NV Supremes Affirms That A Cell Phone Is Not A “Tool Commonly Used For Escaping”

In a week where the U.S. Supreme Court had difficulty distinguishing between a boat and a dwelling, Thursday’s decision by the Nevada Supreme Court in Sheriff v. Andrews was a welcome breath of fresh air.

In Andrews, the Court was confronted with a prisoner who was charged with violating NRS 212.093(1), which generally prohibits prisoners from possessing things like “key[s], picklock, bolt cutters, wire cutters, saw, digging tool, rope, ladder, hook or any other tool or item adapted, designed or commonly used for the purpose of escaping”. The twist in this case is that the “tool or item” Mr. Andrews was caught with wasn’t any of these items, but a cell phone.

The District Court thought this was, to put it charitably, a bit of a reach by the State and the Supreme Court agreed. As Associate Justice Nancy Saitta wrote for the Court:

“The State acknowledges that NRS 212.093(1) does not expressly prohibit cell phones, but it argues that the phrase ‘designed or commonly used for the purpose of escaping’ brings cell phones within the scope of the statute. We disagree. As the State conceded during oral argument, this phrase is simply a catchall provision. Thus, read together, the enumerated items and catchall provision make clear that the aim of the statute is to prohibit the possession of devices used to forcibly break
out of, or physically flee from, a jail cell….In stark contrast to the items enumerated in NRS 212.093(1), it would be virtually impossible to use a cell phone to forcibly break out of, or physically flee from, a jail cell.” (Emphasis added).

Glad that’s settled. Maybe the NV Supremes can lend their expertise to the United States Supreme Court to resolving the vexing nautical conundrum before them….:)

-CAD

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