Malicious mischief is a category of Nevada crimes comprising the vandalism or destruction of property, animals, signs, and papers. One of the most frequently prosecuted malicious mischief crimes is using graffiti (NRS 206.330).
Depending on the specific offense and extent of the damage, malicious mischief can be a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or a felony. In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys summarize the following:
- 1. Graffiti offenses
- 2. Damage to land or structures
- 3. Damage to animals or livestock
- 4. Damage to signage
- 5. Damage to papers
Criminal penalties for defacing public or private property with graffiti (tagging) turns on the value of the property loss and whether the defendant has prior graffiti convictions.
|Graffiti crime (NRS 206.330) ||Penalties in Nevada|
|Loss is less than $250||Misdemeanor: |
|Loss is $250 to less than $5,000||Gross misdemeanor: |
|Loss is $5,000 or more||Category E felony:^ |
|The damage impairs public communication, transportation, or police and fire protection||Category E felony:^ |
|The site was protected by the state, such as a landmark||Category D felony: |
|The defendant has at least one prior felony graffiti conviction or two prior non-felony graffiti convictions||Category D felony: |
|*Additional penalties: |
|^For category E felonies, the judge may impose prison instead of probation if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions. The penalties may include 1 – 4 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion).|
Meanwhile, merely carrying a graffiti implement (such as a spray can) with the intent to vandalize is a misdemeanor under NRS 206.335. The sentence is up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in county jail.
Defendants also face civil lawsuits by the property owners. Under NRS 206.345, Nevada courts may award plaintiffs treble damages (triple the cost of the damage done and restoration costs) plus court costs and attorney fees.
Note that the defendant may instead face criminal charges under NRS 206.125 if the defendant put graffiti on a religious, burial, education, transportation, or community site. Scroll down to the next section for more information.
The following five vandalism crimes are treated as public offenses, which means that the seriousness of the charges depends on the extent of the damage.1
- Destruction or damage of property by unlawful assembly (NRS 206.01): Where unlawfully assembled crowds pull down, damage or destroy any dwelling house or other building, or any shop, steamboat, vessel or other property
- Destruction or damage of crops, gardens, tress, or shrubs (NRS 206.015): This does not include burning (see our article on Nevada arson crimes). The defendants must have acted willfully and maliciously to be convicted.
- Injury to other real estate or personal property (NRS 206.310): The defendants must have acted willfully and maliciously to be convicted.
- Causing a nuisance in a building, or disturbing a peaceful assembly (NRS 206.140): This offense can never be less than a misdemeanor, even if the damage amounts to less than $25.
- Removing, altering, or destroying monuments or landmarks designating boundaries (NRS 206.220): The defendant must have acted willfully and maliciously to be prosecuted. This offense can never be less than a misdemeanor, even if the damage amounts to less than $25.
The penalties include the following:
|Value of the loss||Penalty for “Public Offense” in Nevada |
|Less than $25||Up to $500 in fines|
|$25 to less than $250||Misdemeanor: |
|$250 to less than $5,000||Gross misdemeanor: |
|$5,000 or more||Category C felony: |
|Damage impairs public communication, transportation, or police or fire protection (no matter the costs)||Category C felony: |
The following three property crimes are prosecuted as misdemeanors, which means the maximum penalties are $1,000 in fines and/or 6 months in jail.
- Entering property with the intention to damage or destroy property (NRS 206.040): The defendant must be acting willfully and malicious to be convicted. And the circumstances must not amount to burglary (NRS 205.060).
- Removing, concealing, or destroying real property with intention to defraud a secured party (NRS 206.045): The secured party must have suffered a pecuniary loss upon the foreclosure of the property
- Unlawful removal of petrified wood from posted or designated sites (NRS 206.320)
NRS 206.125 makes it a gross misdemeanor to damage property used for:
- religion (such as churches, mosques, and synagogues),
- burial or memorialization of the dead,
- transportation facilities or public transportation vehicles
- community centers
Penalties include up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. In addition, the judge will order that the defendant pay restitution and a $250 administrative assessment fee. Also, the court may order the defendant to undergo counseling.
Finally, there are additional penalties depending on whether the defendant has prior NRS 206.125 convictions:
|First offense||$400 – $1,000 in fines and 100 hours of community service|
|Second offense||$750 – $1,000 in fines and 200 hours of community service|
|Subsequent offense||$1,000 in fines and 200 hours of community service|
Note that the defendant also faces a civil lawsuit, where the court under NRS 206.345 can award treble damages, attorney’s costs, and court costs.
It is a misdemeanor under NRS 206.160 to willfully and maliciously lead or drive away a horse. Penalties include up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail.
It is a category D felony under NRS 206.150 to willfully and maliciously kill, maim, disfigure, or give poison to another person’s animal. Penalties include 1 to 4 years in prison, possibly up to $5,000 in fines, and an additional potential fine of $10,000.
Finally, it is a category C felony under NRS 206.150 to willfully and maliciously kill livestock or estray without authority. Penalties include 1 to 5 years in prison and possibly up to $10,000 in fines.
Also see our article on animal cruelty laws.
NRS 206.200 makes it a misdemeanor in Nevada to willfully, unlawfully, or maliciously either deface property by pasting a printed sign, poster, or advertisement without permission of the owner or a permit by the board of county commissioners. Penalties include up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail.
NRS 206.300 makes it a more serious crime to endanger a vessel, railway, motor vehicle, or automobile by altering or removing any light or signal – or by exhibiting a false light or signal:
This is a gross misdemeanor if the incident resulted in no property damage or physical injury. This carries up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 364 days in jail. Otherwise, it is a category B felony, carrying 1 to 10 years in prison and possibly a $10,000 fine.
Malicious mischief of certain papers can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the offense.
|Paper crime||Nevada penalty|
|Fraudulent and malicious destruction of writings (NRS 206.260). The defendant must have acted with intent to defraud, prejudice, or injure. The writings include: ||Category D felony: |
|Tampering with papers (NRS 206.280): The papers must contain a claim, legal right, authority, or privilege. And the defendant must have acted willfully or maliciously and with an intent to injure another person.||Gross misdemeanor: |
|Opening or publishing sealed letters (NRS 206.290): The defendant must have acted willfully and without authorization |
|Defacing proclamations and notices (NRS 206.270)||Up to $500 in fines|
Our criminal law office is based in Las Vegas, NV, though we serve clients throughout the state, including Henderson and all of Clark County, Reno, and Washoe County.
- Nevada Revised Statute 193.155; Romero v. State, 116 Nev. 344, 996 P.2d 894 (2000).