In Nevada, as in most states, crimes that carry potential penalties of less than a year in county jail and/or a fine are considered misdemeanors rather than felonies. But the state further divides these crimes into two categories—gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors (which are less serious)—with different maximum penalties for each type.
Most criminal statutes specifically say whether the crime is a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or a category of felony in Nevada. However, if a law that prohibits some action doesn't provide any penalty for violating the law, a violation of that law will be considered a misdemeanor. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 193.170 (2020).)
The least-serious crimes in Nevada—which the state simply calls misdemeanors—are punishable by incarceration in county jail for up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, instead of all or part of that penalty, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor may instead be sentenced to probation with a requirement to perform up to 200 hours of community service. (Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 176.087, 193.150 (2020).)
In addition to the maximum punishment for misdemeanors, some criminal statutes require a minimum sentence and additional penalties. For instance, anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery in Nevada (for a first offense within seven years) must serve at least two days in jail, perform 48-120 hours of community service, pay a $200-$1,000 fine, and participate in weekly counseling sessions.
Some other crimes that are punished as misdemeanors include:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 200.481, 200.485, 205.0835, 205.460, 484B.653 (2020).)
Gross misdemeanors are punishable by incarceration in county jail for up to 364 days and/or a fine of no more than $2,000. If the crime was committed on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity, a convicted defendant must serve a jail sentence of at least 15 days. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 193.140, 193.1605 (2020).)
Some crimes that are misdemeanors for a first offense—such as stalking and harassment—are treated as gross misdemeanors for a second offense (when the defendant had a previous conviction for the same crime).
Examples of other crimes that are classified as gross misdemeanors:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 200.368, 200.460, 200.471, 200.481, 200.571, 200.575, 202.290, 205.680 (2020).)
A few of Nevada's criminal laws—such as a first offense of elder abuse and attempting to commit certain lower-level felonies—provide for punishment as either a gross misdemeanor or a felony. During sentencing for one of these crimes (often referred to as "wobblers"), it's up to the court to decide whether to treat the crime as a gross misdemeanor or a felony. (Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 193.330, 200.5099 (2020).)
Prosecutors have a time limit (known as a "statute of limitations") for filing misdemeanor charges; the time usually starts when the alleged crime took place. The criminal statute of limitations in Nevada is one year for misdemeanors and two years for gross misdemeanors. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 171.090 (2020).)
If you're facing criminal charges, it's important that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation, protect your rights throughout the criminal proceedings, and help you get the best outcome possible. In some cases, that might involve negotiating a favorable plea bargain—which may include an agreement to have the court apply a gross misdemeanor sentence for a wobbler.
And if you've already served a sentence for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, a criminal defense attorney can help you through the process of applying to have your criminal record sealed in Nevada.
Changes in the Law
The Nevada legislature can change the state's laws any time, but you can always find the current version of any statute discussed in this article by searching for it on the Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online. Keep in mind that court decisions may affect how laws are interpreted and applied (which is another reason to consult with a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges).