NRS 202.227 is the Nevada firearm law that makes changing or removing a gun’s serial number a category C felony, carrying one to five years in prison.
Mere possession of a firearm that you know has an altered serial number is a category D felony, carrying one to four years in prison.
The statute in its entirety reads:
NRS 202.227. 1. A person shall not intentionally change, alter, remove or obliterate the serial number upon any firearm. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
2. A person shall not knowingly possess a firearm on which the serial number has been intentionally changed, altered, removed or obliterated. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What does NRS 202.227 do?
- 2. How can I fight the case?
- 3. Will I go to prison?
- 4. Will I lose my gun rights?
- 5. How soon can my record be sealed?
1. What does NRS 202.227 do?
NRS 202.227 makes it a crime to:
- intentionally change or remove the serial number from a firearm; or
- knowingly possess a firearm with a changed or removed serial number.1
These cases often involve people who intend to use guns for illegal purposes such as theft or drug trafficking.
Example: Theo is a drug dealer who uses an engraving tool to chisel out the serial number in all his firearms. This is so that if he loses a gun in a drug deal-gone-bad, law enforcement officers cannot easily track him down as the owner.
There is no exemption to this serial number law. It applies to all types of guns, including:
- handguns, such as pistols and revolvers
- long guns, such as rifles and shotguns
- short-barreled rifles
- semiautomatic firearms
- machine guns
It makes no difference whether you have the altered gun for self-defense purposes. It also does not matter whether you open carry the gun or carry it as a concealed firearm.
2. How can I fight the case?
From our experience representing people accused of violating NRS 202.277, we may be able to argue that you had no idea that the serial number had been altered. Perhaps the gun is old and the serial number wore off naturally.
Another potential defense is to show that the police found the gun through an unlawful search. If we can persuade the judge to suppress the gun as evidence, then prosecutors may have to dismiss the case due to insufficient proof.
Example: A law enforcement agency gets a tip that Janet illegally sells guns. An officer with the police department then barges into her house without her consent and finds several guns with their serial numbers removed.
Here, the police officer had plenty of time to secure a warrant and probably violated the Fourth Amendment by executing a warrantless search. Therefore, the judge can disregard the guns as evidence – which may leave the D.A. with too weak a case to prosecute.
3. Will I go to prison?
Intentionally altering or removing a gun’s serial number is a category C felony in Nevada. The penalty is:
- 1 to 5 years in Nevada State Prison; and
- up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion).
Meanwhile, it is a slightly less serious crime to possess a gun that you know has a changed or obliterated serial number. The sentence is:
- 1 to 4 years in prison; and
- up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion).2
However, we may be able to persuade the D.A. to lessen the charge to a misdemeanor or dismiss the case completely.
4. Will I lose my gun rights?
You will lose your rights to possess a gun or be a gun owner if you get convicted of:
- changing or removing a gun’s serial number, or
- possessing a gun you know has a changed or removed serial number.
It does not matter if you have no history of gun violence.
If you try to purchase a gun, your convicted felon status would show up on the background check. And the licensed firearm dealer would stop the sale.3
The only way to get your gun rights restored is through a Nevada pardon.4
5. How soon can my record be sealed?
If you are convicted of violating NRS 202.227, you can seek a record seal five years after the case ends. But if your case gets dismissed, then you can ask the court for a record seal immediately.5
Learn about how to seal Nevada criminal records.
Have you or a family member been arrested or given a citation for violating federal law, state law, or a local law ordinance? Contact our law firm for legal advice. We appear in every jurisdiction throughout the state of Nevada.
See our related articles on ghost guns, controlled substances, domestic violence, guns in motor vehicles, and concealed carry permit issuance (Nevada is a “shall issue” state to eligible applicants at least 21 years of age).
Learn more at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF.gov) and the Nevada Department of Public Safety.
- Nev. Rev. Stat. 207.277 (originally passed by the state legislature in 1977). See, for example, Patterson v. State (2011) Nev. Unpub. LEXIS 807; Christie v. State (Court of Appeals, 2018) Nev. App. Unpub. LEXIS 379.
- NRS 202.360.
- See NRS chapter 213.
- NRS 179.245. NRS 179.255.