REMOVAL OF PROPERTY TO OBTAIN SCRAP METAL
Scrap metal can be a very lucrative industry, so lucrative, in fact, that there are people who will seek to find “scrap” metal in places where it is not yet “scrapped.” Unfortunately, removing metal through theft, damage, or destruction is illegal and can lead to harsh penalties.
What are the laws that regulate removal, damage or destruction of certain property to obtain scrap metal?
The regulation of removal, damage or destruction of certain property to obtain scrap metal is governed by NRS 202.582.
- A person who willfully and maliciously removes, damages or destroys any utility property, agricultural infrastructure or other agricultural property, property maintained by the State or a local government, construction site or existing structure to obtain scrap metal shall be punished pursuant to the provisions of this section.
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, if the value of the property removed, damaged or destroyed as described in subsection 1 is:
- Less than $500, a person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Five hundred dollars or more, a person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.190.
- If the removal, damage or destruction described in subsection 1 causes an interruption in the service provided by any utility property, a person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.190.
- In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order a person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 to pay restitution and:
- For the first offense, to perform 100 hours of community service.
- For a second offense, to perform 200 hours of community service.
- For a third or subsequent offense, to perform up to 300 hours of community service for up to 1 year, as determined by the court.
- In determining the value of the property removed, damaged or destroyed as described in subsection 1, the cost of replacing or repairing the property or repairing the utility property, agricultural infrastructure, agricultural property, construction site or existing structure, if necessary, must be added to the value of the property.
- As used in this section:
- “Scrap metal” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 647.017.
- “Utility property” means any facility, equipment or other property owned, maintained or used by a company or a city, county or other political subdivision of this State to furnish cable television or other video service, broadband service, telecommunication service, natural gas service, water service, sewer service, storm water collection or disposal service or electric service, regardless of whether the facility, property or equipment is currently used to furnish such service.
Is stealing scrap metal really that big of a problem?
While it may not be something that most people aware of, the prices for scrap metal can be quite tempting. As a result, there are people who will resort to theft or destruction of property to obtain “scrap” metal they can then sell.
Okay, so what is exactly is “Scrap” metal?
“Scrap” metal refers to a lot of different forms of metal:
- Nonferrous metals (metals that contain no iron);
- Scrap iron;
- Stainless steel;
- Catalytic converters; and
- Any other material which contains metal and is used in:
- Agricultural operations;
- Electrical power generation;
- Transmission or distribution;
- Broadband or telecommunications transmission;
- Railroad equipment;
- Oil well rigs; or
- Any lights maintained by the State or a local government (street lights, traffic-control devices, park lights, ballpark lights, etc.).
In contrast, the general categories that are not considered “scrap” metal contain:
- General household waste;
- Aluminum beverage containers;
- Used construction scrap iron; or
- Materials that contain a metal in its original manufactured form that does not contain more than 20% nonferrous metal, by weight.
I’m confused, “scrap iron” is on both lists?
Essentially, going to a construction yard and picking up small pieces of scrap iron that may be left over from the construction may not be considered “scrap” metal for the purposes of NRS 202. 582. It is essentially a non-specific size designation. because someone who deals in scrap metal may not want to waste time dealing with smaller pieces.
More importantly, the collection of left-over pieces of iron that were by-products of construction would generally not be considered a violation of NRS 202.582 as it would not be the damage or destruction of certain properties. However, prosecutors do have wide latitude in determining what would be considered the “removal” of property, and as such could still charge someone for the removal of left-over iron.
Okay, so what does this law prohibit?
The underlying premise of NRS 202.582 is to prevent people from causing any damage to existing buildings, structures, or construction sites in the pursuit of scrap metal. There are only two elements to the crime:
- Intent (to remove, damage or destroy); and
- The metal must come from:
- A utility property;
- An agricultural infrastructure (such as irrigation works);
- Agricultural property;
- Any property maintained by the State or a local government;
- Construction site; or
- Any other existing structure.
In any situation where the prosecutor can show that both of those elements are met could lead to a conviction for the removal, damage or destruction of certain property to obtain scrap metal.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalties for violations of NRS 202.582 depend on the resulting damage or harm. The value of the property that is removed, damaged or destroyed is determined as the cost of replacing the property as well as any necessary repairs to the property or structure.
If the value of the property is less than $500, then violations of NRS 202.582 will be charged as a misdemeanor, and will carry with it:
- Up to 6 months in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $1,000.
If the value of the property is $500 or more, then violations of NRS 202.582 will be charged as a category D felony, and will carry with it:
- Between 1 and 4 years in a state prison; and
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
If the removal, damage or destruction of the property, building or structure causes an interruption in a utility or service (such as cable TV or other video service, broadband service, telecommunication service, gas, water, or sewer service, storm water collection or disposal, or electric service), then the violation of NRS 202.582 will be charged as a category C felony, and will carry with it:
- Between 1 and 5 years in a state prison; and
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
PLEASE NOTE: In addition to all of the above listed penalties, any violation of NRS 202.582 will also require that the Court order community service for every conviction, in the following amounts:
- For a first offense, 100 hours of community service;
- For a second offense, for 200 hours of community service;
- For each subsequent offense, for up to 300 hours of community service for up to 1 year.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. The defenses related to the removal of scrap metal are highly specific to the individual circumstances, but some possible defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge – As noted above, violations of NRS 202.582 require knowledge that you are remove, damaging, or destroying property. This defense obviously applies more to removal of property than to damage or destruction, but if you or your attorney can show that you were unaware that the property you were removing should not have been removed, or that you did not realize that it was the property of one of the above listed types of structures, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with a removing, damaging or destroying certain property to obtain scrap metal?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.