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Now that you are 18 you will be treated differently than a juvenile would be if you get into legal trouble.

Adults can be convicted of three levels of crimes.

A felony is the most serious and can put a person in prison, on probation for up to five years, or fine the person many thousands of dollars. A felony also remains on your record for years, and can cost you good jobs. Nevada punishes felonies severely, with many crimes punishable by life sentences.

A gross misdemeanor is less serious, but can land you in jail for up to a year, on probation for up to three years, or you could face a fine of up to $2000.

The least serious crime is a misdemeanor. Conviction of a misdemeanor can result in jail for up to six months, supervised release conditions that can last up to three years in some cases, and fines of up to $1000.

Some non-violent theft offenses can be gross misdemeanors or felonies. That decision is not made until sentencing. They are called “wobblers.” It is up to the Judge whether the person faces felony or gross misdemeanor penalties.

All theft-related convictions in Nevada require the court to order repayment to the victim for his losses from the crime. The repayment is called restitution. Restitution will also be ordered in cases where a victim requires medical treatment, or where children have to be removed by Social Services.

What if I did something illegal but did not know it?
Knowledge that an act is illegal is not needed to convict you of it. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Before you do anything ask yourself if it is likely to hurt someone else or their property. If it is, don’t do it. It may be crime.

What happens if I am arrested?
You will be searched, handcuffed, and taken to jail. You may be taken to the Police Department first, and asked questions about what happened. You will be advised of your Miranda rights.

Be careful about what you say to anyone while at the police station or jail. You do not have the same privacy rights while in police custody that you would elsewhere. Even if you are in an area that appears to be private, the police are probably monitoring your conversations. All calls from the jail are recorded.

You can be forced to tell the police who you are. But, after that you do not have to answer their questions. Law enforcement cannot threaten you to make you talk. Nor can they offer you leniency (to resolve your case more favorably for you) in exchange for any written or oral statements. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Court will appoint one for you in certain cases.
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What happens if I help a minor break the law?
You could face criminal charges as well. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is the least serious charge you could face. You might also face the same charge as the minor if you know what she planned to do before she did it, except that you would face adult prosecution and adult punishment.

What happens after I have been arrested and “booked?”
Soon after your arrest Court Services will contact you. Court Services employees work for the Courts. Part of their job is to decide if you can be trusted to come to court as instructed if they release you without making you pay bail. If you are released without having to pay bail (called an “own recognizance” release), you will be given requirements to check in, find or return to work, possibly attend self-help meetings and provide proof of attendance, and to stay out of trouble. You may be required to submit to testing for drugs and alcohol to show that you are not using.

A judge will review the paperwork submitted by the police, explaining why you were arrested. If the Court agrees that the police had sufficient legal reasons (probable cause) to arrest you, it will sign the document, which permits the State to continue its prosecution of you. An “initial appearance” will be scheduled for you. If you are still in jail, you will appear by video link to the Court. Normally, at your appearance you will not be asked to enter a plea. You will be advised of the charges against you, and given another court date. For a misdemeanor, that will be the trial. For a gross misdemeanor or felony it will be a preliminary hearing. The Court will also ask whether you have an attorney. If you do not, and you advise the Court you want one to be appointed, you will be given paperwork to apply for the Public Defender.

jailCan someone bail me out?
Maybe. There are some cases for which bail is not set immediately – driving under the influence and domestic battery arrests keep the arrested person in custody for at least 12 hours before a release can be considered. Bail is designed to guarantee that you will show up for your court dates. Bail can be posted by using a bondsman, or directly with the Court. If bail is posted through a bonding company, it is governed by contract laws. The company and the person posting the bail will sign a contract which explains what is expected of each of them, and you. Usually a percentage of the total bail, plus paperwork fees and security (such as a car title) will be needed. When the case is over, as long as you have shown up in Court as ordered, the security will be returned to whoever posted the bail. If bail can be posted in cash with the clerk of the Court and you show up, all of it will be returned, less fines and fees the Court imposes. So, if you can get released through court services or post cash bail with the Court, you will have more money returned to you or available to pay money the Court orders you to pay.

What do I do if I cannot afford an attorney?
Court services will meet with you at the jail, usually within a day or two of your arrest. They will ask you questions that could release you without bail, and will ask you questions about whether or not you will request a court-appointed attorney. If you are legally indigent (cannot afford an attorney, based upon your income and ownership of property or other valuable items), Court Services will ask the Court to appoint an attorney to help you for any crime for which a jail sentence is possible. You will not be appointed an attorney for a speeding ticket.

What could happen if I lie or file a false police report?
It is against the law to file a false police report, give false information to police, or report a false fire alarm. If your false report accuses someone else of a crime he did not commit, you could put him through a lot of needless trouble, for which you could owe money damages. Filing a false police report is normally a misdemeanor. But, if you go to court and lie, that is perjury, a serious felony.

What can I do if I think a police officer is mistreating me?
If you are being arrested, cooperate. Now is not the time to explain to the officer all the things you think she is doing wrong. You can, if you choose, protest and seek lawful remedies against the officer later. You could contact an attorney, a legal aid association or police review agency. But, you cannot fix the situation on the street. Fighting there, even if the police are wrong, could expose you to additional charges. In a worst case, you could be hurt physically.

If an unusually serious offense occurs you may want to investigate whether your Federal civil rights have been violated. You should contact an attorney experienced in handling such complaints.

Police may not handle every situation properly. But, you should keep in mind that a police officer’s behavior is often in response to provocation or a citizen complaint. Even if the citizen was mistaken or lying deliberately, that does not mean the officer is aware of that. Police have to respond to reports of serious crimes, and investigate. And an officer making a decision under pressure or doubt about what the law is, could make a mistake. Good police-community relations are a two-way street. Both must contribute to the solution.

Could I be tried as an adult even before I turn 18?
Yes, depending upon the crime charged and your juvenile history, you could be. If you are a juvenile and charged with murder, you can be tried as an adult. If you are 16 or older and charged with rape with force, or certain weapons crimes, or crimes at a school or school function that seriously hurt people, you can be tried as an adult. Children who are 14 or older can be certified as adults, following an application by the prosecutor and a Court hearing to decide if certification is justified.

Does Nevada have a” three strikes” law?
Nevada actually has several habitual criminal statutes. A declaration at sentencing that a person is a habitual criminal exposes the person to much greater punishment than the crime for which she is being sentenced. A person with prior conviction for serious felonies could face a sentence of life in prison. But, even some misdemeanors can be counted for the fraud-type habitual criminal. A person with the right number of prior convictions for theft, misdemeanor or felony, could be disqualified from consideration for probation, and could face imprisonment for a minimum of five years. If you thought shoplifting was a prank as a juvenile, get over it. Now, you know it can ruin your life as an adult.

Can I get my criminal record sealed?
Maybe. A court can order a juvenile or adult record sealed after a certain number of years have passed, and you have not gotten into any more trouble. In addition, if you were an alcoholic or addict and your addiction played a role in your crime, you may be sentenced to diversion or drug court. Under those programs, if you successfully complete counseling and other conditions for 18-36 months, your record will be sealed. Even if you do not receive diversionary treatment, a successful probationer automatically regains certain civil rights when he completes his probation (for his first offense). Immediately upon completion he regains the right to vote and to serve as a juror in a civil case. Four years after successful completion he can hold public office. Six years after honorable discharge he can be a juror in a criminal case.

A felony conviction for a crime against a child or a sexual offense cannot be sealed in Nevada.

Once a record is sealed you may legally tell future employers or school admissions officers, for example, that you have not been convicted. Some employers are permitted to inquire about arrests. If you apply for work in law enforcement or the military, you may be required to divulge your arrest. In Nevada you must disclose even sealed records to the Gaming Control Board. And once a record has been sealed the police, probation department and Court cannot legally release information about it. (There are procedures you can use to reach your sealed records if you need them).

Federal crimes have different rules. Normally, you can only have your civil rights restored after a Federal conviction if you obtain a presidential pardon.

What are some consequences of having a felony record?

  • You may be denied admission to a college or university.
  • You may be prevented from entering the armed forces, or if accepted, you may be precluded from the best jobs, or from getting a security clearance.
  • You will not be able to vote.
  • You will not be able to work in businesses that require employees to be bonded.
  • You may be denied a professional license.
  • You will not be permitted to possess firearms.
  • You may be denied recreational licenses, such as for hunting or fishing.
  • You may be restricted from access to employment that could expose you to the temptation to re-offend. For example, a person who steals and has a gambling problem is likely to be ordered to remain away from casinos, except in very limited circumstances.
  • If you are not a citizen, you may be deported from the United States, and prohibited from reentering.

Are there state and Federal criminal laws?
Yes. Nevada’s criminal laws are published in the Nevada Revised Statutes. The Reno, Sparks and Washoe County Codes also contain some criminal laws.
The Federal Courts have their own laws, and Courts. They also have their own police agencies, prosecutors and prisons. Many Federal criminal laws apply to acts involving U.S. agencies, such as the Postal Service, Treasury or Transportation Safety Administration. Federal laws also apply to crimes that are committed between states, or in more than one state. Most Federal crimes are felonies punishable by more than a year in prison. Some crimes violate State and Federal laws, such as possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

What are some common Federal crimes?

  • Transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines.
  • Making a false statement to the U.S. government with intent to defraud. (If you cannot imagine this situation, think taxes).
  • Mailing matter that is obscene or incites crime.
  • Forgery of government checks.
  • Possession of stolen mail and items – such as credit cards – which have been stolen from the mail.
  • Robbery or burglary or a bank or savings & loan.

In addition, Federal Courts handle all state law violations committed on government property, such as a national park or federal office building, and all crimes committed on Indian land.

This guide is an introduction to narrow topics of Nevada law. Keep in mind that federal, state and local laws are constantly subject to change. If you have a legal question or problem, you should consult an attorney.