Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Burglary - Nevada's 'catch-all' for "...let's just go ahead and make you a Felon..."

Burglar. It's a strange sounding word, and not something most of us would ever think we could ever possibly be labeled. 

But In Nevada, being arrested for Burglary is a lot easier than you think.

This could be you. Only not as hilarious.
In yesterday's blog we talked about how Petit Larceny can quickly, and unexpectedly, escalate to felony status, but Nevada's definition of burglary is far broader than that. Since I didn't want to leave you hanging with partial information, I'll cover the remainder of the items here in today's blog. 

ICYMI, the definition of burglary here in Silver State is that: any person who, either by day or night, enters any structure with the intent to commit grand or petit larceny, assault or battery, any felony, or to obtain money or property under false pretenses is guilty of burglary. 

I covered the petit larceny part in detail already so let's move on to the others. How about assault or battery? Many people don't actually know the difference between the two but it's fairly easy. 

  • Assault: willfully and unlawfully attempting to use physical force against a person.
  • Battery: willfully and unlawfully USING force against a person.
Many times a person will complain to a police officer "That man assaulted me!" when actually they mean battered. Most people don't say "battered" because it sounds like something you do to a filet of fish rather than a person, but nobody ever said the law had to make a lot of sense. 

If someone actually strikes you, you have (in a less delicious way than the aforementioned fish) been battered. If someone grabs you by your shirt and cocks their fist, making you think you're about to get punched, you have been assaulted. (The reciprocal of this is an entirely different type of crime that we'll cover later.)

If someone threatens you with a knife (or screwdriver, or brick, or tomahawk, or angry chicken), that's assault, more accurately assault with deadly weapon (except for the chicken). 

If, God forbid, someone actually stabs you or shoots you or hits you with a brick, that's battery with deadly weapon.

Hopefully you're seeing the difference. 

How does this play out in to someone's normal life? Oh that's easy. Think of the following scenario:
Frank finds out that his wife, Margaret has been cheating on him with Benjamin, a tall, dark haired doctor who works at a nearby hospital. In a fit of pique, Frank vows to teach Ben a thing or two about healthy boundaries and storms into the hospital with the intent of beating up Ben. Upon seeing Ben flirting with Nurse Gage at the billing counter, Frank practically runs up to Ben, loudly insinuates that Ben's mother is a female canine and quickly suggests that Ben do something to himself that is physically improbable before swiftly striking Ben in the face with his closed fist.* 
*Congratulations if you picked up on the M*A*S*H reference. 

If you've ever been cheated on by a spouse or significant other, this scenario doesn't sound too far-fetched, does it? If you know the pain of finding out that the person you trusted with your most intimate of intimates in this world has repaid your love and trust with secrecy and illusion, then surely you've fantasized about killing inflicting some pain and injury on the person who replaced you. 

And therein lies the problem...

If you actually act that scenario out and wallop someone, sure you might get off with a simple misdemeanor battery citation, but, as per the letter of the law, if the District Attorney wants to make an example out of you, or is just having a bad day, they'll definitely testify that you "ENTERED A STRUCTURE WITH THE INTENT TO COMMIT A BATTERY" and that's all it takes to make you a felon. 

Okay, I got it, Louis. I vow to never walk into a building with the intent to assault someone with some battered chicken when I'm angry... or something like that... what the heck is Obtaining Money / Property Under False Pretenses?

Ah, yes. Good Old OMPUFP, quite possibly the worst acronym ever. 

Well, the textbook definition is:
"A person who knowingly and designedly by any false pretense obtains from any other person any chose in action, money, goods, wares, chattels, effects or other valuable thing, including rent or the labor of another person not his or her employee, with the intent to cheat or defraud the other person, is a cheat, and unless otherwise prescribed by law, shall be punished..."

What the hell is a chattel? Is it one of these?

There are so many "what if" scenarios I could create... basically, if you're lying or misrepresenting yourself in some way in order to obtain money, services, or any thing of value, you are potentially guilty of this crime.
  • Trying to return something to a store that you didn't buy there in order to get some quick cash? Guilty. 
  • Trying to get some free labor out of someone by promising to pay when you actually have no intention of doing so? Guilty. 
  • Trying to confuse the poor young cashier so you can trick them into giving you back three twenties instead of the two you're owed after paying with a $100? Guilty. 
  • Did you buy a new gizmo, take the packaging home, put your old gizmo in its place and try to return the old gizmo in order to keep the new one for free? Guilty. 
I'm sure you get the idea. 

The point to this is to educate you, and perhaps give you a sensible chuckle. I want to make sure you realize how something you think is so silly can quickly change your life to one of a felon in Nevada.

As always, if you've been accused of a crime, give me, or another of the many fine attorneys in Las Vegas a call sooner rather than later. 

PS - Chattel: an item of property other than real estate.

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