When Is Harassment a Nevada Criminal Offense?
The Nevada criminal charge of harassment covers a broad range of conduct. Defending against a harassment charge is essential — and requires assistance from a skillful criminal defense attorney. A conviction on your record can result in significant penalties, as well as affect employment opportunities and other aspects of your life. But exactly what kind of conduct can lead to a harassment charge?
What Constitutes Harassment in Nevada?
Harassment is one of many types of crimes against a person in the Nevada criminal statutes. NRS 200.571 defines the offense as occurring when a person without lawful authority knowingly threatens:
- Bodily injury to any person,
- Physical damage to another person’s property,
- Physical confinement or restraint to any person, or
- Action intended to substantially harm any person’s physical or mental health or safety
The statute provides that the person receiving the threat must be in reasonable fear that it will be carried out.
Harassment covers a lot of types of conduct. If the harassment occurs over the internet, such as by texting or emails, it may be referred to as cyber harassment.
The expansive scope of threatening conduct that may constitute harassment is important to understand. The threats can be communicated through words or actions. Whether the threat is verbal or behavioral, it does not need to be directed at harming the person receiving it or their property. The threat can be to another (third) person or another person’s property, such as threatening a family member or the home of a family member. Finally, the threat does not need to be immediate — it can be a threat of harm or damage at some future time.
Penalties For Harassment
A first offense conviction for harassment is a misdemeanor. However, the penalties can be significant. A judge can impose a maximum fine of $1,000 and a jail term of up to six months. Repeat convictions are gross misdemeanors with double the penalties: a fine up to $2,000 and a jail term up to 364 days for each offense.
For a harassment conviction, the judge also often issues a temporary or extended protective order requiring the defendant to stay away from the victim. The penalty for intentionally violating the protective order can be even greater than the harassment penalty. Intentionally violating a temporary protective order is a gross misdemeanor. Intentionally violating an extended protective order is a category C felony.
In addition to the criminal law penalties that you potentially face in a harassment charge, the alleged victim may be able to pursue other legal remedies. A criminal conviction is completely separate from any other rights a victim may have.
Defending Against a Nevada Harassment Charge
Your lawyer develops a strategy for defending against a harassment offense based on the circumstances surrounding the charge. In many cases, the only evidence in a harassment case is the testimony of the person alleging that the threat occurred. Unfortunately, people claiming harassment often provide false or inaccurate testimony. In that situation, undermining that testimony and attacking the credibility of the person making the allegations is an important component of the defense. Remember, the prosecutor must prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict. Any means of weakening the evidence makes that more difficult.
Several other defense strategies may apply as well, depending on the circumstances. Proving that the defendant acted in self-defense is sometimes part of the strategy of defending against a harassment charge. Another possibility is that the person alleging the threat identified the wrong person. In addition, if the defendant was acting in a capacity of lawful authority, such as a security guard, that fact would also be part of the defense. Finally, some conduct may be protected by the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
In all cases, the harassment law requires specific conduct for the offense. Your attorney also may argue that your conduct does not meet the criteria and required elements for harassment as defined in the statute.
Regardless of what the best approach in your case might be, defending against a harassment charge requires representation by a lawyer. Negotiating with a prosecutor is not a task you should ever undertake on your own. A criminal defense attorney has the special skills, knowledge, and experience that are necessary to negotiate successfully with a prosecutor on any criminal charge, including harassment.
Stalking and Other Nevada Offenses Related to Harassment
Harassment is not the only Nevada criminal offense that may result when a person makes threats through words or conduct. Stalking and aggravated stalking under NRS 200.575 are separate offenses.
Generally, stalking requires a course of threatening or harassing conduct, rather than a single act, that puts another person in fear of their own or a family or household member’s safety. Stalking usually involves trying to force contact with the other person as well. Cyber stalking is covered under this law. Penalties for stalking vary, depending on the circumstances of the offense, but are substantial.
Sending threats or obscenities in a letter or another form, including over the internet, is another special type of harassment offense under NRS 200.180. Making terrorist threats, which are specific types of threats, also falls under a different statute, NRS 202.448.
The allegedly threatening conduct and circumstances determine which criminal statute applies in a specific case. The potential penalties and consequences for any of these criminal offenses are extremely serious. If you face any type of criminal charge involving threatening or harassing conduct, representation by an experienced criminal defense lawyer is absolutely essential.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas Harassment Defense Lawyer
If you face a harassment charge or any other charge involving threats in Las Vegas, attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and criminal defense focus significantly benefit anyone facing harassment charges or any other state or federal criminal charges in Nevada. Attorney Gersten thoroughly investigates the case against you and always asserts the most aggressive defense possible.
The Gersten Law Firm assists clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.