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Hate Crime in Nevada

What is a Hate Crime ?
A “Hate Crime” in Nevada is a crime that is committed against a person because of that person’s race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.  A hate crime can also be committed if the attacker believes that the victim is in one of these groups, even if the victim actually isn’t.  For example, if a victim is attacked because the attacker thought that he/she had a different sexual orientation, the law would consider that a hate crime, even if the victim was actually not of a different sexual orientation.


Is it a Hate Crime to Belong to a Gang?
While simply belonging to a gang is not a crime or a hate crime all by itself, the laws in Nevada do punish some gang activity like they punish hate crimes.  For example, the law requires a court to double the punishment for a felony if that felony was committed with the specific intent to promote or assist criminal gang activity.  (NRS 193.168)  The law also requires the court to deny probation to a person convicted of a “gang crime,”  meaning that the person must go to prison instead of trying to live out in the community on probation.  Additionally, a person on parole in the adult prison system can legally be denied permission to live or associate with anyone who is a known gang member.( NRS 213.1263).  Schools are also given the ability under Nevada law to prohibit gang activity by restricting gang clothing or symbols, and also restricting “any activity that encourages participation in a criminal gang or facilitates illegal acts of a criminal gang.”  (NRS 392.4635).

How is a Hate Crime Punished in Nevada?
The laws in Nevada do not specify hate crimes with specific penalties.  Instead, Nevada law enhances the penalties for certain crimes if the crime occurred primarily because of the protected status of that victim.  This means that a crime’s penalty is increased if the reason for the crime is that the victim was a minority, disabled, or of a different sexual orientation.   Depending on the original penalty available, a hate crime enhancement can mean an increase in the category of crime, or an increase in the amount of time a person can be sent to prison for such a crime.

First, minor crimes that are usually punished as a misdemeanor (maximum 6 months jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine) may be increased to a Gross Misdemeanor (maximum 12 months jail and/or a $2,000.00 fine, with formal probation available).  Examples of these offenses would include harassment, destruction of property, trespassing with intent to damage property, disturbing the peace or stalking.  (See NRS 207.185)  

Second, more serious felony crimes like kidnapping, robbery or sexual assault will have increased penalties if the jury finds that the person committed his crime because of the victim’s minority status.  (See NRS 193.1675)  The law allows the court to impose a sentence that is up to 25% higher than the original penalty.  Thus, a 10-year maximum sentence could become 12 ½ years.

Finally, Nevada takes hate crimes so seriously that a murder can become a death penalty case if it is found that the murder was based on any of the factors that have been discussed above. (See NRS 200.003)

A misdemeanor offense that often involves younger offenders is graffiti or tagging.  While usually punished as a misdemeanor, if that graffiti is done on a church or other house of worship, a school or a cemetery, that crime can be punished as a gross misdemeanor.  The law also requires the court to order “restitution” or money payments to the victim to pay for the damage caused to the property.  (See NRS 206.125)
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.