Updated July 1, 2020
Attempting to recruit a child to join a gang is a felony in Nevada. In addition to carrying possible prison and high fines, a conviction mars the defendant’s record and could cause potential employers not to hire the defendant. But a seasoned Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain or even win an acquittal at trial.
This page contains an explanation of the Nevada offense of criminal gang recruitment. Scroll down to learn about the law, punishments, and defenses in Las Vegas.
Nevada’s Legal Definition of a “Criminal Gang”
A criminal gang in Nevada is an organization which:
(a) has a common name or identifying symbol,
(b) has particular conduct, status, and customs indicative of it, and
(c) has as one of its common activities engaging in criminal activity punishable as a felony.
The legal definition of “criminal gang recruitment” in Las Vegas, Nevada, makes it a crime for any adult to use physical violence or property damage against a child or another person with the specific intent to coerce, induce, or solicit the child to either:
- become a member of a criminal gang;
- remain a member of a criminal gang and not withdraw or disassociate from the criminal gang; or
- rejoin a criminal gang of which the child is no longer a member or from which the child has withdrawn or disassociated.
Note that the child being recruited has to be under 18 years old in order for this law to apply. Also, note that merely threatening violence or property damage against the child (or another person) is enough for prosecutors to press charges under NRS 201.570.
Law enforcement in Nevada takes gangs very seriously. Las Vegas Police have a special Gang Crimes Bureau to track down gangs through stings, informants, and undercover operations. And organizations such as the Southern Nevada Community Gang Task Force work to prevent, intervene in, and suppress gang activity.
The best way to defend against allegations of recruiting a child into a gang depends wholly on the facts of the case. But the following are general strategies a defense attorney may explore using:
- Entrapment in Nevada: A person is not criminally liable if undercover police entice the person to commit a crime that he/she would not have committed but for the police’s interference. If a defense attorney can show that the defendant was a victim of police entrapment in Nevada, no crime was committed.
- No gang: NRS 201.570 applies only when a child is recruited for a bona fide gang, not merely a club or crew. If it can be shown that the organization the child was recruited for did not rise to the level of a gang, the case should be dismissed.
- Lack of evidence: Typical evidence in gang recruitment cases includes eyewitnesses, video surveillance, and electronic communication. If a defense attorney can demonstrate that the state’s evidence is too weak or unreliable to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the case should be dropped.
- Police misconduct: If the police may have performed an illegal search by violating warrant procedures, then a defense attorney may file a Nevada motion to suppress petitioning the judge to toss any evidence found from the illegal search. If the judge goes along with the Nevada motion to suppress, the D.A. may drop the case for lack of proof.
Criminal gang recruitment under NRS 201.570 is a category E felony in Nevada. The punishment for a category E felony in Nevada includes probation and a suspended sentence, with a potential jail sentence of up to 1 year. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may order:
- 1 -- 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines)
And to read about California’s criminal street gang sentencing enhancement under Penal Code 186.22 PC, go to our article on California’s criminal street gang sentencing enhancement under Penal Code 186.22 PC.