NRS 200.620 is the Nevada statute that defines the crime of wiretapping. You commit illegal wiretapping if you intercept or record the contents of any wire communication (such as a phone call) without the consent of all of the parties.
A violation of the law is a category D felony punishable by up to four years in state prison.
The full language of the statute reads as follows:
NRS 200.620 Interception and attempted interception of wire communication prohibited; exceptions.
1. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 179.410 to 179.515, inclusive, 209.419 and 704.195, it is unlawful for any person to intercept or attempt to intercept any wire communication unless:
(a) The interception or attempted interception is made with the prior consent of one of the parties to the communication; and
(b) An emergency situation exists and it is impractical to obtain a court order as required by NRS 179.410 to 179.515, inclusive, before the interception, in which event the interception is subject to the requirements of subsection 3. If the application for ratification is denied, any use or disclosure of the information so intercepted is unlawful, and the person who made the interception shall notify the sender and the receiver of the communication that:
(1) The communication was intercepted; and
(2) Upon application to the court, ratification of the interception was denied.
2. This section does not apply to any person, or to the officers, employees or agents of any person, engaged in the business of providing service and facilities for wire communication where the interception or attempted interception is to construct, maintain, conduct or operate the service or facilities of that person.
3. Any person who has made an interception in an emergency situation as provided in paragraph (b) of subsection 1 shall, within 72 hours of the interception, make a written application to a justice of the Supreme Court or district judge for ratification of the interception. The interception must not be ratified unless the applicant shows that:
(a) An emergency situation existed and it was impractical to obtain a court order before the interception; and
(b) Except for the absence of a court order, the interception met the requirements of NRS 179.410 to 179.515, inclusive.
4. NRS 200.610 to 200.690, inclusive, do not prohibit the recording, and NRS 179.410 to 179.515, inclusive, do not prohibit the reception in evidence, of conversations on wire communications installed in the office of an official law enforcement or fire-fighting agency, or a public utility, if the equipment used for the recording is installed in a facility for wire communications or on a telephone with a number listed in a directory, on which emergency calls or requests by a person for response by the law enforcement or fire-fighting agency or public utility are likely to be received. In addition, those sections do not prohibit the recording or reception in evidence of conversations initiated by the law enforcement or fire-fighting agency or public utility from such a facility or telephone in connection with responding to the original call or request, if the agency or public utility informs the other party that the conversation is being recorded.
- recording a person’s phone calls without the person’s approval
- tapping into a phone line and listening in on a private conversation
- police intercepting a wire communication without a court order
Criminal defense attorneys draw upon several defense strategies to contest wiretapping charges. Some of these include showing that:
- you intercepted a communication on accident,
- you had prior consent to intercept a conversation, and/or
- law enforcement recorded your communications without a court order.
A violation of NRS 200.620 is a category D felony in Nevada (as opposed to a misdemeanor). The crime is punishable by:
- a state prison term between one to four years, and/or
- a possible fine of up to $5,000
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will address the following in this article:
- 1. How does Nevada law define “wiretapping”?
- 2. Are there common defenses to NRS 200.620 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. How does Nevada law define “wiretapping”?
The legal definition of “wiretapping” under Nevada law, is the intercepting or recording of contents of any wire communication such as a phone conversation or telephone conversation.
“Wire communications” include
- cell phone calls and
- text messages.1
“Intercept” is defined as “the aural acquisition” of the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of:
- any electronic, mechanical, or other listening device, or
- any sending or receiving equipment.2
2. Are there common defenses to NRS 200.620 charges?
You have the right to challenge a wiretapping charge with a legal defense. Three common defenses include showing that:
- you acted on accident.
- you had everyone’s consent.
- the police did not obtain a court order.
Nevada’s wiretapping laws say you are usually only guilty of this offense if you intercepted a communication on purpose. A defense, then, is for you to show that you recorded telephone calls inadvertently.
Nevada is an “all-party consent” state. This is because every party to a phone conversation needs to give permission in order for the call to be wiretapped legally. This means you can always challenge a charge by showing you did have (or reasonably believed that you did have) everyone’s consent to record the communication.3
Note that the majority of states are “one-party consent” states. State laws in these states allow wiretapping with the knowledge of only one party to a telephone call.
2.3. Police did not act with a court order
The police are usually required to follow strict procedural rules such as obtaining a court order before conducting a wiretap. An exception is where there’s an emergency situation making it impractical for the police to do so.4 You can challenge a police wiretap in court, then, by showing that:
- the police did not have a court order, and
- there was not an emergency situation.
3. What are the penalties?
Violating NRS 200.620 is a category D felony. The sentence for a category D felony includes:
- one to four years in Nevada State Prison, and
- a possible fine of up to $5,000.5
In addition, Nevada law says that you are civilly liable to anyone you wiretapped without permission. A Las Vegas District Court could award the “damaged” party with:
- actual damages or liquidated damages of $100 per day of violation but not less than $1,000 (whichever is greater),
- punitive damages, and
- a reasonable attorney’s fee.
4. Are there related offenses
There are three crimes related to wiretapping in Nevada. These include:
- federal wiretapping – 18 U.S.C. 2511,
- eavesdropping – NRS 200.650, and
- peering – NRS 200.603.
4.1. federal wiretapping – 18 U.S.C. 2511
Wiretapping is also a federal offense under 18 U.S.C 2511.
The punishment for violating federal wiretap law includes up to:
- five years in prison, and
- $250,000 in fines.
The defendant may also face civil penalties such as punitive damages and attorney’s fees for the opposing party.
4.2. eavesdropping – NRS 200.650
Per NRS 200.650, eavesdropping is the crime where you listen to or record a private, in-person conversation without the consent of at least one party.
Recall that Nevada is an all-party consent state when it comes to wiretapping. All parties to a phone conversation must consent for the call to be recorded.
However, eavesdropping requires the consent of just one party.
4.3. peering – NRS 200.603
Under NRS 200.603, peering is the crime where you:
- go onto another person’s property, and
- do so with the intent to spy through a home’s window, door, or other opening.
Unlike with wiretapping, peering is usually charged as a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to a $1,000 fine.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact us at Las Vegas Defense Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.