NRS 197.130 is the Nevada law that makes it a gross misdemeanor for public officers to make knowingly false statements in an official capacity. Penalties include up to 364 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. A common defense is that the officers acted in good faith and believed the statements were truthful.
NRS 197.130 states that “Every public officer who shall knowingly make any false or misleading statement in any official report or statement, under circumstances not otherwise prohibited by law, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What are public officers in Nevada?
- 2. What does NRS 197.130 prohibit?
- 3. Can the officers go to jail?
- 4. Can the charge be dismissed?
- 5. Can the record be sealed?
Nevada law in NRS 169.164 defines public officers as:
[A] person elected or appointed to a position which:
- Is established by the constitution or a statute of this State, or by a charter or ordinance of a political subdivision of this State; and
- Involves the continuous exercise, as part of the regular and permanent administration of the government, of a public power, trust or duty.1
Examples of public officers include:
- The governor
- State senators and representatives
- Agency commissioners
- Attorney general
- Law enforcement officers, including police officers and “peace officers”
Nevada law forbids public officers from knowingly being misleading or untruthful in their official reports or statements. In short, they may not lie on the job.
Example: Henry is a representative in the Nevada State Assembly. He wants to pass a law that criminalizes public intoxication. To garner more support, he releases statements exaggerating the number of people police cite for disorderly conduct. Since Henry is knowingly inflating the numbers in an official statement, he could be prosecuted for violating NRS 197.130.
Note that Nevada law prohibits lying only in official statements. Leaked informal emails by public officers that have falsehoods do not violate this section because they do not qualify as official statements or reports.2
Potentially. Deliberately giving false statements or false reports is a gross misdemeanor. The criminal sentence in the state of Nevada includes:
- Up to 364 days in county jail, and/or
- Fines of up to $1,000
But note that the political penalties may be far worse than any criminal charge. Depending on the seriousness of the false information, the defendant may lose his/her job as a public officer. The defendant may also face expensive civil action lawsuits.
There are various possible defenses that could get an NRS 197.130 charge reduced or dropped completely. Three potential arguments include:
- The public officer did not lie knowingly. Perhaps the defendant made an honest mistake. Or perhaps someone else set up the defendant to unintentionally give fraudulent information. Unless prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly lied, then no crime occurred.
- The lie was not in an official report or statement. The statute does not apply to public officials’ informal conversations or statements unrelated to their employment. As long as prosecutors cannot show that the misinformation was part of an official statement or report, charges should be dropped.
- There was no lie. Maybe the D.A. was wrong about the public official’s statement being untrue. Or perhaps the statement was merely an opinion and not a statement of fact. If prosecutors cannot demonstrate that the public official’s words rose to the level of misleading or inaccurate, then nothing unlawful occurred.
Common evidence in these cases includes the alleged statement itself, witnesses, and recorded communications – such as emails, voicemails, and text messages.
Yes. An NRS 179.130 conviction can be sealed from the defendants’ record two (2) years after the case closes. But if the charge got dismissed – meaning that there was no conviction – then the defendant can pursue a record seal right away.4
Also see our related article on bribery of or by an officer (NRS 197.040).
- NRS 169.164.
- NRS 197.130.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.