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Civil Liability for Loss or Damage to Property

Overview of How You Could Be Held Liable for Damages in Connection with Lost or Damaged Property

A determination of value for the property loss associated with the alleged criminal activity is controlled by the provisions of NRS 205.980. This statute also governs notice to alleged property damage victims and how damages can be collected.

According to NRS 205.980, a person convicted of violating NRS 205.060 or 205.2175 through 205.2707, will be held civilly liable for the value of any property stolen and not recovered in its original condition. NRS 205.060 concerns the criminal offense of burglary in Nevada. According to this statute, burglary occurs when someone enters a building or vehicle with the intent to commit any of the following offenses inside:

  • Petit larceny or grand larceny,
  • Assault or battery on any person,
  • A felony, or
  • Obtaining money or property by false pretenses

Basically, NRS 205.980 establishes an additional penalty (i.e. civil damages) when a defendant is convicted of stealing or damaging personal property and is unable to return the property to the owner in its original condition.

How Stolen or Damaged Property is Valued

The value of the property is be determined by the retail value or fair market value at the time the crime was committed, whichever is greater.

In addition, a person convicted of any other crime involving damage to property will be civilly liable for the amount of damage done to the property. An order of restitution signed by a state judge in whose court the conviction was entered will be deemed a judgment against the defendant for the purpose of collecting damages.

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Notice to Alleged Victims

According to part 3 of NRS 205.980, a prosecutor is required to notify the alleged victim concerning the disposition of the criminal charges against a defendant within 30 days after the disposition and may send this notice to the last known address of the victim. Furthermore, alleged victims have the option to pursue “additional damages” from a defendant outside the confines of NRS 205.980.

Fighting the Property Damage Charges

The best way to avoid potential civil liability for lost or damaged property is to fight and prevail against the underlying criminal charges. There are numerous defenses you may be able to assert, including:

  • Damage to the property was accidental
  • Consent
  • Police arrested the wrong individual

Accidental Damage Defense

The Nevada criminal code is not designed to penalize individuals for honest accidents or for damaging property due to sheer necessity or emergency. Here is an example: John Smith is walking down a Las Vegas road when a monsoon suddenly hits and there is flash flooding. John, out of necessity, climbs over a fence on an individual’s property and up a tree to protect himself until the flood passes. However, while climbing the fence, John caused significant damage. The owner of the fence calls the police and John is arrested. In this example, John acted neither willfully nor maliciously. He confronted a dire situation that threatened his life. Therefore, John acted reasonably by climbing the fence in order to take cover even if it resulted in property damage. John will most likely be found not guilty of any criminal charges in Nevada.

Consent Defense

You should not be convicted criminally for damage to property when the property’s owner gave you permission to damage it. If your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can show that you reasonably believed you had the owner’s approval, the charges should be dropped. Helpful evidence to show consent would be written communications between the defendant and property owner as well as eyewitnesses who heard the owner providing consent.

Wrong Person Defense

If you were falsely arrested or misidentified during a criminal line-up, you can challenge the charges based on being wrongfully prosecuted for another person’s criminal conduct. If a state prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the person who caused the damage, then the charges should be dismissed. Typical evidence your defense attorney can utilize in these cases include:

  • Surveillance footage;
  • Forensic evidence; and/or
  • Eyewitness testimony

Now is the Time for Action – Contact an Experienced and Aggressive Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a family member was charged with burglary or similar offense involving damage or theft of property, now is the time to take action by contacting an experienced and aggressive defense attorney with LV Criminal Defense. You can take comfort in knowing that when you retain the services of LV Criminal Defense, you will have a respected and skilled defense lawyer by your side every step of the way. Our legal team is comprised of accomplished attorneys who exclusively deal with criminal cases. We are fully able and ready to represent you, even if it is a small misdemeanor case or the most serious felony case. We are here to help you.

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