NRS 207.180 is the Nevada law that prohibits sending threatening or obscene letters. This includes not just letters on paper but also electronic media such as text messaging and email. The statute states:
1. Any person who knowingly sends or delivers any letter or writing:
(a) Threatening to accuse another of a crime or misdemeanor, or to expose or publish any of the other person’s infirmities or failings, with intent to extort money, goods, chattels or other valuable thing; or
(b) Threatening to maim, wound, kill or murder, or to burn or destroy the house or other property of another person, or to accuse another of a crime or misdemeanor, or expose or publish any of the other person’s infirmities, though no money, goods, chattels or other valuable thing be demanded,
–> is guilty of a misdemeanor [in Nevada].
2. Any person who:
(a) Writes and sends, or writes and delivers, either through the mail, express, by private parties or otherwise, any anonymous letter, or any letter bearing a fictitious name, charging any person with crime; or
(b) Writes and sends any anonymous letter or letters bearing a fictitious name, containing vulgar or threatening language, obscene pictures, or containing reflections upon his or her standing in society or in the community,
–> is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Upon conviction for violating NRS 207.180, a judge may impose up to $1,000 and/or up to six (6) months in jail. But an experienced Nevada criminal defense lawyer might be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce or even dismiss the charge completely.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the Nevada offense of sending threatening or obscene writings under NRS 207.180. Scroll down to read about the law, possible punishments and potential defenses.
Definition of sending threatening or obscene letters under NRS 207.180
Many people assume that the First Amendment allows you to say anything to anyone without punishment. That is not necessarily true when the content is harassing or vulgar. Consequently, it is unlawful in Nevada to send someone a letter — or other writing — that’s threatening and/or obscene:
Stated in NRS 207.180, the legal definition of a threatening letter in Las Vegas Nevada makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly send any writing that:
- threatens to accuse another person of a crime,
- threatens to expose that person’s infirmities or failings,
- threatens to kill or wound another, or
- threatens to destroy a person’s house or other property
It is also considered “threatening” to write and send an anonymous letter (or a letter with a fictitious name) that has bullying language, charges someone with a crime, or contains reflections of the recipient’s standing in society or in the community.
The major difference between the crime of sending threatening letters and the Las Vegas crime of blackmail (NRS 205.320) is that blackmail requires that the sender intended to extort money from the recipient in exchange for not carrying out the threats. Predictably, the Las Vegas crime of blackmail carries stiffer penalties than simply sending threatening letters.
The legal definition of an obscene letter in Las Vegas, Nevada, makes it a crime for anyone to write and send any anonymous letter (or a letter with a fictitious name) that contains extremely vulgar language or pictures.
Note that it’s irrelevant whether this material is sent through the mail, email, text message, social media such as Facebook, or hand-delivery. Any transmission of the letter subjects the writer, sender and/or deliverer to penalties for sending threatening or obscene letters.
Fighting Nevada charges of sending threatening or obscene writings
Much of the statutory language in NRS 207.180 is very vague and can be construed in different ways. This actually may work in a defendant’s favor by making it harder for the prosecution to prove their case. Common defenses to this crime include the following.
- Lack of threats or obscenities: What qualifies as threatening or obscene is extremely subjective. If a defense attorney can show that the writings were merely angry, negative or in poor taste without rising to the level of harassment or obscenity, then the charge may not stand.
- False allegations: Sometimes people wrongly accuse others out of anger, envy, or a misunderstanding. As long as a defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt that the accused wrote or sent the letters in question, then the case should be dismissed.
- Police misconduct: Police may conduct arrests and searches only if there’s probable cause to believe criminal activity has occurred. If a defense attorney believes that the cops lacked probable cause, then he may file a Nevada motion to suppress asking the judge to ignore the evidence the police found from their illegal activity. If the judge grants the Nevada motion to suppress, the case may be thrown out for lack of proof.
Penalties for sending threatening or obscene letters under NRS 207.180
The Las Vegas crime of writing or sending threatening or obscene letters is punished as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor includes:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
But a skilled Las Vegas defense lawyer would try to get the charge either dropped or reduced to a less serious offense such as breach of peace in Nevada (NRS 203.010). Courts typically impose only a fine for a first offense of breach of peace in Nevada.
Arrested? There’s help . . . .
If you’ve been accused of sending threatening or obscene writings under NRS 207.180, contact Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free meeting. Their goal is to safeguard your criminal record by getting your case reduced to a lesser charge or dropped completely. And if necessary they’ll fight for a “not guilty” verdict at trial.