Under NRS 201.230, Nevada law defines the crime of lewdness with a child as touching a minor under the age of 16 for sexual purposes. This is one of the most serious crimes in the state, and can be punished by up to life in prison.
- If the child is age 13 or younger, lewdness is a category A felony carrying life in prison.
- If the child is age 14 or 15, lewdness is a category B felony carrying a one-to-10-year prison sentence.
All lewdness convictions
- require being on the Nevada sex offender registry and
- carry up to $10,000 in fines.
NRS 201.230 reads as follows:
1. A person is guilty of lewdness with a child if he or she:
(a) Is 18 years of age or older and willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, other than acts constituting the crime of sexual assault, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child under the age of 16 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of that person or of that child; or
(b) Is under the age of 18 years and willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, other than acts constituting the crime of sexual assault, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of that person or of that child.
2. Except as otherwise provided in subsections 4 and 5, a person who commits lewdness with a child under the age of 14 years is guilty of a category A felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 10 years has been served, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.
3. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 4, a person who commits lewdness with a child who is 14 or 15 years of age is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.
4. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, a person who commits lewdness with a child and who has been previously convicted of:
(a) Lewdness with a child pursuant to this section or any other sexual offense against a child; or
(b) An offense committed in another jurisdiction that, if committed in this State, would constitute lewdness with a child pursuant to this section or any other sexual offense against a child,
is guilty of a category A felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole.
5. A person who is under the age of 18 years and who commits lewdness with a child under the age of 14 years commits a delinquent act.
6. For the purpose of this section, “other sexual offense against a child” has the meaning ascribed to it in subsection 6 of NRS 200.366.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What does lewdness with a minor mean?
- 2. What are the penalties for violating NRS 201.230?
- 3. What are the best defenses to lewdness with a child?
- 4. What is Nevada’s statute of limitations for lewdness with a child under 16?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. Is the criminal record sealable?
1. What does lewdness with a minor mean?
Nevada’s legal definition of lewdness with a child under 16 is intentionally touching a child under 16 years old in a sexual way and with the intent to arouse or appeal to either person’s sexual desire. It does not matter if the child consented to or initiated the sexual acts.
Defendants may be convicted of lewdness with a child even if the touching does not involve a sexual organ. Touching any part of a child is lascivious conduct that qualifies as lewdness as long as it is done for sexual gratification.1
1.1. Lewdness versus sexual assault
The primary difference between the Nevada crimes of lewdness with a minor under 16 and sexual assault/rape (NRS 200.366) has to do with the extent of the sexual conduct. A person commits sexual assault only if the touching involved sexual penetration, such as:
- sexual intercourse
- anal sex
- oral sex
- digital penetration (“fingering”)
- penetration with an object in a sexual way
But if the sexual contact does not involve penetration, the person is liable for lewdness but not sexual assault.2
Learn more in our article on the age of consent in Nevada.
2. What are the penalties for violating NRS 201.230?
Nevada’s punishment for lewdness with a minor depends on the age of the victim. If the child is under 14 years old, the defendant is prosecuted for a category A felony. A first offense carries:
- life imprisonment in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years,
- sex offender registration, and
- a fine of up to $10,000 (at the judge’s discretion)
But if the defendant already has a prior conviction for the same or comparable sex offense, there is no possibility of parole.
If the child is 14- or 15 years old, then lewdness with a minor is a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence is:
- 1 year to 10 years in prison,
- sex offender registration, and
- a fine of up to $10,000 (at the judge’s discretion)
Note that lewdness with a child also carries lifetime supervision under NRS 176.0931. But it may be possible to get off lifetime supervision after 10 years.
3. What are the best defenses to lewdness with a child?
Three potential defenses to Nevada charges of lewdness with a child under 16 are:
- There was no sexual intent.
- The victim was older than 15.
- The defendant was falsely accused.
Note that people investigated for or arrested on lewdness charges should say exercise their right to silence and say nothing to the police. Police can take a totally innocent story and twist it in a way that suggests guilt. Suspects should let their attorney do all the talking.
3.1. There was no sexual intent
A key element of Nevada’s child molestation law is that the defendant touches the child with sexual intent. As long as the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s intentions were sexual, then the criminal charge should be thrown out.
However, the defendant may still face charges for battery (NRS 200.481), which prohibits unlawful touching.
3.2. The victim was older than 15
NRS 201.230 charges apply only when the alleged victim was under 16 years old. It does not matter if the child appeared younger than 16 or claimed to be younger than 16. If the prosecution cannot prove that the alleged victim was 15 or younger, the defendant cannot be convicted in district court of lewdness with a minor under 16.4
3.3. The defendant was falsely accused
Children sometimes lie to law enforcement agency officers without realizing the consequences of their actions. An estranged spouse sometimes coaches a child into falsely accusing the other party out of
- anger, or
- to influence a child custody proceeding.
Following an allegation of child sex abuse in Las Vegas, the Clark County Child Advocacy Center will likely subject the minor to a sexual abuse exam. Although the social workers and psychologists who conduct these tests are trained, the way they pose questions can prompt kids to tell lies.
Note that the D.A. can bring charges even if there is zero DNA evidence or other physical evidence of abuse. And they do not have to allege that the abuse occurred on a specific date – the criminal complaint can point to a long time frame during which the abuse allegedly may have occurred: This can make it hard for defendants to establish an alibi.
But if a criminal defense lawyer can show that the defendant is the victim of false allegations – and that the accuser had a motivation to lie – then the defendant should be acquitted.
4. What is Nevada’s statute of limitations for lewdness with a child under 16?
A person may be prosecuted for lewdness with a minor under 16 up until the victim turns 36 if the victim discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) that he/she was a victim of lewdness by the time he/she is 36.
Alternatively, a person may be prosecuted for lewdness with a minor under 16 up until the victim turns 43 if the victim does not discover (and reasonably should not have discovered) that he/she was a victim of lewdness by the time he/she is 43.5
Learn more about criminal statutes of limitations in Nevada.
5. What are the immigration consequences?
Lewdness with a minor is an aggravated felony.6 This means that a non-citizen defendant convicted of it may be deported from the U.S. Any immigrant facing sex charges in Nevada should retain legal counsel right away in an attempt to get the charge changed to a non-deportable offense.
6. Is the criminal record sealable?
Lewdness charges that get dismissed can be sealed right away. But a conviction of lewdness with a minor under 16 can never be sealed under Nevada law.7
Learn more about Nevada criminal record seals.
For additional help…
Arrested for child sexual abuse in Nevada? Contact our DUI/criminal law firm for legal advice. We fight for you to be released on your own recognizance or on low bail. And we negotiate with the prosecutors to get your charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge through a plea bargain and without a trial. But if necessary, we are ready to argue your innocence to a jury.
In California? Visit our article on Penal Code 288 PC.
¿Habla español? Visita nuestra página web en español sobre leyes de Nevada para la lascivia con un menor de 16 años.
See our related articles on Nevada sex crimes, oral copulation with a minor, open or gross lewdness (NRS 201.210), and statutory sexual seduction/statutory rape (NRS 200.368).
- Nevada Revised Statute code section 201.230 – Lewdness with child under 16 years; penalties.
- NRS 200.366; see also Crowley v. State, (2004) 120 Nev. 30, 83 P.3d 282, 120 Nev. Adv. Rep. 6.
- NRS 201.230. Note that felony sentences are served in state prison (as opposed to misdemeanor sentences, which are served in county jail).
- See also Moore v. State, (2020) 475 P.3d 33, 136 Nev. Adv. Rep. 71.
- NRS 171.095.
- Cedano-Viera v. Ashcroft, (9th Cir., 2003) 324 F.3d 1062; 8 USCS § 1252(a)(2)(C).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.