Domestic violence in Nevada occurs when people intentionally commit battery against their:
- dating partners, or
- housemates / chabitants.
Examples of battery include:
- poisoning, or
- any other type of unlawful physical force.
A 1st or 2nd domestic violence offense in a seven-year timespan is a misdemeanor in Las Vegas carrying the following sentence as long as no deadly weapons, strangulation, or substantial bodily harm was involved:
- Up to $1,000 in fines,
- Up to 200 hours of community service,
- Weekly counseling sessions for up to 1 year, and
- Up to 6 months in jail, but the judge usually imposes no jail for a 1stst offense and 10 days for a 2nd offense
Meanwhile a 3rd domestic violence offense within seven years is a felony carrying a punishment of 1 to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Finally, BDV that involves strangling, dangerous weapons or infliction of major injuries is a felony carrying up to 15 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Common ways to fight battery domestic violence charges in Nevada include taking the position that:
- The accused acted in self-defense,
- The incident was an accident, or
- The alleged "victim" made up false allegations of abuse.
Another defense is that the prosecution lacks evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney may even ask the judge to "suppress" any evidence that the police obtained illegally. If the defense can show that the D.A.'s case is weak, all BDV charges may be dismissed altogether.
Below our Nevada criminal defense lawyers explain the details of Nevada battery domestic violence law. Click on a topic to go directly to that section:
The Nevada crime of "battery domestic violence" (BDV) has two elements that the prosecutor must prove in court:
- Battery, which is when the accused intentionally uses unlawful physical force on the victim, and
- The accused and victim are in a familial or domestic relationship.
Battery occurs when someone deliberately touches someone else in a violent, aggressive or merely unwanted way. Common examples of what may constitute battery in Nevada are:
- hitting (such as punching, slapping, crushing, or pinching)
- pushing or shoving
- spilling or throwing something on a person
- tugging on the person's clothes
- any indirect unlawful touching, such as hitting a car while someone's inside
Note that a battery doesn't have to result in injuries for someone to be convicted of it in Nevada. Also note that using unlawful physical force on someone isn't a crime unless the act is intentional. However, not all honest accidents let the defendant off the hook for criminal liability:
For example, hitting a person by throwing a glass at him is battery even if the thrower expected the victim would duck in time ... this is because the defendant should have reasonably foreseen that it was likely the victim would get hit. For more examples see our article on Nevada battery laws.
2. Familial or Domestic Relations
A battery becomes "battery domestic violence" in Nevada when the victim and perpetrator are in an intimate, domestic or family relationship such as:2
- current or former spouses
- relatives by blood or marriage
- housemates (cohabitants)
- significant others
- co-parents of a child
- the victim is under the guardianship of the accused
Therefore the same act of unlawful physical force could be prosecuted as either straight battery or BDV depending on the accused and victim's relationship. Smacking a friend or stranger is battery, whereas smacking a girlfriend or roommate is battery domestic violence. For more examples see our article on the Nevada definition of battery domestic violence.
Federal Crime of Interstate Domestic Violence
Battery domestic violence isn't just a crime under Nevada law ... a person may be prosecuted for it in federal court as well. However the federal definition of domestic violence has two additional elements:
- The defendant needs to have traveled to or from Nevada (or caused the victim to travel to or from Nevada), and
- The defendant and victim need to be married, dating, or sexual partners.3
Read more in our article about the federal crime of interstate
The most effective strategies for fighting Nevada domestic violence charges turn on the facts of the case. The three most common BDV defenses are the following:
- self-inflicted injuries or false allegations
Nevada self-defense law permits people to use physical force on another as long as they reasonably believe it's necessary to avoid imminent injury or death to themselves or someone else. The only condition is that they can't use more violence than necessary to protect themselves.4 Las Vegas domestic violence attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Todd and Suzie are dating and living together. They get into a heated argument when Suzie suspects him of sleeping around. Suzie begins slapping Todd in the face. Todd pushes her to the ground in order to defend himself and stop the attack.
Even though pushing your girlfriend would normally constitute domestic violence, it's probably permissible here as an act of self defense.
Battered woman's syndrome / Battered person syndrome:
Battered person's syndrome is a medical condition that compels victims who have been repeatedly abused to batter their abusers out of self-defense. Although this defense may be used in Nevada battery domestic violence cases, it usually only comes into play in cases of domestic homicide.5
Self-inflicted injuries or false allegations
Many Nevada domestic violence cases stem from angry or vengeful spouses or dating partners trying to get the other person in trouble by falsely claiming that they were abused. Some accusers even harm themselves and then blame the accused for the wounds.
However, a thorough case investigation can often uncover when a self-proclaimed BDV victim in Nevada is lying and fabricating evidence. Furthermore, the defense may be able to get expert medical witnesses to distinguish between genuine injuries and those that were self-inflicted. North Las Vegas domestic violence lawyer Mike Castillo provides an illustration:
Example: In Reno, Britney finds out that her boyfriend Brad is cheating on her. In an effort to get him into trouble, she calls the police and lies that he beat her with a knife. Then while the police are on their way, Britney takes a knife and makes cuts on her arms and legs. The police then book Brad at the Washoe Detention Center and photograph Britney's wounds. After Brad is charged, his defense attorney hires an expert witness to study Britney's injuries. He's able to determine by the angle of the cuts that they were likely self-inflicted. This evidence causes the prosecutors the drop the charges, and now Britney faces charges for the Nevada offense of making a false police report.
Honest accidents that stem from unfortunate, unforeseeable circumstances are not criminal. As long as the prosecutor can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused deliberately used unlawful physical force, BDV charges shouldn't stand in Nevada.6 For example:
Example: George and Gina are dating and get into a heated argument. Gina tries to retreat to the bedroom, not realizing George is following her. As she tries to slam the bedroom door shut, it hits George in the face, breaking his nose.
Slamming the door on your boyfriend and breaking his nose would normally constitute felony domestic violence in Las Vegas. But in this case it was a legitimate accident. So Gina will probably not be held liable for a crime.
For more information and examples, read our article on Nevada battery domestic violence defenses.
Battery domestic violence may be either a misdemeanor in Nevada, a category C felony in Nevada, or a category B felony in Nevada. How a particular BDV case is prosecuted turns on the following factors:
- whether the defendant had a previous BDV conviction within the last seven years,
- whether the defendant strangled the victim,
- whether the defendant used a deadly weapon on the victim such as a gun or switchblade, and
- whether the victim sustained substantial bodily harm in Nevada such as a debilitating injury, burns, or disfigurement
The following table outlines all the possible penalties in Nevada battery domestic violence cases:
For more detailed information refer to our article on Nevada domestic violence penalties.
Judges are not allowed to grant probation in cases of battery constituting domestic violence in Nevada. However, judges may elect to "suspend" the jail sentence in misdemeanor BDV cases as long as the defendant participates in a drug counseling or BDV counseling.7 For instance:
Example: John is convicted of a first-time misdemeanor BDV in Las Vegas. Since John has no criminal history and seems remorseful, the judge decides to order a six-month "suspended jail sentence" on the condition that John completes twenty-six weeks of BDV counseling.
If John successfully completes all of the counseling, John won't have to go to jail. But if John fails to complete the counseling requirement, the judge can then "un-suspend" the jail sentence and make him serve the six months at the Clark County Detention Center. Note that missing even one class is sufficient for the court to reverse the suspension and impose jail.
The typical plea bargain that the Clark County District Attorney's Office offers for a first-time charge of battery domestic violence in Nevada include the following terms:
- $430 fine,
- 48 hours of community service,
- domestic violence counseling, and
- a 30-day suspended jail sentence that won't be imposed as long as the defendant stays out of trouble until the case is closed
Note that Nevada prosecutors are not allowed to dismiss or reduce BDV charges to a lesser offense unless their evidence is weak.8
People accused of battery domestic violence in Nevada are often also the subjects of restraining orders requiring them to stay away from the victim. There are two different kinds of restraining orders:
- temporary protective orders (TPOs), which may last for up to one month, and
- extended protective orders, which may last for up to one year9
Note that Nevada courts routinely grant protective orders without first hearing the suspect's side of the story. However the suspect can request a hearing later while the order is still in effect to contest it. For example,
Example: Las Vegas couple Tom and Tina are breaking up and fighting over who gets to keep the house. In an effort to get Tina out of the house, Tom seeks a restraining order on false grounds that Tina is trying to harm him. Clark County Family Court issues a temporary protective order right away but schedules a hearing the following week so Tina can tell her side of the story and dispute what Tom is claiming. If the court believes Tina, it will drop the TPO.
Also note that subjects of restraining orders may have to surrender their firearms. And if they violate the retraining order, they face misdemeanor penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail.10 Read more in our article on violating a protective order in Nevada.
Domestic violence convictions & child custody in Nevada
One vital reason defendants should hire a lawyer to fight battery domestic violence charges is to protect their parental rights: If defendants are later embroiled in a child custody dispute, Nevada courts may presume it's not in the best interest of the children for a parent with a BDV conviction to have custody.11
Many alleged "victims" in Nevada battery domestic violence cases eventually admit that they falsely accused the defendant. Or they decide for other reasons that they wish to drop the charges...
But that doesn't necessarily mean prosecutors will then dismiss the case. Often prosecutors assume that accuser's original story to the police was the truthful one. When an accuser recants her story of abuse, prosecutors tend to suspect she is doing this for ulterior motives such as:
- She "made up" with the accused and now doesn't want to see him prosecuted.
- She's afraid of testifying in court.
- The person she accused of BDV is also the family breadwinner, and the accuser needs him out of jail so he can continue supporting the family.
- She's in fear that other people (such as family members of the accused or even the accused himself) will try to hurt her if she continues to cooperate with the authorities.
Therefore, the viability of a BDV case does not hinge on the victim's willingness to speak out against the defendant. Las Vegas domestic violence attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: LVMPD responds to a domestic violence call. They find Tanya, who has redness and swelling on her shoulder. She tells officers that her husband Mark punched her, causing the injuries. Mark gets arrested and the Clark County D.A. files BDV charges.
When the case gets to court, Tanya goes to prosecutors and claims that Mark never hit her. She says she got the injuries when she accidentally fell down the stairs. She explains that she and Mark have reconciled and that she wants to drop the charges.
If the D.A. believes that Tanya was telling the truth the first time, and that she's recanting now to protect him, they may proceed with the case based on Tanya's initial statements to the police.
Furthermore, Las Vegas prosecutors may believe they have sufficient evidence to prove that domestic violence occurred, even without the accuser's cooperation and testimony. Other evidence prosecutors may use include:
- Other witnesses to the alleged abuse
- Medical records of injuries from the alleged abuse
- Statements made by the accuser near the time of the alleged incident (as long as the Rules of Evidence don't disqualify these statements).12
But in some cases where the victim recants, prosecutors do realize they don't have enough evidence to sustain a guilty verdict. In those instances they may dismiss the case or plea bargain the charges down to a much lesser offense.
Consequences for recanting "victims" in BDV cases
Prosecutors usually subpoena the alleged "victim" to testify at trial. If he/she doesn't show up, the judge may issue a bench warrant. In practice however, judges rarely issue bench warrants on no-show victims. Either the trial continues without the victim's testimony or the prosecutor drops the charges. (Read about how to quash Nevada bench warrants.)
Alternatively, if the accuser takes the witness stand and claims there wasn't any abuse, prosecutors may introduce other evidence to show there was. Such evidence may include "prior inconsistent statements" where the victim formerly said that he/she was abused.13 For example:
Example: Max goes to trial in North Las Vegas Justice Courton misdemeanor BDV charges that he smacked his sister Lea. On the witness stand, Lea cries that she falsely accused Max because she was mad at him for not paying back money she lent him. The prosecution then calls to the witness stand Lea's girlfriend, who claims that Lea told her after the incident that Max hit her when they fought over money. The judge then considers both Lea's and her friend's conflicting testimony when deliberating over the final verdict.
In the above example, the prior inconsistent statement came from a third-party who heard the victim say she was abused. Other common sources of prior inconsistent statements are 911 call recordings and victim statements to the police who responded to the scene.
If a suspect in a Nevada felony BDV case is no longer in the state, Nevada law enforcement may try to extradite him/her back into the state. It's less likely that police will devote any resources to track down suspects in misdemeanor battery domestic violence cases. But even this is possible.
Once a person is arrested in another state on Nevada BDV charges, he/she has two choices:
- Waive extradition and come back to Nevada, though it still may take several weeks for law enforcement to bring the suspect back to Nevada; or
- Fight extradition and remain out-of-state, during which time the suspect will have a court hearing to contest the extradition warrant or argue that he/she isn't the correct person being sought. Whether the suspect remains in custody pending the extradition hearing depends on that state's law.
Reno domestic violence attorney Mike Castillo provides an illustration of how extradition may operate:
Example: Xander is arrested in Los Angeles on felony BDV charges stemming from an incident in Carson City, Nevada. Since Xander lives in California, he elects to fight extradition in order to stay in his home state pending the extradition hearing. At the hearing, his attorney presents evidence that they arrested the wrong person and that Xander was never in Carson City. If the judge believes the defense, Xander will be released from the L.A. jail. If not, he'll be transferred to the Washoe County Detention Center for BDV prosecution.
Note that non-Nevada residents charged with misdemeanor domestic violence usually never have to appear in court as long as they have an attorney appearing for them. To learn more refer to our pages on help for out-of-town visitors with Nevada criminal cases and Nevada extradition law.
It's important for people with past BDV incidents to try to have their criminal records sealed as soon as possible. Nevada employers may be hesitant to hire people with a criminal history. Having a criminal record can also be stigmatizing and embarrassing.
The waiting period to get a BDV criminal record sealed depends on whether the charges were dismissed and, if not, whether the conviction was for a
misdemeanor, a category C felony, or a a category B felony:14
For more specific information, refer to our article on sealing criminal records for battery domestic violence in Nevada. For more general information, refer to our article on sealing Nevada criminal records.
If an American citizen gets convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence in Nevada, he/she may get off with no jail time. But if a foreigner gets convicted, he/she risks being deported. BDV is often called a "triple whammy" in immigration law because it can trigger removal from the United States on three grounds:
- as a deportable offense15 ,
- as an aggravated felony16 (if the BDV is charged as a felony), and
- as a crime involving moral turpitude17 (if the BDV is charged as a felony).
Non-citizens who get charged with battery domestic violence are encouraged to retain criminal defense counsel experienced in the immigration law. Their primary objective should be to try to get the charges dismissed or changed to a non-deportable offense in order to avoid removal from the United States. Read more at our information page on the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
It wasn't until the height of women's liberation that domestic violence ("DV") issues garnered widespread attention from the general public and lawmakers. The Nevada Legislature didn't address DV until almost the 1980s:
- In 1979, the Nevada Legislature passed A.B. 479, providing for temporary restraining orders in some DV situations.
- In 1981, the Nevada Legislature passed S.B. 371, creating county advisory boards on DV.
- In 1983, the Nevada Legislature passed S.B. 426, outlining new rules regarding the money allotted for DV organizations.
- In 1984, the Nevada Supreme Court chief justice ordered the courts closed for a day in order for the judges to attend DV training.18
- In 1985, the Nevada Legislature passed: S.B. 383, increasing the courts' jurisdiction to grant temporary restraining orders for the protection against DV; A.B. 652, permitting night arrests for battery on a spouse if bodily harm occurs; and A.B. 229, allowing for warrantless arrests in DV cases.
- In 1987, the Nevada legislature passed A.B. 412, giving judges greater sentencing discretion in DV cases.
- In 1989, the Nevada legislature passed: A.B. 514, increasing allocation of funds to counties for assistance of DV victims; and A.B. 69, outlining the elements a cop should consider when determining who the primary physical aggressor is in a mutual battery DV incident.
- In 1993, the Nevada legislature passed A.B. 637, permitting courts to admit evidence and expert testimony relating to domestic abuse syndrome (battered person's syndrome) under certain circumstances; and A.B. 540, creating more specific rules for the issuance of temporary restraining orders in DV cases.
- In 1995, the Nevada Legislature passed: S.B. 228, outlining more provisions relating to protective orders in DV situations; A.B. 395 creating a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interest of the child to grant child custody to a perpetrator of DV or former spouse convicted of sexual assault; and A.B. 378, broadening the scope of parties who can be charged with DV to include dating partners and requiring the court to be available 24/7 to issue temporary restraining orders.
- In 1997, the Nevada Legislature passed eight different bills regarding DV including S.B. 402, S.B. 387, S.B. 377, S.B. 155, A.B. 370, A.B. 348, A.B. 170, and A.B. 110, which collectively created or revised rules on bail, courts' authority, penalties, a missing persons repository, arrest procedures, and reimbursement of medical expenses.
- In 2005, the Nevada Legislature passed A.B. 219, creating the Nevada Council for the Prevention of DV for the purpose of preventing and eliminating domestic violence in the state.
- In 2009, the Nevada Legislature passed A.B. 164, changing BDV with strangulation from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"Domestic violence" in Nevada is a broad category of crimes of which "battery domestic violence" is only one. Some other offenses also considered domestic violence in Las Vegas are the following:19
- The Nevada crime of child abuse, neglect or endangerment occurs when someone harms or abandons a child under eighteen years old. The specific penalties hinge on whether the abuse was sexual, whether the abuse resulted in substantial harm, and if the child was under fourteen.20
- The Nevada crime of elder abuse is when someone injures, isolates or exploits people aged 60 or older. The punishment depends on whether bodily or mental harm occurred.21
- The Nevada crime of stalking is engaging in a course of conduct that would make another person to reasonably fear for his/her safety. The sentence for stalking can be minor or serious depending on the severity of the accused's behavior.22
Prosecutors may charge a BDV suspect with the Nevada crime of attempted murder if they believe the suspect intended to kill. If the victim dies, it becomes a "domestic homicide" case and the defendant would then face charges for the Nevada crime of murder.23 To learn about other domestic violence crimes in Nevada, go to our article on domestic violence crimes in Nevada.
The main way Nevada's domestic violence law differs California's is how the laws are organized. Whereas Nevada has one BDV criminal statute, California has two:
- California Penal Code 243(e)(1) pc, which criminalizes battery between relatives or roommates irrespective of whether injury occurred, and
- California Penal Code 273.5 pc, which criminalizes inflicting corporal injury on current or former spouses, dating partners or co-parents if a "traumatic condition," namely a visible injury, occurs.
- Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence (NNADV) - This statewide organization coordinates networking meetings, provides advocacy training, and educates people on DV issues.
- An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection (AARDVARC) - This site lists contact information by county of domestic violence advocates and support organizations in Nevada.
- Nevada Attorney General - This site provides a list of domestic violence shelters and programs in Nevada.
- Southern Nevada Domestic Violence Task Force (SNDVTF) - This organization is dedicated to preventing domestic violence by interdepartmental information sharing and serving as a conduit to the new media.
- UNLV Women's Center - This organization publishers a newsletter on domestic violence.
These resources should also be able to offer recommendations for anger management counseling and relationship counseling to help prevent domestic abuse.
Charged with BDV in Nevada? Call a lawyer for help...
If you've been arrested for "battery domestic violence" in Nevada, phone our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (333-3673) for a free consultation. We'll investigate the evidence and negotiate with prosecutors to have your Nevada BDV charges reduced or dismissed. And if you wish to take your case before a judge or jury, we can go to trial in pursuit of a "not guilty" verdict.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Clark County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight, Beatty, and Tonopah.
For more information see our articles on Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers, Nevada crime of murder, Nevada crime of attempted murder, Nevada crime of elder abuse, Nevada crime of stalking, Nevada crime of child abuse, neglect or endangerment, criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada, sealing Nevada criminal records, sealing criminal records for battery domestic violence in Nevada, help for out-of-town visitors with Nevada criminal cases, Nevada extradition law, how to quash Nevada bench warrants, substantial bodily harm in Nevada, Nevada definition of battery domestic violence, Nevada battery domestic violence defenses, Nevada battery domestic violence penalties, misdemeanor in Nevada, category C felony in Nevada, Nevada offense of making a false police report, Washoe Detention Center, Henderson Detention Center, Clark County Detention Center, Laughlin Jail, North Las Vegas Justice Court, category B felony in Nevada, violating a protective order in Nevada, and Nevada battery laws.
1 NRS 200.481.
2 NRS 200.485; NRS 33.018.
3 18 U.S.C. § 2261.
4Runion v. State, 116 Nev. 1041, 1046, 13 P.3d 52, 55 - 56 (2000) ("At common law, an individual had a right to defend himself against apparent danger to the same extent as if the danger had been real, provided he acted upon a reasonable apprehension of danger.").
6 NRS 200.485.
8 NRS 200.485.
10 NRS 33.017.
11 NRS 125.480.
12 Some statements made by an accuser are not admissible as evidence unless the accuser is unavailable to testify at trial and the defendant had the opportunity to cross-examine the accuser. Wikipedia article on Crawford v. Texas 541 U.S. 36 (2004).
13See NRS 51.035, NRS 51.069.
14 NRS 179.255M
15 8 USC § 1227.
16U.S. v. Jimenez, 258 F.3d 1120, 1125 -1126 (C.A.9 (2001) ("An aggravated felony, as used in the Sentencing Guidelines, is defined as a "crime of violence ... for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year." 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(F).").
17 22 CFR 40.21.
18 "Herstory of Domestic Violence: A Timeline of the Battered Women's Movement," SafeNetwork: California's Domestic Violence Resource (1999).
19 NRS 33.018.
20 NRS 200.508.
21 NRS 200.5099.
22 NRS 200.575.