NRS 197.190 is the Nevada law that makes it a crime to obstruct a public officer. This entails making false statements to, hindering, or withholding information from a public officer. Public officers include public government employees such as police or judges.
Violating NRS 197.190 is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum punishment of:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
A defense attorney may be able to plea bargain the case down to a full dismissal. Three typical defense strategies to obstruction allegations are:
- the defendant’s behavior was not obstruction,
- the defendant was falsely accused, or
- the defendant had no criminal intent
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss the following obstructing a government officer topics:
- 1. Legal definition
- 2. Penalties for “obstruction of a public officer” in Nevada
- 3. Fighting chages
- 4. Deportation
- 5. Record sealing
- 6. Related offenses
1. Legal definition
The Nevada crime of obstructing a public officer comprises either of the following three actions:
- refusing to give information — or neglecting to give information — to a public officer when the person is legally required to; or
- deliberately lying to a public officer; or
- deliberately hindering a public officer from carrying out official duties
A “public officer” is any state government or local government employee in Nevada. This includes everyone from police officers and judges to councilmen and senators.1
In short, it is illegal to hamper government officers from doing their job. Note that it is generally not considered obstruction for a person to refuse to tell a police officer his/her name unless the refusal would make it more difficult for the police to do their job:2
Example: A police officer gets a tip that Ken has trespassed into a casino that he was banned from. The police officer approaches Ken and asks Ken his name. Ken refuses to tell him. In this situation, Ken could probably be arrested for obstruction because his name was necessary to the police’s investigation of the trespass.3
2. Penalties for “obstruction of a public officer” in Nevada
Obstruction of a government officer is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The possible sentence may include:
- up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines4
For a first offense, the judge may agree to “dismiss” the charge after the defendant completed the sentencing terms. A dismissal means there is no conviction.
3. Fighting charges
Which defenses are most effective in a Nevada “obstruction of government officer” case depends on the facts of the incident. Three common defense strategies are:
- The defendant’s actions were legal: Just because a government officer believes he/she was obstructed does not necessarily mean it happened. Perhaps the officer misconstrued the defendant’s actions or had a misconception about what obstruction is. As long as the prosecutor cannot prove that the defendant’s actions rose to the level of obstruction, he/she is not criminally liable for obstructing a public officer.
- The defendant was falsely accused: Perhaps the public officer was frustrated and accused the defendant out of frustration. Or perhaps the defendant was misidentified as the actual person who committed the obstruction. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant was the victim of false accusations, criminal charges should not stand.
- The defendant did not act willfully. Giving misinformation to a government officer is a crime only if the person knew that it was misinformation. If the defendant genuinely believed everything he/she conveyed was truthful and accurate, then no NRS 197.190 violation occurred.
Remember that the prosecution bears the burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before the defendant may be convicted. If the defense attorney can show that the state’s evidence against the defendant is too problematic, inconclusive or nonexistent, any obstruction of public officer charges should be dismissed.
Violating NRS 197.190 is not typically classified as a deportable offense. However, any non-citizen facing criminal charges may be vulnerable to being thrown out of the United States, especially in the current political climate where immigration laws seem to be in a constant state of flux.
Immigrants who have been charged with a crime are encouraged to seek legal counsel from an attorney experienced in both immigration and criminal law. The attorney may be able to persuade the D.A. to drop the case or else change the charge to a non-deportable offense.
5. Record sealing
Defendants convicted of “obstructing a government officer” must wait one (1) year before they can get a record seal.5 But if the case gets dismissed (meaning there was no conviction), then the defendant can get a record seal right away.6
The criminal record seal process is very lengthy and confusing, and one mistake can set the defendant back months. Learn more about how to apply to seal a Nevada criminal record.
6. Related offenses
6.1. Interfering with a public officer (NRS 197.090)
Interfering with a government officer is like a more serious version of obstruction. In contrast to obstructing a public officer — which comprises more passive non-cooperation — interfering with a government officer comprises more active attempts to keep a public officer from performing their legal duties by the use of force, violence or threats.
Violating NRS 197.090 is a gross misdemeanor, carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
6.2. Resisting arrest (NRS 199.280)
Resisting arrest occurs when a person deliberately hinders police from carrying out legal duties, such as making an arrest. Violating NRS 199.280 with no weapons is a misdemeanor, carrying up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But the crime becomes a felony if the defendant had firearms or other weapons.
6.3. Evading police (NRS 484B.550)
Evading police under NRS 484B.550 occurs when someone intentionally continues to drive after police have signaled for the driver to stop by flashing the red light and sounding the siren. It is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor, carrying up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
However, evading becomes a felony if the driver was driving dangerously, was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or caused injury or death. Learn more in our article on evading police and causing injury.
6.4. Making a false police report (NRS 207.280)
Making a false police report occurs when someone knowingly making a false report to police that a criminal offense has occurred.
Violating NRS 207.280 is a misdemeanor, carrying up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. In addition, the defendant may be ordered to reimburse the police for any costs the police incurred while investigating the false claim.
6.5. Battery on a police officer (NRS 200.481)
Like it sounds, battery of a police officer occurs when a person inflicts unlawful physical force on a member of law enforcement. Examples include punching, spitting on, or throwing objects at.
Battering a police officer is typically a gross misdemeanor, carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. But if the defendant strangled the officer or caused him/her to sustain substantial bodily harm, battery on a police officer becomes a category B felony. These penalties include:
- two to ten (2 – 10) years in Nevada State Prison, and/or
- up to $10,000 in fines
Note that the prison range may be increased to fifteen (15) years if the incident involved a deadly weapon.
6.6. Escaping from prison (NRS 212.090)
Escaping custody occurs when suspects or convicts escape from prison, jail, or police custody. The penalties turn on the underlying crime the defendant was incarcerated for.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
If you would like to schedule a consultation with our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys, we may be able to get your charges lowered or thrown out completely.
Arrested in California? See our article on Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC.
Arrested in Colorado? See our article on the CRS 18-8-104.
- NRS 197.190 Obstructing public officer. Every person who, after due notice, shall refuse or neglect to make or furnish any statement, report or information lawfully required of the person by any public officer, or who, in such statement, report or information shall make any willfully untrue, misleading or exaggerated statement, or who shall willfully hinder, delay or obstruct any public officer in the discharge of official powers or duties, shall, where no other provision of law applies, be guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Carey v. Nev. Gaming Control Bd., 279 F.3d 873 (9th Cir. Nev. 2002)(Refusing to give one’s name to police is not grounds for arrest if the name is not necessary for the police to carry out their duties.).
- Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128 (9th Cir. Nev. 2012)(Not giving the police one’s name can be considered obstruction — and grounds for arrest — when the name is necessary for the police to carry out its duties).
- NRS 197.190.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.