Changes in Nevada Criminal Laws in 2022

Every year, the Nevada legislature passes dozens of new laws. Many of them go into effect on January 1st of the following year. This year is no exception, with many changes in state law from the 2021 legislative session taking effect on January 1, 2022. Among the new statutory provisions are substantial changes in the rules that apply to use of force by police officers, as well as other changes in Nevada criminal laws.

Use of Force and Deadly Force by Nevada Police Officers

Previously existing Nevada law provides that a peace officer (which includes police officers and many others with statutory authority to enforce laws) may only use the amount of reasonable force necessary to arrest a person unless Nevada law authorizes the use of deadly force. Following a warning (if feasible), an officer may use deadly force to arrest a person only if there is probable cause to believe that the person 1) has committed a felony involving the infliction or threat of serious bodily harm or use of deadly force, or 2) poses a threat of serious bodily harm to the officer or others.

SB212, adopted by the legislature and signed by the Governor in 2021, makes a substantial change to the existing rules. The provisions require a peace officer to “use de-escalation techniques and alternatives to the use of force whenever possible or appropriate and consistent with his or her training, including, without limitation, advisements, warnings, verbal persuasion and other tactics.”  

The new law also provides that if use of force is necessary, the officer must:  identify themselves as a peace officer (if possible to do so safely) and use only the level of force that is objectively reasonable under the circumstances. In addition, “to the extent feasible,” the officer must: 1) balance the level of force used by the officer against the level of force or resistance exhibited by person being arrested, and 2) carefully control the level of force.

The revisions also include a change in the statutory provisions relating to use of deadly force. The statute now provides that a peace officer may use deadly force to arrest a person only if there is probable cause to believe that 1) the person committed a felony involving infliction or threat of seriously bodily harm or use of deadly force (the same as prior law), or 2) the poses a threat of seriously bodily harm or death to the officer or others. The phrase “or death” was added in the second criteria.

SB212 also put in place requirements for law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy and provide training to peace officers that address use of force and deadly force. The policy and training must specifically address use of force on specific categories of individuals, including those not armed with a deadly weapon, believed to be mentally or physically disabled, suffering from a mental or behavioral health issue, and several other categories. The new statutory provisions include other detailed requirements for the policies as well.

Other Mandated Changes in Police Practices

Statutory changes also implement detailed requirements that apply to the use of restraint chairs by peace officers. The new provisions govern use of restraint chairs and include specific criteria for monitoring anyone placed in a restraint chair.

Other revisions in Nevada laws apply to peace officer conduct during protests and demonstrations. Officers are prohibited from discharging a kinetic energy projectile indiscriminately into a crowd or in a manner that intentionally targets vital areas of the body, unless a person poses an immediate threat of physical harm or death to the officer or others. The law also requires giving orders to disperse in a specific manner, based on whether there is an immediate thread of physical harm or death, prior to use of chemical agents during a protest or demonstration.

A different enacted bill, SB50, now prohibits issuance of no-knock warrants in the absence of a sworn affidavit that meets specific requirements stated in the law.

Other New Criminal Law Provisions for 2022

In addition to the sweeping changes in permissible police practices, several other changes affect key provisions of criminal statutes.

SB219 removed the authority of Nevada courts to suspend a driver’s license or prohibit a person from applying for a license on account of unpaid fines, fees, or restitution. This change eliminates the previous common practice of using driver’s license suspensions to collect court-related debts arising from traffic citations. The law applies to drivers whose licenses were suspended for court-related debts prior to the effective date (October 1, 2021), which could lead to reinstatement of thousands of suspended driver’s licenses.

AB158 eases penalties for minors under the age of 21 convicted of a misdemeanor for possession, consumption, or purchase of alcohol or less than an ounce of marijuana. Misdemeanor penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine have been replaced by community service and victims’ panel requirements. Penalties for a second violation also changed to requiring up to 100 hours of counseling or participating in an educational program, support group, or treatment program.

Finally, AB440 requires police officers to issue a citation rather than making an arrest for nonviolent misdemeanors that are not a repeat offense, violent crime, DUI, protection order violation, or stalking.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you encounter issues involving the 2022 changes in Nevada criminal laws or face any state or federal criminal charge in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County, criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and focus significantly benefit anyone facing criminal charges.

At The Gersten Law Firm, there is no charge for your initial consultation and case evaluation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.