Many Nevada sex crime convictions carry not only incarceration and high fines but also sex offender registration. This can cost a person both freedom and job prospects.
Nevada’s most serious sex crimes include:
However, it may be possible to reduce or even dismiss the charges through aggressive plea bargaining. In many cases, defense attorneys can use the following defenses during negotiation and litigation:
- the defendant was the victim of false accusations,
- the accuser agreed to the sexual contact in accordance with Nevada consent laws, or
- no sexual contact occurred
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. “Sex crime” definition
- 2. Common Nevada sex crimes
- 3. Sealing Nevada sex crime convictions
- 4. Fighting Nevada sex crimes charges
- 5. Legal strategies for defending sex crimes
1. Definition of “sex crime” in Nevada
Depending on the charge, a person convicted of a sex crime may be required to register as a sex offender — sometimes for life.
Nevada’s Sex Offender Registry (NRS 179D) has three tiers of offenders. From least serious to most serious, they are:
- Tier I offenders (NRS 179D.113), who are not searchable if the victim is an adult, but they are searchable if the victim is a child;
- Tier II sex offenders (NRS 179D.115), who are searchable by the public; and
- Tier III sex offenders (NRS 179D.117), who are searchable by the public2
2. Common Nevada sex crimes
As discussed below, common Nevada sex offenses include:
- Sexual assault (rape)
- Statutory sexual seduction (statutory rape)
- Open or gross lewdness
- Lewdness with a child under 16
- Sex between pupils and secondary school employees / Sex between pupils and college employees
- Sexually-motivated coercion
- Indecent exposure
- Child pornography
- Sexual harassment
- Child sex abuse and exploitation
- Sex trafficking
- Battery with intent to commit rape
- Felony-murder (in the commission of a rape)
- Teen sexting
- Capturing the image of the private area of another person
- Exhibition and sale of obscene materials to minors
- Administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony (such as rape)
- Intentional transmission of HIV
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Commission of certain sexual acts in public
Note that oral copulation with a minor is typically prosecuted as either lewdness or rape. There is no specific Nevada law for it, unlike California.
2.1. Sexual assault (rape)
Sexual assault (NRS 200.366) occurs when someone has vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without the other person’s consent. Having non-forced sex with a person who is too intoxicated or incapacitated to give consent is also considered rape unless the two parties are married — and even then the D.A. may still choose to bring charges.
- the age of the victim,
- whether the victim sustained substantial bodily harm,
- the defendant’s criminal history
2.2. Statutory sexual seduction (statutory rape)
Nevada’s age of consent under NRS 200.364 is 16 years old. Consequently, statutory sexual seduction (NRS 200.368) occurs when an adult 18-years old or older has penetrative sexual contact with a child of 15-years old or 14-years old and who is at least four years younger than the adult. It makes no difference if the child initiates or fully consents to the sex.
Statutory rape may be a felony or a gross misdemeanor depending on the age of the defendant and his/her criminal history. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.4
2.3. Open or gross lewdness
Open or gross lewdness (NRS 201.210) comprises any nonconsensual sexual touching short of penetrative sex (rape). Open or gross lewdness also comprises cases of people having consensual sexual contact in public.
Open or gross lewdness may be a category D felony or a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.5
2.4. Lewdness with a child under 16
Lewdness with a child under 16 (NRS 201.230) occurs when adults touch children 15 or younger for sexual gratification. It is irrelevant if no sexual organ is touched.
Lewdness with a child can be either a category A felony or a category B felony depending on whether the child is under 14. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.6
2.5. Sex between pupils and school employees
Nevada law generally prohibits teachers from having sexual contact with their students. It is a category C felony.
2.6. Sexually-motivated coercion
Coercion (NRS 207.190) occurs when a person bullies another to do something that he/she does not legally have to do. If the coercion was sexually-motivated, the judge will probably order a harsher penalty.
2.7. Indecent exposure
Indecent exposure (NRS 201.220) comprises showing one’s genitalia or anus. It does not matter whether the exposure happens in public or in a private place where the public can see (such as through a window).
Indecent exposure may be a category D felony or a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.9
A first-time offense is typically a misdemeanor. But penalties are greater for:
- “johns” with prior offenses;
- soliciting a minor; or
- soliciting with HIV
Note that judges may dismiss charges for repeat prostitution offenders (NRS 207.203) if they successfully complete rehab.10
2.9. Child pornography
Nevada child pornography laws prohibit:
- Possession of child porn;
- Advertising child porn;
- Using a computer to control or view child porn; and
- Using a child to make porn
The punishment can be one year to life in prison depending on the case. A conviction also carries sex offender registration.11
See our articles on:
- Using a child to produce pornography (NRS 200.710)
- Promoting a sexual performance of a child (NRS 200.720)
- Advertising or distributing child pornography (NRS 200.725)
- Controlling the internet to watch child pornography (NRS 200.727)
- Possessing child pornography (NRS 200.730)
Nevada sodomy laws make it a category D felony to perform oral or anal sex in public.12 Note that prosecutors are more likely to bring charges for open or gross lewdness rather than for sodomy in cases involving public displays of sex.
Nevada bestiality laws (NRS 201.455) prohibit people from having sexual contact with animals. Prosecutors charge it as a gross misdemeanor or a category D felony depending on whether the animal was injured.13
Incest (NRS 201.180) occurs when two relatives who are closer than second cousins (or cousins by half blood) either:
- get married,
- have sexual intercourse, or
- commit adultery
Incest is a category A felony carrying possible life in prison, though it may be possible to get probation.14
2.13. Sexual harassment
Nevada has no singular “sexual harassment” crime. Rather, alleged harassers may be prosecuted for:
- stalking (NRS 200.575)
- harassment (NRS 200.571)
- assault (NRS 200.471)
- peering (NRS 200.603)
- coercion (NRS 207.190)
- extortion (NRS 205.320)
- indecent exposure (NRS 201.220)
- open or gross lewdness (NRS 201.210)
- breaching the peace (NRS 203.010)
- hate crimes (NRS 193.1675)
Learn more about sexual harassment laws.
2.14. Child sexual abuse & exploitation
Child sex abuse and exploitation is a “catch-all” offense that encompasses any situations of child sexual abuse not covered in other child Nevada sex crimes.
Child sexual abuse is a category A felony in Nevada carrying life in prison. Parole depends on whether the sexual abuse was willful or whether the defendant merely allowed for it to happen. The defendant will also be required to register as a sex offender.15
2.15. Sex trafficking
Sex trafficking (NRS 201.300) is using threats or force to push an adult into prostitution. It also encompasses inducing a child into prostitution.
Sex trafficking can be a category A or B felony depending on the age of the victim. A conviction also carries mandatory sex offender registration.16
2.16. Battery with intent to commit rape
Battery with intent to commit a crime (NRS 200.400) such as rape is a category A felony if the victim was a child or the victim sustained injuries.17
2.17. Felony murder (in the commission of rape)
Nevada felony murder laws make it a first-degree murder (NRS 200.030) to kill someone in the commission of a sexual assault. It makes no difference if the suspect had no intention of killing the victim.
First-degree murder is a category A felony carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison or possibly the death penalty.18
2.18. Teen sexting
Nevada’s teen sexting law (NRS 200.737) prohibits minors from sending sexual images of themselves or others to each other. A first-time offense is not a crime. But the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services may label the child as “in need of supervision.” And any subsequent sexting offense makes the teen vulnerable to delinquency charges in juvenile court. Learn more about juvenile laws.19
2.19. Peering (“Peeping Tom”)
Peering (NRS 200.603) outlaws going onto another’s property for the purpose of secretly spying on them. Peering is generally a misdemeanor. But it becomes a gross misdemeanor if the suspect has a camera, and it becomes a category B felony if the suspect has a deadly weapon.20
2.20. Capturing the image of the private area of another person
Capturing the image of the private area of another person (NRS 200.604) outlaws taking photos or video of someone else in a state of undress without their permission. A first offense is a gross misdemeanor.21
2.21. Exhibition and sale of obscene materials to minors
Giving or selling obscene materials to minors (NRS 201.265) is a misdemeanor. Common examples of obscene materials include pornographic magazines or movies.22
2.22. Administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony
Giving drugs to someone in an effort to have sexual contact with him/her is administering drugs to aid in the commission of a felony (NRS 200.405). This is a category B felony, and the sentencing range depends on the types of drugs involved.23
2.23. Intentional transmission of HIV
Intentional transmission of HIV (NRS 201.205) occurs when a person knows he/she has HIV and then purposely acts in a way that would probably infect another person with it. An example is having unprotected sex. This crime is a category B felony.24
2.24. Failing to register as a sex offender
Convicted sex offenders are required to register with their local law enforcement agency within 48 hours of being released from custody or crossing state lines into Nevada. Nevada residents are required to re-register regularly depending on their tier.
Convicted sex offenders who fail to register as a sex offender (NRS 179D.550) face additional category D felony charges even if they never commit another sex crime.25
2.25. Commission of certain sexual acts in public
It is a crime for an adult to engage in oral or anal sex in public. It is punished as a category D felony. Learn more about having oral or anal sex in public (NRS 201.190).26
3. Sealing Nevada sex crime convictions
A record seal is when a court agrees to hide a defendant’s past convictions from view so they no longer come up in background checks. People with sealed criminal records usually have a better chance of getting a job than people who have not had their record sealed.
Nevada law prohibits record seals for the following felony sex crime convictions:
- sexual assault
- statutory sexual seduction
- battery with intent to commit rape
- child sex abuse
- child pornography
- sex trafficking children
- prostitution with children
- felony open or gross lewdness
- felony indecent exposure
- lewdness with a child
- sex between teachers and students
- sex with a corpse
It may be possible to get sex-related misdemeanor convictions sealed one (1) year after the case ends. And sex-related gross misdemeanor convictions may be sealable two (2) years after the case ends.27
Note that sex charges that get dismissed may be sealed right away.28
4. Fighting Nevada sex crimes charges
There are several possible strategies for fighting Nevada sex crime charges depending on the unique circumstances of the case. The three most common defenses include:
- The defendant was falsely accused (such as out of anger or mistaken identification);
- The victim consented to the sexual contact; or
- No sexual contact occurred
Note that defendants who were intoxicated during the alleged sexual offense cannot use their intoxication as a defense unless they were drugged unknowingly. Learn more about intoxication as a defense.29
If the case goes to trial, the prosecution has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as the defense attorney can show that the prosecution’s evidence is too holey, insufficient, or unreliable to sustain a conviction, the defendant should be acquitted.
5. Legal strategies for defending sex crimes
Tactics criminal defense attorneys rely on to fight sex offense charges include the following:
5.1. Negotiating with police
Nevada police scrutinize every sex crime allegation they receive. Even if the victim recants, police may still arrest the suspect and let the case work through the criminal courts.
However, police may be willing to drop an investigation if the suspect’s attorney can present his/her side of the story and explain why he/she is innocent.
5.2. Private investigations
Police reports are just one side of the story, and they often contain inaccuracies and gaps. In some cases, accusers innocently misconstrue their circumstances or identify the wrong person. Occasionally, accusers make false allegations on purpose to get the suspect in trouble.
Therefore, it is crucial for the suspect’s defense attorney to conduct an independent investigation of:
- the crime scene,
- the accuser, and
- the witnesses
These investigations may be able to uncover proof that the officer was biased or that the accuser lied. Then once the defense attorney presents this evidence to the prosecution, they may be willing to drop the charges right away or offer a plea deal.
5.3. Pre-trial advocacy and motions
Although most cases never make it to trial, it is important for defense attorneys to prepare for trial:
It is during this pre-trial period that defense attorneys bring motions to suppress evidence. These are where defense attorneys ask the judge to disregard certain evidence that is irrelevant or that the police may have obtained through an unlawful search and seizure.
If the defense attorney succeeds in getting enough evidence “suppressed”, the prosecutors may realize the case is too weak to sustain a conviction. They may then agree to dismiss the charges or reduce the charge.
5.4. Plea bargains
The majority of cases resolve through a plea bargain, where the prosecution allows the defendant to plead to a lesser charge in exchange for not going to trial.
The first plea bargain the prosecution offers is rarely that favorable to the defendant. But through aggressive negotiation, a criminal defense attorney may be able to achieve a deal where the criminal charge(s) get reduced substantially or possibly dismissed. Ideally, the defense attorney would strike a deal requiring no jail time or sex offender registration.
5.5. Trial advocacy
If a case proceeds to jury trial, the defendant does not have to prove anything. The prosecution has the burden of proof, and it is very high — beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the defense attorney’s job is to raise that reasonable doubt by:
- cross-examining witnesses,
- presenting favorable (“exculpatory”) evidence, and/or
- presenting expert witnesses (if necessary)
A skilled defense attorney knows how to “impeach” a witness’s credibility on the stand, which may cause jurors to doubt their testimony. All it takes is for one juror to side with the defendant to avoid a guilty verdict.
5.6. Appeals and post-conviction relief
Even a guilty verdict does not have to be the end of the story:
At the sentencing hearing, the defense attorney may argue for the laxest possible punishment by presenting such mitigating factors as:
- the defendant has no criminal history,
- the defendant was abused as a child, and/or
- the defendant is an asset to the community
If the defendant entered a guilty plea, he/she may have grounds to file a motion to withdraw the plea (NRS 176.165).
Or if the defendant was convicted at trial, he/she should then file:
In short, there are a host of legal avenues criminal defense attorneys can explore when fighting to get a guilty verdict overturned or sentence mitigated.
Call us for help…
Are you facing charges of a sex-related offense in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas sex crimes lawyers for legal advice. We may be able to get the charges dismissed or negotiate a favorable plea bargain while keeping you off the sex offender registry.
Arrested in California? See our article on California sex crimes.
Arrested in Colorado? See our article on Colorado sex crimes.
- NRS 179.245(6)(b) (“Sexual offense” has a narrower meaning for the purpose of record seals).
- NRS 179D.
- NRS 200.366; NRS 200.373.
- NRS 200.368.
- NRS 201.210.
- NRS 201.230.
- NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550.
- NRS 201.220.
- NRS 201.220.
- NRS 201.354; NRS 201.356; NRS 201.358.
- NRS 200.700 to NRS 200.760.
- NRS 201.190.
- NRS 201.455.
- NRS 201.180.
- NRS 200.508.
- NRS 201.300.
- NRS 200.400.
- NRS 200.030.
- NRS 200.737.
- NRS 200.603.
- NRS 200.604.
- NRS 201.265.
- NRS 200.405; NRS 200.408.
- NRS 201.205.
- NRS 179D.
- NRS 201.190.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- See United States v. Henderson, 680 F.2d 659 (9th Cir. 1982).