NRS 381.225 is the Nevada vandalism crime law that prohibits defacing historical sites. These include both man-made sites (such as a building) or natural sites (such as Indian caves). Specifically, this statute states:
It is unlawful for any person to commit vandalism upon any historic or prehistoric sites, natural monuments, speleological sites and objects of antiquity, or to write or paint or carve initials or words, or in any other way deface, any of those objects, Indian paintings or historic buildings.
The punishments turn on the extent and type of the damage:
Damage caused by violating NRS 381.225
|$5,000 in damage or more; or |
Where the damage impairs public communication, transportation, or police and fire protection (no matter the monetary value of the loss)
|Category C felony in Nevada: |
|$250 to less than $5,000 in damage||Gross misdemeanor in Nevada |
|$25 to less than $250 in damage||Misdemeanor in Nevada |
|Less than $25 in damage||A civil fine of no more than $500|
But the D.A. may agree to reduce or dismiss the charges through a Nevada plea bargain. Possible defenses include:
- the defendant was falsely accused
- no defacement occurred
- the site was no historic
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of vandalizing historical sites under NRS 381.225:
1. Definition of defacing historic sites in Nevada under NRS 381.225
NRS 381.225 makes it a crime to vandalize, deface, or write or paint or carve initials or words on either:
- historic or prehistoric sites (such as the Baker Archaeological Site),
- natural monuments (such as in the Valley of Fire),
- speleological sites (caves),
- objects of antiquity,
- Indian paintings (such as the Lagomarsino Canyon Petroglyph site), and/or
- historical buildings (such as the Nevada State Capitol)
It makes no difference whether these places or objects are in a national park, open to the public, and/or cordoned off. Any action that changes the appearance, structure, or nature of these sites is against Nevada law.1
Note that people accused of putting graffiti on a historic site would probably be charged under Nevada graffiti law (NRS 206.330).
Also note that people accused of defacing historic sites on federal probably would probably face federal rather than state charges for the destruction of federal property under 18 U.S.C. § 1361.
2. Penalties for defacing historic sites in Nevada
Defacing a historic place in violation of NRS 381.225 is prosecuted as a category C felony if the damage impairs either:
- public communication,
- transportation, or
- police and fire protection
The monetary value of this type of damage is irrelevant to calculating the sentence, which is always:
- one to five (1 – 5) years in prison, and
- up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)
When no damage to public infrastructure occurs, the penalties for violating NRS 381.225 turns on the extent of the monetary damage:
2.1. $5,000 or higher
Causing damage worth at least $5,000 is a category C felony, carrying:
- one to five (1 – 5) years in prison, and
- up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)
2.2. $250 to less than $5,000
Causing damage worth at least $250 to less than $5,000 is a gross misdemeanor, carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
2.3. $25 to less than $250
Causing damage worth at least $25 but less than $250 is a misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
2.4. Less than $25
Causing less than $25 worth of damage to a place of historic significance carries a maximum civil fine of $500.2
3. Defenses to Nevada charges of historic site defacement under NRS 381.225
People accused of violating NRS 381.225 may be able to get the charges dropped by making the following arguments:
- the defendant was falsely accused;
- no defacement occurred; or
- the site was not historic
And even if prosecutors refuse to drop the charge, they may agree to lower it by showing that the damage is less extensive than what they originally charged.
3.1. The defendant was falsely accused
Perhaps someone levied false allegations against the defendant just to get him/her in trouble with the law. Or perhaps any damage that occurred was from natural causes such as a forest fire or windstorm, and the defendant was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As long as there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed vandalism, criminal charges should not stand.
3.2. No defacement occurred
Maybe the defendant’s actions did not rise to the level of vandalism: For instance, merely touching or pouring water on a site or monument is usually not illegal.
Helpful evidence would include any video recordings or eyewitness testimony. If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant did nothing illegal, the charge should be dismissed.
3.3. The site was not historic
NRS 381.255 applies only to certain historic and prehistory sites and monuments. If the defense attorney can show that the location of the alleged offense does not fall under the umbrella of places protected by this statute, the charges should be dropped. (However, the defendant may still be able to be charged with other vandalism offenses.)
4. Deportation for violating NRS 381.225
Defacing historical sites is probably not a deportable offense in Nevada. But this is not a sure thing, especially with the rapidly shifting state of immigration law.
Any non-citizen facing criminal charges in Nevada is urged to retain an experienced attorney right way to try to ensure that their case does not jeopardize their residents status. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
5. Sealing Nevada records for the defacement of historic sites
A conviction for an NRS 381.225 violation is usually sealable from the defendant’s criminal record after a predetermined wait time. The length of this wait depends on what category of crime the defendant was convicted of:
Category of NRS 381.225 conviction
Record seal wait time
|Category C felony||5 years after the case closes|
|Gross misdemeanor||2 years after the case closes|
|Misdemeanor||1 year after the case closes|
|No conviction (the case was dismissed)||Immediately. There is no wait time to pursue a record seal.|
Learn more about how to seal Nevada criminal records.3
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Have you been accused of vandalism or another crime in Nevada? Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys would like to help get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Call us for a FREE consultation. We are here 24/7 and are eager to help.
We can usually achieve a favorable resolution through negotiation alone. But we are always ready to demand a trial and appeal to the jury for a full acquittal.
- NRS 381.225 Acts of vandalism unlawful; penalty.
1. It is unlawful for any person to commit vandalism upon any historic or prehistoric sites, natural monuments, speleological sites and objects of antiquity, or to write or paint or carve initials or words, or in any other way deface, any of those objects, Indian paintings or historic buildings.
2. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 206.125 or 206.330, a person violating the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a public offense proportionate to the value of the property damaged or destroyed as set forth in NRS 193.155.
NRS 381.195 Definitions. As used in NRS 381.195 to 381.227, inclusive:
1. “Historic” means from the middle of the 18th century until 50 years before the current year.
2. “Historic site” means a site, landmark or monument of historical significance pertaining to the history of the settlement of Nevada, or Indian campgrounds, shelters, petroglyphs, pictographs and burials.
3. “Museum Director” means the Museum Director of the Nevada State Museum.
4. “Prehistoric” means before the middle of the 18th century.
5. “Prehistoric site” means any archeological or paleontological site, ruin, deposit, fossilized footprints and other impressions, petroglyphs and pictographs, habitation caves, rock shelters, natural caves, burial ground or sites of religious or cultural importance to an Indian tribe.
See, e.g., AP, “Vandals damage new memorial for Nevadans killed in wars“, Las Vegas Review-Journal (November 18, 2018).
NRS 193.155 Penalty for public offense proportionate to value of property affected or loss resulting from offense.
Every person who is guilty of a public offense proportionate to the value of the property affected or the loss resulting from the offense shall be punished as follows:
1. Where the value of the loss is $5,000 or more or where the damage results in impairment of public communication, transportation or police and fire protection, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.
2. Where the value of the loss is $250 or more but less than $5,000, for a gross misdemeanor.
3. Where the value of the loss is $25 or more but less than $250, for a misdemeanor.
4. Where the value of the loss is less than $25, by a fine of not more than $500.
Also see NRS 383.180 Prohibited acts; penalties; exceptions.
Except as otherwise provided in NRS 383.170, a person who willfully removes without obtaining any required permit, mutilates, defaces, injures or destroys the cairn or grave of a native Indian :
(a) For a first offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(b) For a second offense, is guilty of a category E felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
(c) For a third or subsequent offense, is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
–>In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order a person found guilty of any violation of this subsection to pay restitution for the cost to reinter with appropriate dignity all artifacts and human remains associated with the cairn or grave.
2. A person who fails to notify the Office of the discovery and location of an Indian burial site in violation of NRS 383.170 is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of $500 for the first offense, or by a fine of not more than $1,500 for a second or subsequent offense, and may be further punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days.
3. A person who:
(a) Possesses any artifact or human remains taken from the cairn or grave of a native Indian on or after October 1, 1989, in a manner other than that authorized by NRS 383.170;
(b) Publicly displays or exhibits any of the human remains of a native Indian, except during a funeral ceremony; or
(c) Sells any artifact or human remains taken from the cairn or grave of a native Indian,
–> is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
4. This section does not apply to:
(a) The possession or sale of an artifact:
(1) Discovered in or taken from a location other than the cairn or grave of a native Indian; or
(2) Removed from the cairn or grave of a native Indian by other than human action; or
(b) Action taken by a peace officer in the performance of his or her duties.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.