizona Department of Public Safety in La Paz County and shootings in Parker, AZ). See also Mickelson v. State (Nev. 2020) ; McNamara v. State (Nev. 2016) 377 P.3d 106. See also NRS 193.130; NRS 193.140; NRS 193.150.
- NRS 193.1675. Other felony or gross misdemeanor hate crimes in Nevada are burglary with explosives (NRS 205.075), battery with intent to commit a crime (NRS 200.400), invasion of the home (NRS 205.067), voluntary manslaughter (NRS 200.050), sexual assault (NRS 200.366), kidnapping (NRS 200.310), false imprisonment (NRS 200.460), stalking (NRS 200.575) – if the victim is under 16, and the defendant is at least 5 years older, killing, maiming, disfiguring or poisoning animal of another person; killing estray or livestock (NRS 206.150), grand larceny of a firearm (NRS 205.226), or grand larceny of a motor vehicle (NRS 205.228), larceny from a person (NRS 205.270), elder abuse (NRS 200.5099), mayhem (NRS 200.280), child abuse (NRS 200.508), and coercion (NRS 207.190).
- NRS 207.185. Other misdemeanor hate crimes in Nevada are elder abuse (NRS 200.5099), unlawful taking of vehicle; interference (NRS 205.2715), theft (NRS 205.0832), trespass (NRS 207.200), destruction of signs or notices forbidding trespass (NRS 207.210) or unlawful posting of bills, signs or posters (NRS 206.200), forcible entry and detainer (NRS 203.110) or entering property with intention to damage or destroy property (NRS 206.040), destruction or damage of property by unlawful assembly (NRS 206.010), 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 (NRS 206.125), nuisance in building; trespass upon grounds; disturbing assembly (NRS 206.140), provoking commission of breach of peace (NRS 203.030), assembling to disturb peace (NRS 203.020), unlawful assembly (NRS 203.060), armed association (NRS 203.080), offenses in public conveyances (NRS 203.100), and commission of act in public building or area interfering with peaceful conduct of activities (NRS 203.119).
- NRS 193.1675 (“This section does not create a separate offense but provides an additional penalty for the primary offense, whose imposition is contingent upon the finding of the prescribed fact.”)
- NRS 207.185.
- NRS 193.1675.
- NRS 200.030.
- See, for example, Abrego v. State, (2002) 118 Nev. 54, 38 P.3d 868.
- See Virginia v. Black, (2002) 538 U.S. 343, 123 S. Ct. 1536; see Matal v. Tam, (United States Supreme Court, 2017) 137 S. Ct. 1744, 198 L. Ed. 2d 366.
- 18 USC 249; The Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act Of 2009. These cases are prosecuted by the Civil Rights Division.
- NRS 202.360. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33).