It’s illegal in Nevada not only to commit a “breach of peace” . . . but also to incite others to commit a “breach a peace.” Penalties may include fines and even jail. But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges dropped so there’s no criminal record.
This article provides a summary of the Nevada crimes of “provoking a breach of peace” and “publishing matter inciting a breach of peace.” Continue reading to learn the laws, defenses, and punishments.
The Nevada crime of committing a breach of peace is very broad. It comprises any disruptive conduct involving either:
- making loud or unusual noises,
- committing tumultuous and offensive conduct,
- threatening, traducing, or quarreling, or
- challenging to fight, or fighting
A classic scenario of a breach of the peace is people having a loud, profane argument in public, such as in a bar or on the street. But note that it’s equally unlawful to use words, signs or gestures to “incite” other people to breach the peace. Goodsprings criminal defense attorney Michael Becker illustrates with an example:
UNR is hosting a pro-choice rally. In protest a pro-life advocate, Sally, shows up and encourages passerbyers to spit and throw stones at the pro-choice advocates. If caught, Sally could be booked at the Washoe County Detention Center for provoking commission of a breach of peace. Even though Sally didn’t spit or throw stones herself, she “incited” others to do so and is therefore liable under NRS 203.030. Obviously, the people who did spit and throw stones would face charges for the Nevada crime of battery.
Note that it’s also unlawful to provoke or incite a breach of the peace by printing or circulating writing that encourages the readers to commit a breach of peace or any act of violence. Bunkerville criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains:
A judge who supports capital punishment is elected in Henderson. Rachel, who’s against the death penalty, prints up flyers encouraging people to riot outside the Henderson Courthouse in protest. Tom, a fellow anti-death penalty colleague, distributes the flyers.
If caught, both Rachel and Tom can be booked at the Henderson
Jail for publishing and distributing matter that incites breaches of peace or other crimes.
Note that it doesn’t matter whether a riot actually occurs. All that’s relevant is that the writing advocates, encourages or incites the commission of a crime, whether or not it happens. Also note that the law draws no distinction between actually writing inciting messages and merely circulating the messages. Learn more about the Nevada crime of rioting or routing.
The Nevada crime of inciting a riot is analogous to Penal Code 404.6, the California criminal law section dealing with inciting a riot.
There’re two main defenses to Nevada charges of inciting a breach of peace: 1) The defendants had no intent to provoke a breach of peace, or 2) The defendants’ actions were protected under the First Amendment:
- Lack of intent. An element of NRS 203.030 & NRS 203.040 is that the defendant knowingly and willfully incites a breach of peace or act of violence. As long as the defendant never meant to provoke a disturbance, then he/she shouldn’t be held criminally liable if others misuse the defendant’s innocent actions as an excuse to breach the peace or to riot.
- Free speech. The Constitution protects citizens’ rights to protest and speak freely even if their views are controversial. As long as the prosecutor can’t prove that a defendant’s actions crossed the line to inciting a disturbance, then criminal charges shouldn’t stand.
Note that editors and writers are equally liable for material appearing in a publication that tends to incite a breach of peace. However, if the editor can show that he/she wasn’t aware that the writing was in the publication . . . and if the editor retracted the writing with equal publicity as soon as he/she became aware of it . . . then the court is more likely to find in the editor’s favor.
Note that prosecutors in a criminal case have the burden to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore if the defense attorney can demonstrate that the state’s evidence isn’t sufficient, reliable, or consistent enough to sustain a guilty verdict, then the case should be dismissed.
The punishment for provoking a breach of peace depends on whether the defendant used spoken words or gestures to incite or used written materials to incite.
Inciting others using spoken words or gestures is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence for a misdemeanor in Nevada is:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Meanwhile, using written materials to incite others is a gross misdemeanor
in Nevada. The sentence for a gross misdemeanor in Nevada is:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
How soon a defendant may try to get his/her criminal record sealed turns on what class of crime he/she was convicted of: A misdemeanor mandates a 1-year waiting period after the case is closed whereas a gross misdemeanor mandates 2 years. But if the charges get dismissed . . . or if the defendant is found not guilty . . . then the defendant can immediately petition to seal the record. Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
Note that if prosecutors are unwilling to dismiss a defendant’s charge for provoking a breach of peace, they may be instead willing to reduce it to a charge of the Nevada crime of unlawful assembly. Although unlawful assembly has the same penalties as inciting a breach of peace with words or gestures, it carries less of a social stigma.
Arrested? Call . . . .
If you’ve been accused of inciting a breach of the peace or a riot under NRS 203.030 or NRS 203.040, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can discuss your options with your for free. Their first goal is to try to get your charges dropped or reduced to a lesser offense. Otherwise, they’re prepared to fight for your innocence at trial.
We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
To learn about California rioting law and Penal Code 404.6 “inciting a riot” in California law, read our article on California rioting law and Penal Code 404.6 “inciting a riot” in California law.