COVID-19 UPDATE: Governor Steve Sisolak has ordered that non-essential businesses remain closed through April 16, 2020. In the city of Las Vegas, non-essential businesses that stay open may be prosecuted as public nuisances. The City may bring criminal misdemeanor charges, which carry up to 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Or the City may bring civil charges, which entails getting a restraining order against the business. Non-compliant businesses also face having their license revoked and daily $1,000 fines. Read the Review-Journal article.
NRS 202.470 is the Nevada law which makes it a crime to cause or maintain a public nuisance. A public nuisance is anything that threatens the community’s safety, order, or public decency, such as a cock-fighting ring or an unlicensed gambling parlor. The statute states:
Every person who:
1. Shall commit or maintain a public nuisance, for which no special punishment is prescribed; or
2. Shall willfully omit or refuse to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of such nuisance; or
3. Shall let, or permit to be used, any building or boat, or portion thereof, knowing that it is intended to be, or is being used, for committing or maintaining any such nuisance,
–> shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the Nevada offense of public nuisances under NRS 202.470.
The legal definition of a “public nuisance” in Las Vegas, Nevada under NRS 202.450 is a “crime against the order and economy of the state.” In other words, a public nuisance is any business or activity which compromises the laws, regulations, or peace of the community as a whole.
Examples of public nuisances
Specifically, a public nuisance comprises any of the following businesses in Nevada:
- a place where unlicensed gambling, bookmaking, or pool selling is conducted
- a place where animal or bird fighting is conducted or where dog races are conducted for gambling – read more about the Nevada crime of dog racing as a gaming activity (NRS 207.235)
- a place where alcohol or drugs are unlawfully stored, made or served
- a place regularly used by criminal gangs or where vagrants resort
- a house of prostitution that’s not a licensed brothel – read more about the Nevada crime of solicitation of prostitution (NRS 201.354)
- a shooting range that’s noncompliant with applicable statutes and ordinances
- a farm that’s in violation of state, local or federal regulations
Alternatively, it’s also considered a public nuisance in Nevada to engage in any of the following activities:
- annoying, injuring or endangering the safety health, comfort or repose of any considerable number of people
- offending public decency
- unlawfully interfering with a passage, lake, river, bay, stream, canal, ditch, millrace, basin, public park, square, street, alley, bridge, causeway or highway
- compromising the security of a considerable number of people
Public Nuisances as a Crime
It’s a crime in Nevada to create or maintain a public nuisance. Likewise, willfully refusing to perform a legal duty to remove a public nuisance is illegal in Las Vegas. Even permitting someone else to use a building or boat with the knowledge they’d be used to commit a public nuisance is also prosecutable.
Note that it’s irrelevant whether the alleged public nuisance actually causes any damage. The Clark County District Attorney may press public nuisance charges under NRS 202.450 based solely on the defendant’s behavior, not whether someone sustained an injury because of it.
Defenses to Nevada public nuisance charges under NRS 202.470
Nevada public nuisance law is extremely broad . . . and therefore extremely vague. This may work in the defendant’s favor because it allows for several different and creative strategies to fight the allegations. The most common one is insufficient evidence:
Defendants can’t be convicted of a crime unless the Las Vegas Court finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a very tough burden of proof for the D.A. to accomplish because what constitutes a public nuisance is highly subjective. As long as the defense attorney can show that the D.A.’s evidence is too inadequate to support a guilty verdict, the case should be thrown out.
Penalties for public nuisances in Nevada under NRS 202.470
The Las Vegas offense of public nuisances is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment for a misdemeanor in Nevada carries:
- up to 6 months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail) and/or up to $1,000 in fines; and
- maybe a civil penalty between $500 and $5,000 (under NRS 202.480)
In addition, the court may order the defendant to abate (remove) the nuisance. The defendant then has only three (3) days to begin the abetment process. Otherwise, the applicable government agency may abate the nuisance itself at the defendant’s expense.
A defendant who’s convicted for a public nuisance violation in Nevada has to wait another year before petitioning the court to seal the record. However, if the defense attorney is successful in getting the charge dismissed, then the defendant may petition to seal the record at once. Read more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
Arrested? Call . . . .
If you’ve been accused of a public nuisance violation in Nevada under NRS 202.450, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can consult with you free of charge. They may be able to negotiate a dismissal so your record remains clean. Otherwise, they’ll litigate the case to trial and fight zealously for a not guilty verdict.
Also see our article on failure to register a drone.