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If you or someone you know is a “hoarder,” criminal charges can be added to the pile of problems created by this challenging mental illness.

The Mayo Clinic defines “hoarding disorder” as:

“a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”

Sometimes, as the Mayo Clinic notes, hoarding includes “keeping dozens or hundreds of pets in unsanitary conditions because they can't care for them properly.”

Hoarding can present serious health and safety problems for individuals living in cramped, filthy, and dangerous conditions. But when the hoarding also affects neighbors and others, it can become a criminal offense. Specifically, excessive hoarding in Henderson could be charged as a “public nuisance” under Nevada law.

Under NRS 202.450, a “public nuisance” is a crime against the order and economy of the State.” This specifically includes any act which annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, comfort or repose of any considerable number of persons.”

In the case of hoarding, if the property owned and occupied by the hoarder is strewn with garbage, furniture, boxes, objects, or other hazards that are visible to the public, it could be deemed a public nuisance. Similarly, if the hoarding has created such unsanitary conditions that the odors from the property “annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, comfort or repose” of those in the surrounding neighborhood, public nuisance charges could be brought against the property owner.

Not only is it a crime to create or maintain a public nuisance, willfully refusing to perform a legal duty to remove a public nuisance is also illegal.

Note that it's irrelevant whether the alleged public nuisance actually causes any damage. The Clark County District Attorney may press public nuisance charges under NRS 202.450 based solely on the defendant's behavior, not whether someone sustained an injury because of it.

A Henderson public nuisance offense under NRS 202.450 is sentenced as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment for a misdemeanor in Nevada carries:

  • up to 6 months in Clark County Detention Center (or another county jail) and/or up to $1,000 in fines; and
  • a civil penalty between $500 and $5,000

In addition, the court may order the defendant to remove the nuisance, which in the case of hoarding means cleaning up the property and removing the excessive clutter and unsanitary conditions which created the public nuisance. The defendant then has only three days to begin the abatement process. Otherwise, the applicable government agency may abate the nuisance itself at the defendant's expense.

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Gerald Schwab, Jr.

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Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney
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Fresno, CA 93704
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