July 1, 2020 UPDATE: This law has been repealed. Learn more in our theft article. What follows is outdated law.
1. What is vending machine theft in Nevada?
NRS 205.2707 is the Nevada law that prohibits stealing from vending machines. It does not matter whether the machine dispenses low-cost items such as snacks or high-end merchandise such as electronics accessories.
Examples of vending machine theft include:
- Jostling a candy machine to shake loose a chocolate bar;
- Smashing the glass of a diner automat machine to steal cigarettes; or
- Reaching an arm up the dispenser of a soda machine to swipe a Coke can
Even if the vending machine malfunctions and dispenses extra items, a person violates NRS 205.2707 by deliberately taking these unpaid items. The statute states it is illegal when a person, “intentionally steals, takes and carries away property … from vending machines.”
Example: Delia feeds a dollar into a vending machine to get a Pepsi. The machine then dispenses two Pepsis instead of one. Delia takes both Pepsis and carries them away. Here, Delia is arguably committing theft because she is willfully taking an item she did not pay for. It does not matter that she did not have to break or manipulate the machine to get the extra item.
Nevada has a separate law under NRS 205.2705 that prohibits:
- Using counterfeit money in a vending machine; or
- Using (or having on one’s person) a thieving device to remove contents from a vending machine
Examples of such “thieving devices” include crowbars, hammers, or any tool that could break into a vending machine.
2. What are the penalties under NRS 205.2707?
The sentence for vending machine theft depends on the total value of merchandise stolen within a one-week period. And it does not matter whether the items came from one or multiple machines:
Value of vending machine items taken within a 1-week period
|Less than $3,500|| Category C felony:
|$3,500 or higher|| category B felony
Example: Paul takes two flights out of Las Vegas in one week. Each time, he steals $2,000 of Androids and accessories from the Best Buy vending machine. Since both alleged thefts took place within a week of each other, prosecutors add the value of all the stolen merchandise together. This comes to $4,000. Since this is equal to or greater than the $3,500 cut-off, the D.A. charges Paul with a single category B felony. If more than one week passed between the two thefts, Paul would instead face two separate category C felony charges.
NRS 205.2705 makes it a gross misdemeanor to use fake coins or bills in a vending machine. It is also a gross misdemeanor to possess a device to break into a vending machine. The sentence is:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines
Additionally, vending machines owners may sue suspected thieves. Under NRS 205.980, owners may seek money damages for the value of the stolen and damaged property.
3. What are common defenses?
The best defenses to NRS 205.2705 charges turn on the facts of each case. Three potential defenses are the following:
- No intent. Only intentional theft is illegal. If a vending machine dispenses extra merchandise — and the defendant absentmindedly grabs the items and leaves — no crime occurred. Unless the D.A. can prove intent to steal beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dropped.
- Mistaken identity. Perhaps the police arrested the wrong person. Valuable evidence in these cases include eyewitnesses or video surveillance footage.
- Police misconduct. Police may have discovered the “stolen” merchandise through an illegal search. In these cases, defendants can ask the judge to “suppress” (disregard) the illegally obtained evidence. If the judge agrees, the D.A. may be forced to drop the case for lack of proof.
4. What are the immigration consequences?
Theft is potentially deportable. Therefore non-citizens charged with vending machine theft are advised to retain an experienced attorney right away. If the D.A. agrees to reduce or dismiss the charge, the defendant may be able to stay in the U.S.
5. Can the record be sealed?
Category C and B felony convictions can be sealed five (5) years after the case closes. And gross misdemeanor convictions can be sealed two (2) years after the case closes.
Note that if the charge gets dismissed, there is no waiting period. The defendant can petition for a seal right away. Learn how to get a record seal in Nevada.
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