NRS § 205.900 is the Nevada law that prohibits possessing a hotel room key with the intent to commit a crime. An example is using another person’s hotel key to gain access to the room and steal their belongings.
The language of the code section states that:
Any person who has unauthorized possession of a key or other device used by a guest in a hotel or by the hotel to gain entrance to a room in a hotel, under circumstances which demonstrate the person’s intent to use or to allow the use of the device in the commission of a crime is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
Having NRS 205.900 violations on your record may prevent you from finding employment in Nevada. This is especially true in the hotel and gaming industries. Though it may be possible to plea bargain down the charges to a dismissal.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers answer frequently asked questions about unlawful use of hotel key charges in Nevada.
1. What are examples of “unlawful use of a hotel key” in Nevada?
Typical NRS 205.900 scenarios include:
- A hotel employee taking a key to a vacant room to do drugs there;
- A guest swiping someone else’s key to access the room and assault the occupant; or
- A hooker stealing a john’s key to sneak in later and steal his wallet
It does not matter if you never end up accessing the victim’s room or commit a crime there. Merely possessing another person’s hotel key violates NRS 205.900 if you intend to commit a crime.
Prosecutors may bring charges for both NRS 205.900 and any other crimes you allegedly committed by having the key. These secondary crimes often include:
- Grand larceny (NRS 205.220)
- Prostitution (NRS 201.354)
- Battery (NRS 200.481)
- Sexual assault (NRS 200.366)
- Drug possession (NRS 453.366)
More and more, hotels are turning to mobile key technology. This dispenses with keys and cards altogether. Instead, guests access their rooms through their phones and Bluetooth technology.
Although NRS 205.900 was passed in 1987, the statute can apply to these keyless technologies. The statute refers to not only “keys” but also any “device” used to gain access to a hotel room. Therefore, stealing another person’s phone could lead to NRS 205.900 charges.1
2. What are the defenses?
There are many ways to fight allegations of unlawful use of a hotel key. Three possible defenses include:
- No possession of the key. You cannot be liable if you never had possession of the key. The defense attorney would try to show there is no proof of possession. If successful, the charges should be dropped.
- No intent to commit a crime. A key element of NRS 205.900 is intent to commit another crime. The D.A. may have trouble showing intent since your mental state is invisible. Unless the D.A. shows proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the key for illegal purposes, the case should be dismissed.
- Unlawful police conduct. Police searches must fit within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. If the police executed an illegal search to find the key, the defense attorney may file a motion to suppress. This requests that the judge ignore the evidence uncovered from the unlawful search. If the judge grants the motion, the state may have no proof left to sustain a conviction.
Common evidence in these cases is surveillance video. Most hotels have cameras set up in hallways. So there are usually recordings of people entering and leaving rooms.
3. What are the penalties?
Violating NRS 205.900 is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence carries:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines2
- Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
It is rare for a judge to order jail for trespass.
4. What are the immigration consequences?
Unlawful use of a hotel key is not a deportable offense, though immigration law is in a state of flux. In this political climate, nothing is for sure.
Non-citizens facing prosecution should consult with an attorney. The attorney can evaluate whether their resident status is in jeopardy. If so, the attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
5. Can the record be sealed?
Yes. However, there is a waiting period unless the charge gets dismissed.3
NRS 205.900 Conviction
Record seal wait-time
|2 years after the case ends
|Misdemeanor (if the case gets reduced to trespass)
|1 year after the case ends
|Dismissal (no conviction)
If you are prosecuted for NRS 205.900 violations, you are advised to seek a record seal. Charges for unlawful hotel key use look very bad to employers, especially in the hospitality industry.