In NRS 200.310, Nevada law defines first-degree kidnapping as taking an adult for ransom or with intent to harm, or taking a child from his/her parents or guardians.
First-degree kidnapping is a category A felony punishable by a prison term of 15 years, 40 years, or life.
All other kidnapping cases are prosecuted as second-degree kidnapping, which is a category B felony carrying two to 15 years in prison.
NRS 200.310 states:
1. A person who willfully seizes, confines, inveigles, entices, decoys, abducts, conceals, kidnaps or carries away a person by any means whatsoever with the intent to hold or detain, or who holds or detains, the person for ransom, or reward, or for the purpose of committing sexual assault, extortion or robbery upon or from the person, or for the purpose of killing the person or inflicting substantial bodily harm upon the person, or to exact from relatives, friends, or any other person any money or valuable thing for the return or disposition of the kidnapped person, and a person who leads, takes, entices, or carries away or detains any minor with the intent to keep, imprison, or confine the minor from his or her parents, guardians, or any other person having lawful custody of the minor, or with the intent to hold the minor to unlawful service, or perpetrate upon the person of the minor any unlawful act is guilty of kidnapping in the first degree which is a category A felony.
2. A person who willfully and without authority of law 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, is guilty of kidnapping in the second degree which is a category B felony.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is considered kidnapping in Nevada?
- 2. What is the penalty for kidnapping in Nevada?
- 3. How do I fight NRS 200.310 charges?
- 4. Is kidnapping a deportable offense?
- 5. Can the criminal record get sealed?
1. What is considered kidnapping in Nevada?
The Nevada crime of kidnapping is divided into first degree and second degree. First-degree kidnapping is willfully taking a person with the intent to hold the person for ransom or to commit:
It is also first-degree kidnapping in Nevada when a person takes away a minor child (under 18 years old) with:
- the intent to keep the child from his/her legal guardians for an extensive period; or
- the intent to perpetrate any unlawful act upon the child
Second-degree kidnapping comprises all other acts of taking someone without lawful authority.1
1.1. Federal law versus Nevada law
Defendants typically face federal kidnapping charges when the victims are federal employees or transported between states. Unlike Nevada law, federal kidnapping law does not divide kidnapping into degrees. Read more about federal kidnapping law in Nevada (18 U.S.C. 1201).
2. What is the penalty for kidnapping in Nevada?
First-degree kidnapping is a category A felony in Nevada. If the victim sustained substantial bodily harm, the sentence is:
- life in Nevada State Prison without the possibility of parole;
- life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years; or
- 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
When the victim sustained no substantial bodily harm, first-degree kidnapping carries either 15 years or life in prison with parole eligibility beginning after five years.2
Note that aiding or abetting a 1st-degree kidnapping offense carries the same penalties as physically kidnapping the victim.3 Also note that courts cannot grant probation for 1st-degree kidnapping if the defendant used a deadly weapon.4
Second-degree kidnapping is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment includes two to 15 years in prison. The court can also impose up to $15,000 in fines (unless the charge was only for aiding and abetting).5
Sexually-motivated 1st or 2nd-degree kidnapping carries lifetime supervision. But it may be possible to get off lifetime supervision after 10 years.6
2.1. Use of a deadly weapon
Defendants face an additional prison term of one to 20 years for using a firearm or other deadly weapon in commission of a kidnapping. But this additional sentence may not exceed the underlying kidnapping sentence.
So if a convicted kidnapper is sentenced to two years for 2nd-degree kidnapping, the judge can impose no more than two additional years if a deadly weapon was used.7
Learn more about using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony (NRS 193.165).
2.2. Child custody kidnapping
In certain Nevada cases, it is only a category D felony when a parent (or someone with custodial rights) allegedly kidnaps his/her own child. The typical sentence includes one to four years in prison and a possible $5,000 fine.
However, prosecutors may recommend that the defendant be sentenced to only a misdemeanor if the judge finds that:
- the defendant has no prior kidnapping convictions, and the child suffered no substantial harm, or
- the “interest of justice” requires the lesser sentence.
Misdemeanors carry up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.8
Helpful evidence in these cases includes the court order specifying who has legal custody and physical custody. As long as the defendant was not violating the custody order, no kidnapping occurred.
3. How do I fight NRS 200.310 charges?
Three potential defenses to Nevada kidnapping charges include:
- The adult “victim” gave consent.
- The defendant lacked intent.
- The defendant was falsely accused.
Note that it is not necessarily a defense that the victim was never physically moved (called asportation). Merely confining the victim is sufficient in 1st-degree kidnapping cases.9
It is also not necessarily a defense that the kidnapping occurred outside of Nevada. Any Nevada county has jurisdiction over kidnapping cases if the victim was allegedly transported through or detained in state.10
3.1. The adult “victim” gave consent
No kidnapping occurred in Nevada if:
- the alleged victim was at least 18 years old,
- the alleged victim gave the defendant permission to take him/her, and
- this consent was not extorted by threats, duress, or fraud11
Typical evidence in these cases includes recorded communications between the defendant and “victim,” eyewitness testimony, and surveillance video.
3.2. The defendant lacked intent
A key element of both 1st- and 2nd-degree kidnapping is that the defendant acted willfully. Unless the prosecutor can prove that the defendant’s actions were deliberate, criminal charges should not be sustained.
Note that a first-degree kidnapping charge can be reduced to a second-degree charge if the prosecutor fails to prove that the defendant intended to harm the adult victim or to hold him/her for ransom.
Alternatively, the prosecutor may be willing to plea bargain a kidnapping case down to false imprisonment (NRS 200.460). Unless there are aggravating circumstances, false imprisonment is only a gross misdemeanor carrying up to 364 days in jail, and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
3.3. The defendant was falsely accused
It is not uncommon for people to levy false allegations of kidnapping, especially by angry exes or co-parents during child custody disputes. If the defense attorney can show that the accuser had motivation to lie, the district attorney may be persuaded to drop the charges.
Note that defendants in child custody kidnapping cases may require both a family law attorney in addition to a criminal law attorney.
4. Is kidnapping a deportable offense?
Yes. Kidnapping can be considered a crime of moral turpitude and is therefore a deportable crime.12 Immigrants who are facing criminal charges are advised to seek legal help as soon as possible. It may be possible to get the charges reduced to a non-deportable offense or dismissed altogether.
5. Can the criminal record get sealed?
A conviction for kidnapping a child can never be sealed in Nevada unless the defendant was the child’s parent or guardian.
Otherwise, first-degree kidnapping convictions can be sealed 10 years after the case ends. And second-degree kidnapping convictions can be sealed 5 years after the case ends.
Note that if a kidnapping charge gets dismissed, then the defendant can petition for a record seal right away.13
Learn more about how to seal Nevada criminal records.
Also see our related article on Nevada involuntary servitude laws (NRS 200.463).
Arrested in California? Go to our page on Penal Code 278 PC.
- Nevada Revised Statute 200.310; Schofield v. State, (2016) 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 26 2016. 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, (2020) 136 Nev. Adv. Op. 44.
- NRS 200.320.
- NRS 200.340.
- NRS 193.165.
- NRS 200.330; NRS 200.340.
- NRS 176.0931.
- NRS 193.165.
- NRS 200.359.
- See Perez v. State, (2016) 132 Nev. 1016.
- NRS 200.350. McNamara v. State, (2016) 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 60, 2016.
- NRS 200.350 (subsection b).
- See 9 U.S. Dep’t of State, Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) § 40.21(a) N.2.3-3(a).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.