Criminal Negligence statutes in Nevada are very broad and include penalties for a wide range of conduct, including keeping a vicious animal, leaving a child or an animal unattended in a vehicle, storing a refrigerator without removing the door, or directing a laser device at an aircraft, even hanging doors that open the wrong way could result in being charged with a misdemeanor, in addition to any civil liability resulting from any injury that may result.
Keeping A Dangerous Or Vicious Dog
In Nevada, a dog may not be deemed dangerous or vicious based solely on the breed of the dog. However, there are certain circumstances that will identify a dog as either “dangerous” or “vicious” pursuant to statute. Those two terms have substantially different meanings.
A dog is deemed to be “dangerous” if on two separate occasions within an 18 month period, it behaves menacingly, without provocation, to a degree that would lead a reasonable person to defend himself or herself against bodily harm. However, there are limits or mitigating circumstances. The dog must be off the premises of the owner or keeper or not confined in a cage, pen or vehicle. Further, a dog is “provoked” if it is tormented or subjected to pain. A dog may also be declared dangerous by law enforcement if it is used in the commission of a crime by its owner or keeper.
A dog is deemed to be “vicious” if, without being provoked, it killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm to a human being, or after its owner has been notified by a law enforcement agency that the dog is dangerous, the dog continues to behave in a dangerous manner.
There are a few recognized exceptions however, such as when the dog is provoked or when the actions of the dog are defensive against a person who is committing or attempting to commit a crime.
A person who knowingly keeps a vicious dog for more than seven (7) days or transfers ownership of the dog after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if substantial bodily harm results from an attack by a dog known to be vicious, its owner or keeper may be charged with a category D felony and, if found guilty, may be imprisoned for a period of one to four years and fined up to $5,000. In lieu of, or in addition to, punishing the owner or keeper, the court may also order the humane destruction of the vicious dog.
Leaving A Child Unattended In A Vehicle
It is hard to imagine that anyone would ever knowingly and intentionally leave a child under the age of seven unattended in a motor vehicle, let alone when the conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child. Nonetheless, NRS 202.485 states that a person who violates this provision of the law is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be punished by up to a year in jail, unless the persons successfully completes and educational program satisfactory to the court that includes information concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended or inadequately attended in a motor vehicle.
While this may seem to be reasonable under actual situations where the conditions present a significant risk to the child, such as extreme heat and cold or leaving the car running, the threshold for determining what constitutes a violation is not defined at all. Rather, subsection 3 of the statute states that a law enforcement officer need only “reasonably believe” that a violation of the statute has occurred and may use any means necessary to protect and remove the child from the car. Most importantly, the statute suggests that the same law enforcement officer is the arbiter of the parent or guardian’s knowledge or intent, as the last section of the statute states that it does not apply to a person who unintentionally locks a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle. This clearly substitutes the judgment of a parent or guardian with that of a law enforcement officer and implies that one must prove their innocence rather than the state proving one’s guilt.
Lasers Directed At Aircraft
It is a crime to willfully direct toward an aircraft any light emitted from a laser device or other device which is capable of interfering with the vision of a person operating the aircraft with the intent to interfere with the operation of the aircraft.
To be found guilty of violating the law, the person must have “willfully” directed the laser at the aircraft with the “intent” of “interfering” with the operation of the aircraft. These are specific elements of the statute that must be pleaded and proven by the state in order to obtain a conviction of the person charged. Retaining a knowledgeable defense attorney is of paramount importance to the person accused of this crime.
The penalties for willfully pointing a laser at an aircraft depend upon whether the act results in the injury to a person or damage to the aircraft. If there is no injury to any person on the aircraft or damage to the aircraft the person will be charged with a misdemeanor, which could result in a punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.
However, if the violation results in injury to any person on the aircraft or damage to the aircraft or any equipment used to assist in the navigation or operation of the aircraft, the person may be charged with a category E felony, under which a judge has a multitude of sentencing options. Thus, it is again important that a person charged willfully directing a laser at an aircraft consult with an experienced defense attorney.
Nevada also has a law that can be described as a “catch all” criminal negligence statute. It is called “reckless endangerment” and basically covers anything that law enforcement deems to be a threat to the safety of persons or property.
NRS 202.595 is titled “Performance of act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard for safety of persons or property.” Under this statute a person who performs ANY act or neglects ANY duty imposed by law in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property shall be punished. Depending on whether the act or neglect results in substantial bodily harm determines whether the person will be charged with a gross misdemeanor or a category C felony.
If the act or neglect does not result in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, the person will be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Pursuant to Nevada law the punishment for a gross misdemeanor is imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days, or by a fine of not more than $2,000, or both fine and imprisonment.
If the act or neglect results in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, the offender will be charged with a category C felony. Under Nevada law a category C felony is a felony for which a court shall (shall means “must”) sentence a convicted person to imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 5 years. In addition, the court may impose a fined of not more than $10,000, unless a greater fine is authorized by statute.
To say the very least, Nevada’s reckless endangerment law is so vague as to be unfair. It relates to “any act” that law enforcement deems to be in wanton and willful disregard to the safety of persons or property. This is totally subject to one’s own perception of what constitutes a threat to the safety and the willful disregard thereto.
Being reckless is not a criminal offense. A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of a criminal offense when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material elements (risk of substantial bodily harm or death) exists or will result from his or her conduct. In other words, the establishment of recklessness in a criminal law context requires a subjective inquiry into a defendant’s mental state. Liability cannot be predicated solely on an objective consideration of what the person charged should have known. Whether an act is reckless may depend on both what the person charged knew and how a reasonable person would have acted knowing these same facts. Thus, it is imperative that a person consult with a knowledgeable attorney if they are charged with reckless endangerment.
These are just a few examples of activities that could result in a person being charged with criminal negligence. The Wright Law Group, P.C. has more than 25 years of experience defending criminal cases and is well equipped to assist you in handling your case. Please call us at 702-405-0001 to schedule a consultation or email us.