Kidnapping is an extremely serious crime in Nevada that can potentially carry a life sentence. Furthermore, having a kidnapping conviction on your criminal record is an enormous stigma that may cause prospective employers to not hire you.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of kidnapping below. Keep reading to learn its definition, defenses, and penalties.
Legal definition of kidnapping in Las Vegas, Nevada
Similar to murder, the Las Vegas crime of kidnapping is divided into first degree and second degree. First degree is a more serious offense than second degree:
First-degree kidnapping occurs when someone “willfully seizes, confines, inveigles, entices, decoys, abducts, conceals, kidnaps or carries away a person” with the intent to either:
- hold the person for ransom,
- for the purpose of committing sexual assault, extortion or robbery upon or from the person,
- for the purpose of killing the person or inflicting substantial bodily harm upon the person,
- to exact from relatives, friends, or any other person any money or valuable thing for the return or disposition of the kidnapped person.
it is also first-degree kidnapping in Nevada when a person “leads, takes, entices, or carries away or detains any minor with the intent to keep, imprison, or confine the minor” from his/her guardians or with the intent to perpetrate upon the minor any unlawful act. Note that “intent to keep” a minor requires proof that the accused meant to keep the minor for a protracted period of time or permanently. (Schofield v. State, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 26 2016). Also note that sexual conduct between secondary school teachers and students (NRS 201.540) is not a predicate offense for first degree kidnapping (Lofthouse v. State, 136 Nev. Adv. Op. 44 (2020).
A person cannot be convicted of both the Nevada crime of robbery as well as first-degree kidnapping in a case if the movement of the victim was:
- incidental to the robbery, and
- did not increase the risk of harm to the victim.
For example, temporarily bringing a store clerk from the cash register to the back room so you can rob the store probably would not qualify as kidnapping.
Second-degree kidnapping comprises all other acts of taking someone without lawful authority. Specifically, second-degree kidnapping occurs when someone willfully “seizes, inveigles, takes, carries away or kidnaps another person with the intent to keep the person secretly imprisoned within the State, or for the purpose of conveying the person out of the State without authority of law, or in any manner held to service or detained against the person’s will.”
When someone is charged with both second-degree kidnapping and an associated crime in a case, the kidnapping charge will stand only if the suspect moved the victim over and above the distance required to complete the other crime. Otherwise, no minimum distance of asportation is necessary to prove a kidnapping charge . . . the fact the victim was moved at all is sufficient.
Jurisdiction (NRS 200.350)
Kidnapping cases may be heard in the court of any county where the victim was allegedly taken, transported or detained. When an alleged kidnapping matter spans more than one county, the district attorneys of the various jurisdictions will decide where to bring the charges. Even if the physical taking occurred outside of Nevada, the defendant may face kidnapping charges in Nevada if any of the keeping or retraining occurred inside Nevada. (McNamara v. State, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 60, 2016).
Federal Kidnapping Law
Unlike Nevada law, federal kidnapping law under 18 U.S.C. § 1201 does not divide kidnapping into degrees. However, both Nevada and federal courts levy very harsh punishments for kidanpping, including a possible life sentence. Read more about federal kidnapping law in Nevada in our article on federal kidnapping law in Nevada.
Getting charged with kidnapping in Nevada is extremely scary, but remember that being arrested does not necessarily mean that you will ultimately be convicted. Depending on your situation, there are various strategies your attorney may use to try to get your case dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge. The following are just a few possible defenses:
- Consent. You cannot be convicted of kidnapping someone if that person gave you permission to take him/her as long as he/she is over 18 years old and his/her consent was not extorted by threats, duress or fraud. (NRS 200.350)
- No intent. Kidnapping is an intent crime, which means that you cannot be found guilty if you did not deliberately commit the acts constituting kidnapping. So if your attorney can show you did not act willfully, then the charges cannot stand in Nevada.
- Insufficient evidence. Before a judge or jury can convict you of a crime, the prosecutor has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If your attorney can show that the state’s evidence is unreliable, holey or otherwise inadequate, then the prosecutor may be willing to dismiss or reduce your charges.
- No asportation. If your attorney can show that the “victim” was not physically moved at all during the alleged incident, then the prosecutor should drop the charges or else change them to a lesser offense such as “false imprisonment.”
The typical punishment for kidnapping in Nevada depends upon whether the conviction was for a first- or second-degree offense, for aiding or abetting, or for a parent (or other lawful guardian) kidnapping their child. The sentence will also be increased if a deadly weapon was used.
Note that sexually-motivated 1st or 2nd-degree kidnapping also carries lifetime supervision under NRS 176.0931. But it may be possible to get off lifetime supervision after 10 years.
First-degree kidnapping (NRS 200.320)
Kidnapping in the first-degree is a category A felony in Las Vegas. If the victim suffered substantial bodily harm during the kidnapping act or from the subsequent detention or attempted escape, the standard sentence includes:
- life in Nevada State Prison without the possibility of parole, or
- life in prison with the possibility of parole when a minimum of 15 years has been served, or
- 40 years in prison, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 15 years has been served.
But when the victim sustained no substantial bodily harm in Nevada, the kidnapping sentence includes:
- life in prison with the possibility of parole when a minimum of 5 years has been served, or
- 15 years in prison, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 5 years has been served.
Aiding or abetting a first-degree kidnapping offense in Nevada carries the same penalties as straight-up kidnapping does. (NRS 200.340)
Second-degree kidnapping (NRS 200.330)
Second-degree kidnapping is a category B felony in Clark County. The penalties include:
- 2 – 15 years in prison, and
- maybe a fine of up to $15,000
If the conviction was for aiding or abetting second-degree kidnapping, then the punishment includes 2 – 15 years in prison but no fine.
Use of a deadly weapon (NRS 193.165)
A Clark County judge may impose an additional penalty of 1 – 20 years in prison for using a deadly weapon or firearm in the commission of a Las Vegas crime of kidnapping, but the extra time may not exceed the underlying sentence. And if someone is convicted of first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon, the judge may not grant probation.
Learn more about using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony (NRSR 193.165).
Child custody kidnapping (NRS 200.359)
In certain cases, it is only a category D felony in Nevada when a parent (or someone with custodial rights) allegedly kidnaps their own child. The typical sentence includes:
- 1 – 4 years in prison, and
- maybe a fine of up to $5,000
However, the prosecutor may recommend that the defendant be sentenced to only a misdemeanor in Nevada as long as the judge finds that the defendant has no prior conviction for this offense and the child suffered no substantial harm, or else if the “interest of justice” requires it. Misdemeanors carry:
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
In some cases, prosecutors may be willing to plea bargain a kidnapping case down to the Nevada crime of false imprisonment, which is considered a “lesser included offense” of kidnapping because it also involves unlawfully holding someone but does not require that the victim be moved. Unless there are aggravating circumstances, the Nevada crime of false imprisonment is only a gross misdemeanor in Las Vegas carrying:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines (NRS 200.460)
Aliens in Nevada who are convicted of kidnapping almost certainly face deportation because it is considered a crime involving moral turpitude in Nevada. If you are a non-citizen who is been accused of kidnapping, it is vital you retain counsel to try to get your charge dismissed or reduced to a non-removable offense.
We are here to help . . . .
If you are facing kidnapping charges in or around Clark County, please contact our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation today. We will do everything to try to get your case dismissed or reduced to lesser charges, and if you wish we are prepared to take your matter all the way to trial.
Also see our related article on Nevada involuntary servitude laws (NRS 200.463).
For information about child abduction laws in California, go to our page on child abduction laws in California.