NRS § 493.106 is the Nevada law that prohibits people from turning drones into weapons, such as by equipping one with a firearm or bomb. This offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.
This statute states:
“A person shall not weaponize an unmanned aerial vehicle or operate a weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle.”
The penalties for violating NRS 493.106 depend on whether the weapon was ultimately discharged or fired:
NRS 493.106 violation
|Weaponizing a drone, or flying a weaponized drone||Category D felony: |
|Discharging the weapon on a drone||Category C felony: |
Criminal charges could be reduced or dismissed pursuant to a plea bargain. Possible defenses are that:
- the defendant was the victim of false accusations;
- the drone was never weaponized; or
- the weapon was never discharged (this would reduce the severity of the NRS 493.106 charge)
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of weaponizing a drone. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
NRS 493.106 makes it a felony in Nevada either to:
- weaponize a drone (such as by outfitting it with a firearm, bomb, or other weapon);
- fly (or otherwise operate) a drone that has been weaponized; or
- fire (or otherwise discharge) the weapon that is attached to the drone
Therefore, merely weaponizing a drone is a Nevada crime whether or not the weapon is ever fired. And if the weapon does go off, the defendant can still be convicted even if the discharge was by accident.1
The penalties for an NRS 493.106 violation turns on whether the weapon on the drone went off:
Simply putting a weapon on a drone — or operating a drone with a weapon — in Nevada is a category D felony. The punishment can include:
- one to four (1 – 4) years in prison, and
- a fine of up to $5,000 (at the judge’s discretion)
Meanwhile, defendants who discharge a weapon from a drone they have weaponized face category C felony penalties. The sentence includes:
- one to five (1 – 5) years in prison, and
- a fine of up to $10,000 (at the judge’s discretion)2
People charged with violating NRS 493.106 may try to fight the charges with the following arguments:
- False accusations. If the defense attorney can show that the accuser lied and was just trying to get the defendant in trouble, any criminal charges should be dropped.
- No weapon. Unless the prosecutor has solid proof that the drone was equipped with a gun, bomb, or other weapon, then the defendant committed no crime simply by possessing a drone.
- No discharge of weapon. A category C charge can be reduced to a category D charge if the defense attorney can show that the defendant never discharged the weaponized drone.
Typical evidence in drone cases includes video surveillance, FAA records, eyewitness testimony. As long as the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, the charges should be dropped.
Note that it is not a defense that nobody was harmed by the drone.
An NRS 493.106 violation is presumably a deportable offense in Nevada since it involves weapons and threatens the safety of others.3 But an experienced criminal defense and immigration attorney may be able to persuade prosecutors to reduce the charge to a non-deportable offense.
People convicted of violating NRS 493.106 may apply to have their criminal records sealed in Nevada once a statutorily-determined amount of time has passed. However, it is not entirely clear how long that waiting period is since NRS 493.106 is such a new law.
Ordinarily, people convicted of category C felonies or category D felonies must wait five (5) years after the case ends before they may pursue a record seal.4 But this waiting period is extended to ten (10) years if the felony is considered a “crime of violence” under Nevada law. A “crime of violence” is:
Any felony for which there is a substantial risk that force or violence may be used against the person or property of another in the commission of the felony.5
Presumably, category C convictions of NRS 493.106 violations would be considered a “crime of violence” since it involves the actual discharge of a weapon from the drone. Therefore, the waiting period to get a category C felony conviction sealed would be ten (10) years.
But it is not clear whether category D convictions of NRS 493.106 violations would qualify as a “crime of violence” since it involves merely putting a weapon on a drone. It is not necessary that the weapon actually be discharged. Therefore, the waiting period to get a category D felony conviction sealed is probably five (5) years.
However, note that these waiting periods are just interpretations of the law. There have been no court cases confirming this. Defendants should consult with their attorneys about when they should petition the court for a record seal.
Finally, note that there is no waiting time before people can petition for a records seal if their NRS 493.106 charge gets dismissed (meaning there is no conviction).6
Learn more about applying for a Nevada record seal.
6.1. Failure to register a drone
Failing to register a drone in Nevada carries an FAA fine of up to $27,500. And if a person flies an unregistered drone unsafely, he/she faces criminal penalties of:
- up to three (3) years in federal prison, and/or
- a fine of up to $250,000
Learn more at the FAA Drone Zone website.
6.2. Flying a drone in a restricted area
- up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000
6.3. Discharging a firearm from a vehicle or structure
Shooting a gun from inside a vehicle or inside a structure (NRS 202.287) only applies when the defendant is acting maliciously or wantonly.
If the location of the vehicle or structure is in a statutorily-recognized populated area, firing a gun is a category B felony in Nevada. The penalty is:
- two to fifteen (2 – 15) years in prison, and/or
- a fine of up to $5,000
If the location is not legally recognized as a populated area, violating NRS 202.287 is a misdemeanor. The penalty is :
- up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000
Charged with a drone-related offense? Contact us for help…
If you or someone you know has been charged with a Nevada or federal crime involving a drone, we invite you to contact us for a consultation.
Our caring Las Vegas, Nevada criminal defense lawyers can fight to protect your freedom anywhere in the state of Nevada, whether you have been charged by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, or another Nevada law enforcement agency.
Call us or complete the form on this page to schedule your consultation. One of our experienced Reno or Las Vegas criminal lawyers will get back to you promptly to discuss your case and begin planning the best defense to your Nevada drone charges.
- NRS 493.106 – Unmanned aerial vehicles: Weaponization prohibited; penalties. 1. A person shall not weaponize an unmanned aerial vehicle or operate a weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle. A person who violates this section is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. 2. A person who weaponizes an unmanned aerial vehicle in violation of subsection 1 and who discharges the weapon is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
- See 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B).
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 200.408.
- NRS 179.255.