If you are facing assault charges in Las Vegas or throughout the State of Nevada, you could be in danger of suffering serious, long-term consequences if convicted. While your potential sentence may vary in severity depending on the facts of the case, Nevada punishes assault relatively harshly, and having an assault conviction on your record can be a major obstacle regardless of what sentencing you receive.
At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we understand the gravity of an assault charge and we apply our legal expertise and experience to fight your case. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Martin Hart knows how to attack the case against you. He has a long track record of obtaining the best possible outcome for assault defense cases, including reduction of charges or even dismissals, and he will fight to do the same for you. To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact the Law Offices of Martin Hart at 702-380-HART (4278).
How is "Assault" Defined in Under Nevada Law?
The phrase "assault and battery" is so commonly spoken that most outside of the legal world do not even realize that there is a distinction between the crimes of "assault" and of "battery."
In Nevada, battery is the intentional application of force or violence against another person. Battery does not have result in bodily injury to the victim. The legal distinction between an act of battery versus an act of assault is simply that, with a battery, the victim was contacted in some way, even by a mere harmless touch.
Assault, on the other hand, is either (1) an attempt to batter someone or (2) intentionally placing someone in reasonable apprehension of an imminent battery, i.e., threatening someone. Interestingly, do be charged with a the crime of assault, you do not have to lay a finger on the victim. However, the act that you attempted to do must have likely resulted in some sort of physical harm to the victim. For example, say you swung at the victim's face but the victim ducked so you ended up missing him. This is an assault because you attempted to batter him. Note that a victim must have been aware of the attempted battery in order for you to be liable. If you swung at the person from behind but he never saw you or even knew you were there, that is not an assault.
In cases where a defendant threatened a victim, there has to be more than just words involved. However, when threatening words are accompanied by a motion such as taking a step towards the victim or shaking one's fist in the air at him/her, it can constitute assault. It also does not matter if in reality, you were unable to carry out the threat. If the victim reasonably feared an imminent battery, you can be charged with assault. For example, if you point an unloaded gun at a person, it is still assault. It does not matter if you wouldn't have been able to actually shoot the person. All that matters is the person was afraid you were going to when you pointed the gun at her.
Special Classes of Assault
The foregoing defines assault and battery generally. However, depending on the circumstances of a person's case, he or she may be charged with any of the following:
- Assault against person in a "protected class."
While an assault against anyone is obviously illegal and can be severely punished, such an act is usually a simple misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, an assault on an assault against a law enforcement officer, a fire fighter, a prison guard, a judge, a taxi driver, a public transportation worker, a school employee, a sports event official, and certain others is a gross misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to 364 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.
To be subject to this harsher sentence, the defendant must have assaulted the protected person while that person was on duty. The defendant also must have known, or have been reasonably expected to have known, of the assaulted person's status. If the police officer-victim was off duty and out of uniform, the defendant likely would not have known the office was a protected person. Also, a defendant cannot claim ignorance of the law as a defense; that is, that the defendant did not know he would face a harsher penalty for assaulting a protected person.
- Assault by prisoners and those on parole/probation.
When a prisoner, jail inmate, parolee or probationer assaults a police officer, jail personnel, or other protected class members, it is a Class D Felony, punishable by a minimum of 19 months to a maximum of 4 years in prison and a fine as high as $5,000.
If such an assault was made with a "deadly weapon," it is a Class B Felony, punishable by 8 to 20 years in state prison and, in some cases, a steep fine as well.
- Domestic violence assault.
One of the most common types of assault, and battery, is that committed against a member of one's family, household, or a current/former romantic or intimate partner. If a person assaults any of those people, it is very likely he will be charged with domestic violence.
Domestic violence assault is normally a misdemeanor charge, but if a defendant has already been convicted of domestic violence twice before, it is a Class C Felony, punishable by a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 5 years state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. If you have been charged with domestic violence assault, click here for more information.
Possible Penalties for an Assault Conviction
While we have mentioned some possible punishments for assault convictions in Nevada, below lists the possible punishment in more detail:
For misdemeanor-level assault, a sentence may include:
- Up to 6 months in county jail;
- A fine of up to $1,000;
- 200 hours of community service in place of jail time.
Assault against a member of a protected class is punishable by:
- 364 days in county jail;
- A fine of up to $2,000;
- 600 hours of community service instead of jail time.
Probation and Restitution
In some cases, a good defense attorney may be able to get probation in place of some/all of your jail time if you are convicted of misdemeanor-level assault.
The judge has discretion to suspend your sentence while you either serve probation or complete requirements, such as attending classes/counseling sessions, paying a fine, and completing a certain number of community service hours. If the judge suspends your sentence and places you on probation, and you successfully complete probation, you will not have to serve the jail time. Depending on the negotiation you defense attorney obtained for you, in some cases, the judge may even dismiss your case altogether.
One common term of probation in assault cases is that of restitution, if any, for losses resulting from the offense. If the victim suffered some harm from the assault, such as emotional or psychological harm, you would have to pay him or her restitution. Restitution is usually more of any issue when the victim suffered a physical injury, which will not be present in an assault case.
Nevada Statutes of Limitations
In Nevada, not only tort actions but certain criminal actions as well (including assault) have statutes of limitations during which the charge must be filed. This means that the prosecution must file the charges against you before a certain period of time after the offense. Any attempt to press charges after the "time limit" expires can be successfully thwarted by any knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
However, there are also special instances in which a statute of limitations is "tolled," meaning clock is stopped, or no statute of limitations exists. For example:
- There is no statute of limitations for murder.
- For sexual assault, the statute of limitations is 4 years; but by filing a police report early, the victim can get the stature extended. It is also extended for sexual assault victims who are/were disabled or were children at the time of the offense.
- For most felony crimes, the statute of limitations is 3 years.
- For a gross misdemeanor, the statute is 2 years.
- For a simple misdemeanor, the stature is 1 year.
- For crimes "committed secretly," the "clock" starts running at the date of discovery instead of the date of commission of the act. Usually this exception applies cases involving sexual assault of minors.
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
An assault conviction will appear on your police record which will affect your ability to find gainful employment, hurt your chances of getting approved for renting an apartment or purchasing a home, cause you to lose your professional license, and could negatively impact any later interactions you have will law enforcement. For example, if you pick up another violent charge, such as battery-domestic violence, a prior assault on your record will surely influence any plea negotiations you have with the prosecutor, and if convicted, will be considered by the judge at sentencing.
Thus, it is hard to overstate the importance of having a skilled criminal defense lawyer fighting on your side when you face an assault charge.
Another important reason to hire a top defense lawyer is ability to negotiate. At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we strive to obtain the best possible outcome for each client and that includes dismissal or acquittal. However, if a dismissal or an acquittal is unlikely due to the evidence against you, it is crucial that you have a skilled lawyer to negotiate with the prosecution. Without one, you are much less likely to obtain a favorable plea agreement, including one with a lighter sentence, a reduced charge, or even avoidance of jail time.
On the other hand, you need a good lawyer so that, if possible, pre-trial maneuvering and filing of motions can help discourage the prosecution from continuing to waste resources on a weak case. From beginning to end and in every legal situation, a skilled attorney can help you obtain the best possible outcome of your case.
Common Defense Strategies
The following are common defense strategies for offenses like assault or battery:
- Self-defense: Many times, the victim may have threatened or even assaulted the defendant first. It may be that the defendant's actions were justified due to the aggressive actions of the plaintiff and actually, the defendant reacted due to his own reasonable fear of an imminent battery. To be valid, however, the act of self-defense cannot have been excessive in light of the context in which it occurred.
- Defense of others: This defense mirrors that of self-defense in every way except that it was a third party, perhaps a family member or friend, whom the defendant tried to protect.
- Mistaken identity: In some cases, when an assault was committed in a dimly lit area or when the perpetrator was masked or disguised, it is possible the victim accused the wrong person of the crime. Establishing an alibi and challenging certainty of the victim's identification will often be the keys to this kind of defense's success.
- False accusations: Especially in domestic violence assault cases, it is not uncommon for someone with a grudge to take vengeance by falsely accusing the defendant of assault. In this case, a good lawyer can cross-examine the witnesses against you, secure witnesses in your favor, and work to discredit the prosecution's evidence.
- Insufficient evidence: In the U.S. criminal justice system, defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot produce sufficient evidence, the jury or judge cannot find the defendant guilty.
Contact Us Today
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Martin Hart have extensive experience defending against all manner of assault charges in the state of Nevada. They know how to build a solid defense for against the prosecution's case and fight for the best possible outcome for your case, whether that be a dismissal, acquittal, lesser sentence, or reduced charge. For a free legal consultation on the details of your case, do not hesitate to call 702-380-HART (4278).