Updated July 1, 2020
NRS 212.165 is the Nevada law which prohibits giving a phone or similar device to a prisoner. It is also illegal simply to bring a phone onto prison premises even if an inmate never uses it. The statute states:
1. A person shall not, without lawful authorization, knowingly furnish, attempt to furnish, or aid or assist in furnishing or attempting to furnish to a prisoner confined in an institution or a facility of the Department of Corrections, or any other place where prisoners are authorized to be or are assigned by the Director of the Department, a portable telecommunications device. A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a category E felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
2. A person shall not, without lawful authorization, carry into an institution or a facility of the Department, or any other place where prisoners are authorized to be or are assigned by the Director of the Department, a portable telecommunications device. A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor.
3. A prisoner confined in an institution or a facility of the Department, or any other place where prisoners are authorized to be or are assigned by the Director of the Department, shall not, without lawful authorization, possess or have in his or her custody or control a portable telecommunications device. A prisoner who violates this subsection is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
4. A prisoner confined in a jail or any other place where such prisoners are authorized to be or are assigned by the sheriff, chief of police or other officer responsible for the operation of the jail, shall not, without lawful authorization, possess or have in his or her custody or control a portable telecommunications device. A prisoner who violates this subsection and who is in lawful custody or confinement for a charge, conviction or sentence for:
(a) A felony is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
(b) A gross misdemeanor is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(c) A misdemeanor is guilty of a misdemeanor.
This article summarizes the Nevada crime of furnishing phones to state prisoners under NRS 212.165. Scroll down to read about what this offense entails, how to fight the charges, and possible punishments.
Definition of furnishing phones to prisoners in Nevada under NRS 212.165
It’s illegal in Nevada for a person to knowingly give … or attempt to give … a state prisoner a portable telecommunications device. The legal definition of a “portable telecommunications device” under Nevada law is an apparatus that can enable an offender to communicate with a person outside of the facility where he/she is incarcerated. Examples of such devices include:
- a telephone (cellular or landline),
- a personal digital assistant,
- a transmitting radio,
- a computer connected to a computer network that is capable of communicating with a person or device outside the prison
It’s common for this offense to occur when an inmate’s family or friends visit him/her at the prison or sends him/her a package through the mail. Moapa criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an example:
Janice is incarcerated at Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas. Janice’s dad, Steve, is frustrated he’s not allowed to call Janice in prison, so he mails Janice a cell phone so they can talk any time. If caught, Steve can be booked at the North Las Vegas Detention Center for furnishing a telecommunications device to a prisoner.
It’s irrelevant in the above scenario that Steve didn’t mean to break any law. Merely the act of intentionally giving a phone to a prisoner for any reason is sufficient to invite criminal prosecution under NRS 212.165.
Note that it’s also a crime in Nevada merely to carry a telecommunications device into a prison whether or not an inmate gets a hold of it. Furthermore, a person can be convicted of this crime even if he/she didn’t mean to take the phone into a prison. Reno criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains:
Dan, a news reporter, goes to Warm Springs Correctional Center to interview the prison director. At the entrance, the guards instruct Dan to leave his phone in a locker. Dan forgets to do so and enters the prison with his phone still in his pocket. If caught, Dan could be booked at the Washoe County Detention Center for bringing a phone into a prison.
It doesn’t matter in the above example that Dan brought the phone into prison by mistake . . . it’s not necessary for the prosecution to prove that he intentionally kept the phone on his person in prison. It also doesn’t matter that no prisoner got a hold of the phone. Simply bringing a phone onto prison grounds is an offense in Nevada.
See Nevada Assembly Bill 420 for recent developments regarding inmates and telecommunication devices.
Note that it’s also illegal to give an inmate with weapons, alcohol or drugs. And it’s illegal for prisoners to possess weapons, drugs or phones. Learn more in our articles on the Nevada crime of furnishing weapons, alcohol or drugs to prisoners and the Nevada crime of prisoners possessing drugs or weapons (NRS 212.160).
Defenses to Nevada charges of furnishing phone to Nevada
The primary defense to the Nevada crime of furnishing a phone to a prisoner is that the defendant didn’t “knowingly” give a prisoner a phone. For example, if the defense lawyer can demonstrate that the defendant accidentally left the phone with the inmate . . . or that the inmate may have secretly taken it . . . then the defendant shouldn’t be held criminally liable.
The most common defense to the Nevada crime of bringing a phone into a prison is that there’s insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction. The prosecution has the burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So as long as the defense attorney can show that the state’s evidence is inadequate, the charges should be dropped.
Penalties for furnishing phones to prisoners in Nevada under NRS 212.165
Furnishing a prison inmate with a telecommunications device is a category E felony in Nevada. Category E felony convictions carry probation and a suspended sentence. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may impose one to four years in Nevada State Prison and up to $5,000 in fines.)
Meanwhile, bringing a phone into a prison is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence carries:
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Note that a person convicted of a misdemeanor needs to wait one year after the case is closed before he/she may ask the court to seal his/her criminal record. But if the charge is dismissed … or if the defendant is acquitted at trial … then the defendant can try to get the record sealed right away. Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
Arrested? Call . . .
If you’ve been accused of furnishing a prisoner with a phone or bringing a phone into a prison in violation of NRS 212.165, call our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys for a free consultation. We may be able to negotiate your charges down to a full dismissal.
Also see our related article on the Nevada crime of escaping prison (NRS 212.090).
We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.