Civil vs. Criminal Law in Nevada

Civil or Criminal: Understanding the Differences

            You just were just hit by a drunk driver and the police are on their way.  Everyone is okay, but you’re sitting there wondering how this driver will be punished. Was this a civil crime or was is it a criminal act? To figure that out you must first understand the differences between Civil Law and Criminal Law.

            Let’s start with Civil Law. Civil Law refers to crimes committed against a person or persons. Examples of these crimes could be breaching a contract, using slander or threatening words, negligence, etc. The biggest thing to remember is a Civil case will always have a Plaintiff, or the person initiating the suit, and a Defendant, or the person being sued. These people could also be corporations or companies depending on what the case is about. Civil Law cases usually result in minor consequences such as fines and injunctions. These cases have verdicts of liable and not liable to determine the outcome and punishments of the parties and verdicts are often based on the preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that any evidence presented will have to prove that it is more likely than not that defendant committed the act stated.

            Next, we have Criminal Law. Criminal Law refers to crimes that are committed against society or that could harm large numbers of people. Examples of Criminal Law would be murders, mass shootings, arson, burglary, etc. In a Criminal case, the defendant is the person who committed the crime and they are usually brought to court by the State or Prosecutor. These crimes have larger consequences because of the severity of the crimes being tried. Consequences include large fines, imprisonment, and in some cases, death. Unlike in a Civil case, these cases have verdicts of guilty or not guilty and has to be backed by the proof that the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt means that the evidence and facts are so clear that there are no doubts that the crime was committed or not.

            Now go back to sitting on the side of the road waiting for the police. After analyzing the differences between Civil Law and Criminal Law, have you figured out the classification of the drunk driver’s case? If you are thinking Criminal, you are correct. The crime committed was negligent but could have harmed and even killed multiple people. This drunk driver was a danger to society and therefore will be a Criminal case. He will be put on trial and a verdict will be determined.


– Allison McKenzie

Firearm Laws in Nevada

In Nevada firearms fall under state and federal law. Firearms as defined under NRS 62A.130 are allowed to be owned by any Nevada citizen over the age of 18. Firearms are not allowed to be in possession of a prohibited person as defined under NRS 202.360 . If a person in ownership of firearms is found to be a prohibited person by a court ruling said person is subject to surrender their firearms under NRS 202.361. It is also illegal to sell firearms or ammunition to a prohibited person under NRS 202.362. There are no registration requirements for firearms in Nevada. No permit is needed for a resident over the age of 18 to open carry in Nevada. You must be 21 years of age or older to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer under federal law. You must be 21 years of age or older to obtain a Nevada concealed carry license under NRS 202.3657.

It is legal to carry handguns loaded. It is illegal to carry a rifle or shotgun loaded under NRS 503.165. It is illegal to sell firearms or ammunition to minors under NRS 202.310. Under certain circumstances children over the age of 14 can have firearms in their possession with written permission from their parents/guardians under NRS 202.300.

All purchases from a federally licensed dealer are subject to a NICS background check. Out of state and online sales must be done through a federally licensed dealer and are subject to NICS background check. Before the 2016 Nevada General Election there were no background check requirements for a private sale between Nevada citizens. Although deemed unenforceable by the Nevada Attorney General there are now background checks required for private firearm sales under NRS 202.2533. There are certain exceptions to the private transfer of firearms to immediate family members, government officials, and under certain acts under NRS 202.2541.

It is illegal to carry firearms in public buildings as defined under NRS 202.265. It is legal to carry in any other public building as defined under NRS 202.3673. Private businesses have the right to ask you to leave their public building if they have knowledge of you carrying a weapon. It is illegal to be in possession of a firearm while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.10 or over as defined under NRS 202.257.

It is illegal to discharge firearms within city limits under NRS 202.280. Discharging into a structure or vehicle, or within a structure or vehicle is illegal under NRS 202.285 and NRS 202.287.

 In order to obtain any fully automatic or select fire firearm, short barreled rifle or shotgun, firearms with silencer/muffler devices, and firearms described as other weapons in Nevada one must conform with federal law and the National Firearms Act.

Pedestrian Laws in Reno, NV

NRS 484B.280 describes the responsibilities drivers have to avoid collisions with pedestrians e.g. honking their horn if they can’t stop in time to avoid a collision.  If a driver does not follow these rules they may be held at least partly liable for colliding with a pedestrian regardless of whether the pedestrian had the right-of-way.  As a driver it is imperative to exercise caution and care when observing a pedestrian nearby.

                  Similarly, pedestrians must also follow certain rules in order to comply with Nevada law.  NRS 484.283 describes when pedestrians have the right-of-way.  Pedestrians must obey crosswalk signals and only walk when signaled to do so.  Id.  Intersections without marked crosswalks are still considered crosswalks and drivers must yield to pedestrians.  Id.  These intersections are referred to as “unmarked crosswalks”.  Pedestrians are not permitted to suddenly enter a crosswalk or run across it in front of oncoming traffic.  Id.

Blind pedestrians with a service animal or a white cane always have the right-of-way and drivers are required to come to a complete stop for them to cross a highway, street or road.  Non-blind pedestrians do not have this same right.  There are some instances when pedestrians do not have the right-of-way as described in NRS 484B.287.  Pedestrians must yield to drivers when crossing at a point in between adjacent intersections.  Id.  Similarly, when crossing a highway, pedestrians must yield to drivers if not in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.  Id. Pedestrians crossing a highway via a pedestrian tunnel or overhead crossing must yield to drivers.  Id.

Pedestrians are also governed by Nevada law when walking next to highways.  Pedestrians must use sidewalks when available.  Id.  When sidewalks are not available next to a highway, pedestrians must walk on the left side facing oncoming traffic.  Id.  Intoxicated pedestrians are prohibited from walking within the traveled portion of a highway.  Id.  Pedestrians are not allowed to stand in the highway to solicit a ride or business from drivers.  Id.  However, the legality of hitchhiking in Nevada is unclear.  See

In Anderson v. Baltrusaitus, appellant was struck near an intersection by respondent causing him severe injury.  Here respondent was initially granted summary judgment by the district court because appellant was slightly outside of the unmarked crosswalk when he was struck.  Id.  However, upon appeal this decision was reversed due to multiple factors that proved the driver was also negligent and could have prevented the accident by exercising proper caution.  Id.  This case confirms the importance for drivers to always be careful around pedestrians as the consequences can be life-altering or fatal.

Nevada Child Support Laws

Child Support in Nevada

When parents separate, each parent has an obligation to financially support their child.

Commonly a child lives with the primary caregiver. To balance the time and effort set forth by

the primary caregiver the noncustodial parent will provide financial restitution in the form of

child support. Child support is used primarily for the health and education of the child. Child

support calculations are based on the noncustodial parent’s monthly gross income. The outlines

for obligation regarding child support may be found in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS)

section 125. There are always variations and exceptions that may be seen in recent case law.

In the case of


Rivero v. Rivero there was no agreement for child support in the original

divorce decree. Here we see Ms. Rivero appeal to the court for child support because she felt as

though Mr. Rivero was not spending an adequate amount of time with their child. The court

declined to modify the original agreement since there was no evidence to support Ms. Rivero’s



Additional circumstances will occasionally warrant a decision to be overturned or a child

support agreement to be amended. One example of this is if payments were not calculated using

the provisions in NRS 125B.070. In Khaldy v. Khaldy a child support agreement was changed to

adhere to the correct statutory guidelines. Here we see payments recalculated because they were

not in line with the statutory guidelines set forth.

Calculation of child support under NRS 125B.070 states: “(b) `Obligation of support’

means the amount determined according to the following schedule: (1) For one child, 18 percent

… of a parent’s gross monthly income.” The amount varies based on the age of the child, the

number of children requiring support and the parent’s gross monthly income. If a parent’s

circumstances change, they may file a request for review. Subsequently, child support

calculations are reviewed every three years.


Factors taken into consideration are set forth under NRS 125B.080(9). These factors are

listed as health insurance, child care, educational needs, age, the responsibility of the parents for

the support of others, services contributed by either parent, public assistance payments,

expenses related to pregnancy, transportation costs, time spent with each parent, any other

necessary expenses; and the relative income of both parents. Using these guidelines Nevada

courts calculate payments awarded to a custodial parent. Although payments are sometimes

abused it is assumed that they are being used for the best interest of the child.


– Sarah Hart 

Who Can File for Divorce in Nevada?

Many couples are drawn to Nevada when filing for divorce because it is widely known that there is no waiting period. This means that as soon as a hearing date is available, parties can appear in front of the Judge for a final decision.  That said, there are some qualifications that must be met in order for an individual to file for a contested or uncontested divorce in Nevada.

You must meet the Nevada residency requirements when filing for divorce in Nevada, which state that you or your spouse must have lived in Nevada for at least 6 weeks prior to filing. The court will require you to prove your residency by designating a co-worker, friend, or family member to sign an affidavit of resident witness. When deciding which county to file your complaint in, you can choose either the county where you reside, where your spouse resides, or where you and your spouse last lived as a married couple.  Residents of Reno can file for divorce in Washoe County’s Second Judicial District Court, which offers a specific division dedicated to family court matters such as divorce and child custody.

Nevada is known as a “no fault” divorce state which means there does not have to be a reason behind your divorce.  Therefore, when filing for divorce in Nevada, parties don’t need to identify any specific reasoning for separation.  

When filing for a divorce in Nevada, it is important that the residency requirements are met.  Many parties have a positive experience filing for divorce in Nevada due to the lack of waiting period, short 6 week residency requirement, and relatively lenient requirements in terms of providing a reason behind divorcing.  

Nevada Divorce Attorney

Hiring an attorney can help you make sure all jurisdiction qualifications are met.  If you have any questions about divorce in Nevada, please call Work Law at 775-386-2226.  We specialize in Nevada divorces, and can guide you through the process of divorcing in Nevada as your legal representative.    

Frequently Asked Family Law Questions


Family Law

Q. What legal matters are covered by Family Law? 

A. Family law is inclusive of divorce, child custody, child relocation, child support, termination of parental rights, alimony, and guardianship.

Q. Can I file divorce in Nevada? 

A. Individuals may file for divorce in Nevada if they have lived in the state for a minimum of six weeks and plan on living in Nevada during the duration of the divorce.

Q. What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

A. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make major life decisions for the child on their behalf. Examples include schooling, religion, and medical decisions. Physical custody refers to the child’s schedule, where they will live and with which parent they will spend their time.

Q. What are the qualifications for an annulment?

A. Surprisingly, Nevada does not have a time limit for an individual to file for annulment.  However, there are specific criteria that must be met during a marriage for annulment consideration.  For example, if a party was married to another individual at the time he or she married you. An annulment may be considered if an individual was under the age of 18 and did not obtain proper consent. Annulment would also be considered by the Court if one party was mentally instable or committed fraud at the time of marriage. 

Q. How much does a divorce cost?

A. This is our most common question. While we aim to be fully transparent, this answer depends on multiple factors making it difficult to estimate the total cost without getting to know about your family. In Nevada, the average divorce costs about $14,000. As you can imagine, no two divorces are the same. Marital estate, child custody, alimony, and property disputes are some factors that increase the complexity of the divorce which may have an impact on the total cost. We realize divorce is emotional and worrying about costs can be intimidating. At Work Law, we are upfront and transparent. To be proactive, we will ask you to share financial information and relevant facts about your children at your consultation. At that time, we will provide advice and share expectations as we go through this process together.

Q. Can both my spouse and I use the same attorney for a divorce?

A. It is possible for an uncontested divorce. We would ask that you meet with Attorney Mathew Work together and sign an agreement waiving conflict of interest.

Q. How can Work Law help me gain child custody?

A. In Nevada, our judges often decide the outcome of child custody. It is critical your have an experienced family law attorney on your side – and preferably as early as possible. Ultimately, the court will make a decision in the best interest of your children. Consulting a lawyer prior to filing for divorce is critical when minor children are involved, especially if you believe they are at risk alone with your spouse. 

Q. Will the Court make us sell our house?

A. No, the Court cannot make you sell your property. However, Nevada is a Community Property state. Typically, all assets and debt acquired during the marriage are owned equally.

Q. How long does Divorce take?

A. Unfortunately, this is not so straightforward. An uncontested divorce typically takes one month. Once the attorney receives all pertinent information from their client, the attorney will draft the pleadings and submit to the Court. The Court will review the pleadings and sign the Decree of Divorce. If children are involved, the Court may require both parties to attend a course to assist children through divorce. Contested divorces, on the other hand, are a little more unpredictable because child custody, division of assets and financial issues must be resolved one by one. Additionally, the attorney your spouse chooses may be a factor in the length of time the process takes as well. On average, contested divorces take between 6-12 months, but may extended beyond the average for extraordinary situations.

Defense Law

Q. What type of [criminal] defense cases does Work Law handle?

A. Attorney Mathew Work’s background is in criminal defense. He served as a criminal prosecutor and found his way back to defending the rights of those convicted of a crime. At Work Law, we represent clients convicted of DUI, drug crimes, violent crimes, domestic violence, federal changes, felony charges and white collar crimes.

Q. What should I do if I am charged with a crime?

A. Regardless of why you were arrested or charged with a crime, you should know your constitutional right to remain silent and have an attorney present to represent you. Regardless if you are innocent or not, do not make a statement to the police officer until you meet with your lawyer.

Q. How can a former criminal prosecutor help me or a family member?

A. The Nevada criminal process is confusing. Our criminal defense attorney, Mathew Work, has the background and courtroom experience to communicate effectively with both the Court and his clients. If your case goes to trial, Mathew will gather evidence, challenge the prosecution’s claim, and defend your rights through a plea or at trial.

How can I make divorce easier for my kids?

 Nevada Family Lawyer - Make Divorce Easier for Kids

Watching parents fall out of love and end their relationship creates uncertainty in the household, no matter the child’s age. And when parents move into separate households, children are tasked with adjusting to life without the presence of both parents each day.

Fortunately, there are ways to make divorce easier on your kids.

Let them know both parents love them unconditionally – Your children might feel like the divorce is their fault. Reassure them it is not and both you and your spouse love them.  

Be the adult – Your children need nurturing and your role is to help them through this process. Hopefully you have a support system in place to nurture you when you need it.

Be a good listener – Pay attention to your children’s emotions and encourage open communication.

Be mindful of transitions – Children are already adjusting to two homes and finding their “new normal”. Avoid unnecessary change to reduce your child’s stress.

Communicate with your ex – This isn’t easy, but it helps if you can forgive your ex at some level. Pick up and drop offs should be cordial. Your children should see both parents as pleasant as possible toward one another.   

Don’t talk poorly about the other parent – Making negative statements about your ex in front of your children is not healthy. In fact, it may harm your child’s sense of self-worth. If you have something to say to your former spouse, contact them directly and keep children out of it.

Why do I Need a Divorce Attorney?

 Reno, Nevada divorce attorney

When a marriage is ending, it can be emotional and overwhelming. How the divorce is handled will impact your life and your children’s life long after the divorce is final. Asking yourself questions like “do I need to hire a lawyer?” and “can I represent myself in court?” are valid concerns. 

We recommend talking with an attorney about your legal options before beginning the divorce process or immediately after finding out about the divorce if you are on the serving end. Learning how the divorce process works can give you peace of mind. A divorce attorney can advise how to protect your rights and interests, especially if your spouse is likely to disagree with your requests.

Unless your marriage lasted a very short time, you and your spouse have minimal assets, and you and your spouse do not have children, you should seek legal representation. Skilled legal representation will help protect your assets and property, child custody, and support needed for both you and your children. Most divorces are not so simple. For those representing themselves, it’s common to overlook legal issues like taxes, division of retirement assets, allocation of debts and other issues.

Nevada Divorce Lawyer

A Nevada divorce lawyer will help you identify these items and ensure your divorce settlement addresses all legal disputes.  For more information, contact Work Law for a free consultation or read more about the divorce process.

How to File for Divorce in Nevada

 Nevada Divorce Attorney

Divorce is not easy, but the process is relatively straightforward. In this article, we will provide an overview of the divorce process and what to expect. 

To file in Nevada, either spouse must have lived in Nevada for at least six weeks. Filing must occur in the county the parties lived in when they were married or the county one of the parties currently resides in. Since Nevada is a no-fault divorce state, the party filing for divorce will choose the reason for divorce as either incompatibility or living apart for at least one year. 

If both parties agree on all issues related to the divorce, you can file a Joint Petition. In this case, the following documents are required:

  • Decree of Divorce
  • Affidavit of Resident Witness
  • Certificate of Service or Waiver, and
  • Child Welfare and Identification Sheet

If the parties do not agree to all issues surrounding the divorce, the party will file a Compliant for Divorce. In this scenario, a Summons must also be filed.

Depending on the details of the divorce, other documents may be required. Once all appropriate forms are completed, the party filing will take the required number of copies to the clerk of court’s office. 

Nevada law requires the filing party to serve the documents to the other party, an action called the Service of Process. The other party has 20 days to file a response. If both parties reach a divorce agreement before the case moves forward, a settlement agreement can be presented to the court. Settlement allows the parties more control over their case and saves money. 


Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are the filing party or were just served divorce papers, contact an experienced divorce attorney. Work Law will assist you through the process to give you peace of mind during this time of stress.


Child Relocation in Nevada

 Child Relocation in Nevada

For many people, relocating is not uncommon. New job opportunities or family matters may lead people to consider relocating their families outside Nevada. Unfortunately, this becomes challenging with children following a divorce.

When child custody has been established, moving out of state is not so simple. Under NRS 125C.200, Nevada custodial parents wishing to relocate children out of the state must seek approval from the noncustodial parent. If the noncustodial parent refuses to give consent, the parent with primary physical custody must petition the court.   

In situations of joint physical custody, the parent wishing to relocate his or her residence out of Nevada must obtain written consent from non-relocating parent allowing the move and if the non-relocating parent refuses to give their consent, he or she must petition the court for primary physical custody for the purposes of relocating. In this case, the court will consider a number of factors before ruling on the case. The most important to consider is what is in the best interest of the child.


Obtain a Child Relocation Attorney

If you or your former spouse are considering relocating with your child, contact a child relocation attorney for a free consultation. The legal process can be quite complex.  Working with an attorney at Work Law will help protect your parental rights.

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