Nursing without a valid, current state license from the Nevada State Board of Nursing is a criminal offense in Nevada. It does not matter if no one gets hurt, or if the alleged nurse never performs any medical procedures. Merely holding oneself out as a nurse without a Nevada license is unlawful.
The two typical defenses to charges of violating NRS 632.315 include:
- The defendant was properly licensed.
- The defendant was not acting in the capacity of a nurse.
If substantial bodily harm does result, nursing without a license is a category C felony in Nevada carrying:
- 1 – 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000, and
- victim restitution
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada offense of nursing without a license. Continue reading to learn the definition, defenses, and penalties.
Definition of Unlicensed Nursing in Nevada
Similar to the Nevada crime of unauthorized practice of medicine, it is illegal in Nevada to practice nursing without a valid, current state-issued license from the Nevada State Board of Nursing. Specifically, Nevada nursing law prohibits the following actions without a nursing license:
- physically providing nursing care while holding oneself out as a licensed nurse,
- offering to provide nursing care while holding oneself out as a licensed nurse, or
- holding oneself out as a licensed nurse via business cards, signs, websites, titles, abbreviations, words, or other devices.
Therefore, unlicensed nurses can get arrested even if they do not physically carry out any medical procedures. Merely offering to act as a nurse or presenting oneself as a nurse is enough to invite criminal prosecution in Nevada.1 Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Bonnie just received her Registered Nurse degree from Nevada State College’s School of Nursing with highest honors. She is awaiting results for her NCLEX nursing exam, though she is positive she aced it. Since she needs money, she applies for a nursing job right away and lies about already having her license. If caught, Bonnie could be prosecuted for nursing without a license. It is irrelevant that she never saw a patient, or that she was a model student who probably passed the test. Her action of lying about being licensed qualifies as the unauthorized practice of nursing in Nevada. She could also face discipline by the Nevada Nursing Board, such as temporary or permanent disqualification for a license.
In sum, a person can still get convicted of unauthorized nursing in Nevada even if he/she has an RN degree, is licensed as a nurse in another state, or was previously licensed in Nevada…an active, Nevada-issued license is required to practice nursing lawfully in the state.
Defenses to Unlicensed Nursing in Nevada
The best strategies for fighting allegations of unlicensed nursing always depend on the particular facts of the case. Two of the most common defense are the following:
- Clerical error: Governments are infamous for backlogged paperwork, bureaucratic red tape, and clerical errors. It is not uncommon for mistakes to be made during data entry. If a defense attorney can show that the defendant was indeed properly licensed to be a nurse, and that government records fail to reflect the actual truth, the case should be dismissed. In these cases, it would be helpful for the defendant to produce copies of all paperwork and correspondence with the state licensing board to prove that he/she is licensed.
- No nursing: One of the most frequent topics of discussion between people is their medical woes. It is perfectly legal to discuss medical issues in a pedestrian, laymen capacity as long as the person is not wrongly holding him/herself out as a nurse. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration of how someone may be falsely accused of nursing with no license:
Example: Julia and Allison are neighbors in Henderson. Julia believes Allison is a nurse because she’s seen Allison wearing scrubs. In truth, Allison is a receptionist as a doctor’s office. One day Julia burns herself in the kitchen, and she calls Allison for help. Julia follows Allison’s advice of applying a cool compress and salve, but it gets infected anyway. Julie tries to file a complaint about Allison, which leads her discover that Allison is not a nurse after all. Enraged, Julie calls the cops, who arrest Allison and book her at the Henderson Detention Center for unlicensed nursing.
In this case, there is a good chance the criminal charge will be dismissed against Allison. Allison never told Julia she was a nurse--Julia just presumed it, and Allison did not realize that. And when Julia called Allison, Allison can say she believed Julia was reaching out to her as a neighbor, not as a licensed medical professional. Since Allison never held herself out as a nurse and believed she was acting as a good Samaritan, she should not be convicted of nursing without a license.
Note that is a not a defense to NRS 632.315 allegations that nobody was harmed. Simply presenting oneself as a nurse when he/she has no license is prosecutable in Nevada.
Penalties for Unlicensed Nursing in Nevada
Practicing nursing without a valid state license is a felony in Nevada. The extent of the punishment turns on whether this unlicensed practicing resulted in someone being seriously injured.
If there is no substantial bodily harm in Nevada, nursing without a license is a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence includes:
- one to four years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
However if there is substantial bodily harm, nursing without a license is a category C felony in Nevada. The sentence includes:
- one to five years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000 in fines
In addition, the judge may order that the nurse pay victim restitution in Nevada to the people injured from the unlicensed nursing. Victims may also sue the defendant in civil court for money damages.
Finally, a conviction for unauthorized nursing could preclude the defendant’s ability to obtain a nursing license in the future. Learn more in our article about disciplinary proceedings against nurses by the Nevada Nursing Board.
Arrested? Call a lawyer…
Are you facing charges for “nursing without a license” in Nevada? Contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We may be able to get the entire case dismissed or reduced while protecting your career prospects.
For information on how criminal convictions affect nursing licenses in California, see our page on how criminal convictions affect nursing licenses in California.
1NRS 632.315 Practicing or offering to practice nursing without license unlawful; enforcement.
1. For the purposes of safeguarding life and health and maintaining high professional standards among nurses in this State, any person who practices or offers to practice nursing in this State shall submit evidence that he or she is qualified to practice and must be licensed as provided in this chapter.
2. It is unlawful for any person:
(a) To practice or offer to practice nursing in this State or use any title, abbreviation, sign, card or device to indicate that he or she is practicing nursing in this State unless that person has been licensed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter; or
(b) Who does not hold a valid and subsisting license to practice nursing issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter to practice or offer to practice in this State as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, graduate nurse, trained nurse, certified nurse or under any other title or designation suggesting that the person possesses qualifications and skill in the field of nursing.
(a) If no substantial bodily harm results, is guilty of a category D felony; or
(b) If substantial bodily harm results, is guilty of a category C felony, and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
4. The Executive Director of the Board may, on behalf of the Board, issue an order to cease and desist to any person who practices or offers to practice nursing without a license issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
5. Unless the Executive Director of the Board determines that extenuating circumstances exist, the Executive Director shall forward to the appropriate law enforcement agency any information submitted to the Board concerning a person who practices or offers to practice nursing without a license issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.