The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected the argument that a cell phone can be included in a list of prohibited items "commonly used" by inmates attempting to escape from jail cells.
Pershing County prosecutors charged Nickolas Andrews with that felony crime after finding a cell phone in a box in his cell. But a lawyer for Andrews convinced District Judge Richard Wagner to dismiss that charge on grounds that the specific statute does not prohibit possession of cell phones by county jail inmates. State law does bar possession of cell phones by state prison inmates but doesn't extend to county jail inmates.
The statute cited by Pershing County prosecutors bans possession of "any key, 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." They argued the final portion of that statute can include cell phones.
In upholding the lower court ruling, a Supreme Court panel of Justices Nancy Saitta, Kris Pickering and Jim Hardesty concluded Thursday that the statute is designed to bar possession of "devices used to forcibly break out of or physically flee from a jail cell."
"It would be virtually impossible to use a cell phone to forcibly break out of or physically flee from a jail cell," they wrote. They agreed with prosecutors that, once out of the jail, an escapee could use a cell phone to call for help, but added the phone would do no good in actually getting the inmate out of the jail.