NRS 203.070 is the Nevada law that prohibits rioting and routing. A conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000.00 in fines. These penalties can be more severe if violence is involved, or someone. is injured.
The language of NRS 203.070 provides the definition of routs and riots:
1. If two or more persons shall meet to do an unlawful act, upon a common cause of quarrel, and make advances toward it, they commit a rout, and are guilty of a misdemeanor.
2. If two or more persons shall actually do an unlawful act of violence, either with or without a common cause of quarrel or even do a lawful act, in a violent, tumultuous and illegal manner, they commit a riot, and are guilty of a misdemeanor.
In the fray of a riot, it is not uncommon for peaceful protesters to be wrongly arrested. Though an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys summarize the Nevada crimes of “routing” and “rioting” under NRS 203.070. Scroll down to learn the law, defenses, and punishments.
1. What is the definition of routing and rioting under NRS 203.070?
The legal definition of a “rout” in Nevada is when “two or more persons meet to do an unlawful act, upon a common cause of quarrel, and make advances toward it.”
In other words, routing is assembling to break the law and taking steps to break the law, but no law ends up getting broken.
Example: Several UNLV students congregate on campus to vandalize the quad to protest tuition hikes. They discuss what to do and take out their spray cans, but they disperse when they see the police show up.
Even though the quad remained untouched, the students would probably still be booked at the Clark County Detention Center. Their actions of meeting up to protest tuition hikes and taking out their spray cans would be sufficient to qualify as a rout.
Had the students in the above example never taken out their spray cans, the prosecution would have a hard time convicting them of a rout. This is because the students may have met for the purpose of vandalizing the quad, but arguably they did not “make any advances towards it.”1
However, note that the students in the above example could still be convicted of unlawful assembly (NRS 203.060) even if they never took out the spray cans. Unlawful assembly is when “people assemble to break the law and then separate without advancing towards it.”
Technically it does not matter whether you are convicted of unlawful assembly versus routing because both crimes carry the same penalties. Though unlawful assembly is still a preferable charge because it does not look as bad on your background check to potential employers.
The legal definition of a “riot” in Nevada is when “two or more persons do an unlawful act of violence in a violent, tumultuous and illegal manner.”
One of the most notorious examples is the Rodney King riots in L.A., where people broke store windows and looted merchandise.
Note that riots are not simply routs that turned violent. Routs involve
- assembling “upon a common cause of quarrel” and
- intending to break the law.2
Contrarily, you may be convicted of rioting even if you are acting up for different purposes from the other rioters and have no intention of committing a crime.
Example: Sam and Simon show up at the Henderson Courthouse one morning with signs. Sam is protesting abortion, and Simon is protesting taxes. They grow frustrated that people are ignoring them, so they begin swinging their signs at pedestrians and running into traffic.
If caught, Sam and Simon can be booked at the Henderson Jail for rioting because they acted violently. It is irrelevant that Sam and Simon were protesting different causes and did not initially intend to commit any crime.
It is also a crime in Nevada to incite a riot by using
- signs or
You may be convicted of it even if the incitement never results in a riot. Learn more in our articles on inciting a breach of peace (NRS 203.030) and publishing material to incite a breach of peace (NRS 203.040).
2. What are the best defenses?
The primary defense to a routing charge in Nevada is that you never took any steps to break the law. Simply assembling for a lawful purpose such as a BLM protest is perfectly legal as long as you are not trespassing or otherwise disturbing the peace.
The primary defenses to a rioting charge in Nevada are that
- you were an innocent bystander mistaken for rioters or
- your fighting was justified self-defense.3
Standard evidence used in these types of cases includes eyewitnesses and surveillance recordings.
Note that you must be acquitted of routing or rioting at trial if prosecutors cannot prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a very high burden of proof that prosecutors need to meet.
So as long as the defense attorney can show that the state’s evidence is insufficient to support a guilty verdict, the charges should be dropped.
3. What are the penalties?
Routs and riots are punished as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence is:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines4
Following a conviction, you can get a record seal one year after the case ends. Though if your charge gets dismissed, you may petition to seal the record right away.5 Learn more about sealing criminal records.
Arrested? Call . . . .
If you’ve been accused of rioting or routing under NRS 203.070, Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can meet with you for a consultation. They may be able to negotiate a dismissal and get the whole case dropped. Otherwise, they’re prepared to fight for a not guilty verdict 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.
Also see our article on felony eluding police causing death or injury.