What Constitutes Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Nevada?

Assault and battery are two different offenses in Nevada. A broad range of conduct may give rise to an assault charge. If an assault involves a deadly weapon, the category of the crime and the potential penalties increase significantly. Many items can be deemed a deadly weapon by the police. If you face any type of assault charge, representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial.

Nevada Assault Laws

Assault is classified as a crime against a person under Nevada law. Under the statutory definition offense of assault in NRS 200.471, an assault can occur in one of two ways: 1) Unlawfully attempting to use physical force against another person, or 2) Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm. An assault charge is a misdemeanor unless specific criteria in the law classify it as a felony.

Importantly, the offense of assault does not require actual contact with another person. The acts of attempting to use physical force or intentionally putting another person in fear of immediate harm can be sufficient. If contact occurs, the additional charge of battery is likely to result.

If an assault involves use of a deadly weapon or the present ability to use a deadly weapon, the offense is a category B felony with potential penalties of one to six years in state prison (with a one-year minimum), a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. Generally, a deadly weapon is any instrument that may result in substantial bodily harm or death, either according to the item’s ordinary use or when used in a manner that could cause substantial bodily harm or death. Whether or not an instrument is a deadly weapon often depends on the circumstances.

A loaded firearm is an obvious example of a deadly weapon, but many other types of items can constitute a deadly weapon in specific circumstances. Examples of items that Nevada courts have found to be a deadly weapon include:  an unloaded firearm (when used to bludgeon a person), switchblade knife, sword, BB gun, spring gun, dagger, explosive or incendiary device, blackjack, billy club, metal knuckles, nunchuck, trefoil, and a paint gun.

Defending Against a Charge of Assault with a Deadly Weapon

An experienced criminal defense lawyer has many different strategies for defending against a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. As in every criminal case, the nature of the defense depends significantly on the facts and circumstances of the incident. Because of the severity of the crime and the potential penalties, representation by an attorney is essential for anyone facing the charge.

The statute itself makes it clear that intent may be a necessary element of the crime. Demonstrating that the prosecutor cannot prove intent is one way to defend against the charge. Alternatively, the defense can show that the other person did not have a reasonable fear of being harmed. In addition, depending on the instrument involved, it may also be possible to show that the item does not qualify as a deadly weapon under Nevada law. Self-defense is also a possible strategy in an assault case, if the defendant reasonably believed they would be harmed and did not use excessive force. 

Asserting a vigorous defense depends on knowing the details of the law and understanding the elements of the crime, as well as thoroughly investigating the event to determine what exactly occurred. For that reason, assistance from a knowledgeable lawyer is critically important if you face any assault or other criminal charge.

Other Assault Offenses

In addition to the fact that assault with a deadly weapon can escalate an assault charge to a felony, the statute contains provisions under which an assault against protected classes of persons is a felony, even if a deadly weapon is not used. The protected classes include:

  • Law enforcement officers and corrections officers
  • Teachers and school employees
  • Judges
  • Firefighters
  • Health care providers
  • Sports officials
  • Transit officers and taxi drivers

If the assault occurs by a prisoner in custody or a person on probation or parole, the level of the felony is even higher.

It’s important to note that sexual assault charges are a completely different category of offenses from the assault and battery charges discussed in this article.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you face a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, another assault charge, or any state or federal criminal charge in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County, criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and focus significantly benefit anyone facing criminal charges in Nevada.

At The Gersten Law Firm, there is no charge for your initial consultation and case evaluation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.