Using force or violence against anyone is a crime in Nevada. But if the alleged victim is a family member, dating partner or someone you live with, then prosecutors will probably charge you with the crime of "battery domestic violence."
Getting convicted of domestic violence is serious business. You could go to jail. You could lose your job. You could lose custody of your kids. You could get a permanent criminal record.
But our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense lawyers are here to help. We know that innocent people get arrested for battery domestic violence all the time. We can help you fight back! Call us at (702) DEF-ENSE (702-333-3673) for help.
In the sections below, we will explain everything you need to know . . . .
(Click on a topic to go directly to that section)
When people hear "battery domestic violence" (BDV), they generally think of spouses hitting each other. That's certainly part of it. But to really understand BDV from a legal standpoint in Nevada, let's break it down into its two components: 1) battery, and 2) domestic violence.
The definition of criminal battery in Nevada is the willful and unlawful use of force or violence on another person . . . An example is purposely punching someone. Therefore, Las Vegas battery law itself has two elements: 1) unlawful force on another person, and 2) intent to use the force.2
Unlawful force or violence means touching someone else's body in an aggressive (or even just an unwanted) way. Some common examples of what may constitute acts of battery in Nevada are:
Even indirect unlawful touching can violate Nevada battery law as well, such as hitting a car with a bat while someone's inside.
Furthermore, batteries don't have to result in physical injury for someone to be convicted of it in Las Vegas. As long as someone intentionally uses unlawful physical force on someone else, that person may be charged with violating Nevada battery law.
People may be convicted of battery in Nevada only if they intended to use unlawful physical force on another. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates this intent requirement with an example:
George is playing pool at a Laughlin bar. George looks behind him to make sure no one's there. Then while George is making his next shot Gina quietly walks behind him and gets struck by George's cue stick.
Even though George willfully wielded the cue stick, he reasonably believed no one was behind him. Even if Gina gets hurt, George shouldn't be charged with violating battery law in Laughlin because it was an accident.
Therefore, honest accidents don't qualify as battery because there was no intent to use unlawful force. However, some accidental situations still may result in Nevada battery charges if the touching should have been reasonably foreseeable considering the circumstances. For example:
Ethan and Eli are arguing in their Boulder City home. Ethan gets so mad he grabs a vase and hurls it against the floor. When it shatters from the impact, some of the pieces slice Eli's legs.
Even though Ethan had no intention of hurting Eli, he should have foreseen that throwing a vase on the floor with him right there could easily result in Eli getting hurt. A cop watching the incident would probably arrest Ethan for committing the crime of battery in Boulder City.
So in order to be convicted of the Nevada crime of battery, prosecutors don't have to show that you specifically intended to break the law. They instead need to prove that you intended to do the behavior-using unlawful physical force-that resulted in the unwanted touching or injury.
Now that we have a better idea of what battery is, let's apply it to domestic violence in Nevada.
In Nevada, an act of "battery" is labeled "domestic violence" when someone allegedly commits it on any of the following people in his/her life:2
So if Ethan and Eli in the above example were brothers, roommates, boyfriends or other relatives, Eli could have been charged with battery domestic violence in Nevada instead of just straight battery for smashing the vase too closely to Ethan.
And as with regular battery, you can't be convicted of battery domestic violence in Nevada unless the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to use unlawful force on the alleged victim. Honest accidents or acts of self-defense are not criminal since there's no criminal intent.
What often happens in battery domestic violence cases is that two people in a household start arguing and it allegedly becomes physical. Then the alleged victim or a witness dials 911, and cops from Las Vegas Metropolitan police or another law enforcement agency show up.
The cops ask questions and take statements from the accuser and witnesses and then photograph any injuries, which they include in a police report. The cops then make a judgment based on the circumstances as to which person was the initial aggressor.
Even when there are no injuries, cops tend to make an arrest at every battery domestic violence call. If the alleged aggressor has fled, Nevada police have 24 hours to arrest them without a warrant.3 (To learn how to possibly stay out of jail if you have a warrant, refer to our article on clearing Nevada arrest warrants.4)
If the prosecutors decide to file charges following an arrest, the typical evidence they'll use in court to try to prove guilt includes:
If the suspect has a history of domestic abuse, Nevada prosecutors may try to introduce that into evidence as well.
A person may be prosecuted for domestic violence in federal court as well, but the law is a little different: First, 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. Read more about the federal crime of interstate domestic violence.
Battery domestic violence is any intentional act of battery occurring between people in intimate, family or domestic relationships. And because these situations often do involve loved ones, BDV cases can be very emotionally trying experiences for everyone involved.
Although being charged with battery domestic violence in Las Vegas (or elsewhere in Nevada) is extremely scary, remember that merely being accused does not mean you're guilty. The state's evidence is often very weak or just plain non-existent, and many of these cases can ultimately get dismissed.
Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker has a decade and a half's worth of experience in successfully resolving battery domestic violence cases, often achieving full acquittals. Three common defenses he uses to fight Nevada BDV charges are the following:
Nevada self-defense law permits you to use physical force on another person as long as you reasonably believe it necessary to avoid being immediately injured or killed. The only condition is that you can't use more violence than necessary to protect yourself.5
Numerous charges of battery domestic violence in Las Vegas are slapped on innocent people who were merely trying to prevent themselves from being hurt when their spouse or relative started the fight. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Spouses John and Jane are arguing over money in their Mesquite kitchen. John gets angry and begins to strangle his wife. Jane reaches for a pot and clobbers him until he passes out. The Mesquite Police6 show up and book Jane at the Mesquite Jail for BDV.
In this example, John was the "initial aggressor" and Jane reasonably fended him off. So Jane's actions would be excused under Nevada self-defense law. Any medical evidence of choking marks around her neck or eyewitnesses who heard the fight would help her case as well.
Battered person's syndrome is a medical condition that causes people who've 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.7
A disturbing aspect of domestic abuse crimes in Nevada is how many of them stem from vengeful relatives trying to get each other into trouble by falsely claiming that they were abused. Some even go so far as to self-inflict wounds that they then blame a relative for causing.
On the bright side, a thorough case investigation can often uncover when a self-proclaimed battery domestic violence victim in Nevada is lying and fabricating evidence. Furthermore, expert witnesses can frequently distinguish between genuine injuries and those that were self-inflicted.
You cannot be convicted of the Las Vegas crime of battery domestic violence if you didn't intend to use lawful physical force on your significant other, relative or housemate. Mesquite criminal defense lawyer Michael Becker illustrates the accident defense with a scenario:
Chris storms out of his Henderson house following an argument with his roommate Tom. After cooling off, Chris returns and opens the front door not knowing that Tom is standing on the other side. The impact of the door smashing into Tom leaves Tom with broken ribs. Tom calls the cops, and Chris is booked at the Henderson Jail8 for breaking Henderson battery domestic violence law.
In this example, Chris hitting Tom with the door was a pure accident because Chris did not know Tom was behind it. Even though they just had an argument, Chris opening the door was completely unrelated to it. Therefore, Chris should be acquitted because any touching was unintentional.
Similarly, the accuser in the case State of NV v. Jairo G. fell down in an accident that had nothing to do with the fight she was just having with her husband. Mike Becker persuaded the prosecutor to reduce the battery domestic violence charge to "disturbing the peace," closing the case.
Many Las Vegas battery domestic violence cases stem from accidents, sometime even tragic ones. Your lawyer's job is to collect evidence to show that any injuries that the arresting cop misconstrued as intentional really resulted from just unfortunate, unforeseeable circumstances.
The most effective defenses for a particular BDV charge in Nevada depend on the facts of your situation. Your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney will present these defenses to the prosecutors to convince them that they have a losing case and that it's in everyone's best interest for the charges to be reduced or dismissed.
In this section we detail how every kind of battery domestic abuse conviction may be penalized in Nevada and what plea bargains Clark County prosecutors may agree to. Finally, we discuss restraining orders and how BDV convictions affect child custody.
If you're charged with Nevada battery domestic violence (BDV) for the first or second time within a seven (7) year period, then you face just misdemeanor penalties as long as the following are true:
But a third or higher offense within a seven (7) year period will automatically be charged as a category C felony, even if there was no strangulation, deadly weapon or injury involved.10
Any jail time may be served intermittently if the judge approves it as long as each period of incarceration spans at least four consecutive hours.
But even a first-time incident of Nevada battery domestic violence may be charged as a category C felony if the alleged abuse involved strangulation or resulted in substantial bodily harm (like broken bones). Meanwhile, BDV with a deadly weapon may be charged as a category B felony:
Judges are not allowed to grant probation in cases of battery constituting domestic violence in Nevada. However, judges may elect to suspend your jail sentence for misdemeanor BDV cases in Las Vegas as long as the following conditions are met:
The typical plea bargain that the Clark County District Attorney's Office offers for a first charge of battery constituting domestic violence in Nevada include the following terms:
If the state's evidence is weak, Clark County prosecutors may offer to reduce a battery domestic violence charge to a lesser offense in an effort to avoid trial and close the case quickly. One minor crime that a BDV charge is often pled down to in Nevada is disturbing the peace:
Nevada crime of disturbing the peace (breach the peace) | NRS 203.010
The Nevada crime of disturbing the peace makes it a misdemeanor to be willfully loud, offensive and disruptive. The penalties for breaching the peace are a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.12
A major advantage of pleading to "disturbing the peace" in Las Vegas is that you can petition the courts to have those criminal records sealed after only two years have passed, whereas Nevada battery domestic violence convictions mandate at least a seven year waiting period if not longer.
If someone accuses you of battery domestic violence in Nevada, they may also try to take out a restraining order against you mandating that you stay away from them. Clark County Family Court grant two different kinds of restraining orders:
Although Nevada family courts may initially grant protective orders without you being there in court to contest them, it is possible to fight them afterwards and to have them thrown out. Your criminal defense attorney can schedule a hearing to argue against the orders.
While a protective order is still in effect in Nevada, however, you may be requested to surrender any firearms. And you can be charged with a misdemeanor for intentionally violating a protective order...a crime that carries up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.14
Learn more in our informational article on restraining orders in Las Vegas battery domestic violence cases. And here's an example of a TPO application at Clark County Family Court.
One vital reason to retain counsel to fight battery domestic violence charges in Las Vegas is to protect your future parental rights: If you get a BDV conviction and later get divorced, a Nevada court will presume it's not in the best interest of your children for you to have custody.15
Many battery domestic violence charges in Nevada start from false allegations by the accuser. And in some of these cases, the accusers later admit they were lying and ask for the criminal charges to be dropped . . . but it's not always that easy to close a criminal case.
Logically, you'd think that the state would stop prosecuting cases where the accuser says that she fabricated the story. Sometimes they do . . . but prosecutors often assume that the abuse did in fact happen and that accusers recant for ulterior reasons, such as:
Furthermore, Las Vegas prosecutors may believe they have enough evidence to prove battery domestic violence occurred in Nevada even without the accuser's cooperation and testimony. Other evidence prosecutors may use include:
But even though prosecutors may still press battery domestic violence charges in Nevada when the accuser denies that abuse ever occurred, they still may choose not to. Prosecutors may realize they don't have enough evidence and dismiss the case, and they're sometimes more willing to plea bargain where there's no longer a "victim."
When the original accuser in a Las Vegas battery domestic violence case doesn't testify at trial, the judge may issue a bench warrant. And if an accuser claims on the stand that there wasn't abuse, prosecutors may introduce other evidence to show there was:
If accusers don't show up to testify at a battery domestic violence trial in Nevada, the judge can issue a bench warrant summoning them to court. (Read our article on how to quash Las Vegas bench warrants,18 which is usually an easy process if you have counsel to appear on your behalf.)
In practice however, Clark County judges don't typically give bench warrants for no-show witnesses in battery domestic violence cases. At that point prosecutors sometimes continue without an accuser or else drop the case altogether, as in the BDV cases helmed by Mesquite criminal defense lawyer Michael Becker:
In the misdemeanor battery domestic violence case State of NV v. Timothy F., the prosecutor asked for a dismissal after the accuser didn't show up to trial. And in the felony/strangulation BDV case State of NV v. Stuart R., the charges were similarly thrown out when the accuser didn't appear.
If an accuser testifies in a Clark County battery domestic violence case that she lied about having been abused, the prosecutor may then try to introduce evidence of other statements the accuser may have made that abuse did in fact occur, for example:
Jenny makes a 911 call and tells the operator that her boyfriend Josh is beating her in their Reno home. Washoe County police and neighbors show up and witness Jenny yelling at Josh to stop hitting her. Police arrest Josh for committing battery domestic violence in Reno.
If Jenny later testifies that Josh never hit her, prosecutors will then try to introduce her past statements that Josh did hit her as documented in the 911 call and police report. They can also examine witnesses who heard Jenny say Josh hit her.
Once prosecutors introduce these "prior inconsistent statements," it's in the hands of the judge or jury to determine which testimony is accurate and whether or not the abuse occurred.19 (Only felony BDV trials may have juries, not misdemeanor ones.20)
In short, Nevada prosecutors can still pursue battery domestic violence charges in Las Vegas after the accuser declares that no abuse happened. But a recanting "victim" does increase the chances of BDV cases getting reduced to lesser offenses or even dismissed.
What if prosecutors file Nevada domestic violence charges against me, but I'm out of the state now?
In felony cases, Nevada law enforcement will try to extradite you back into the state. If the charge is for only misdemeanor BDV in Las Vegas, then it's less likely police will devote any resources to haul you back here . . . though it's still possible.
If your charge is for a Nevada misdemeanor offense, local counsel should be able to appear in court for you without you present. Refer to our page on help for out-of-town visitors with Las Vegas criminal cases to learn more.21
If you have a conviction of battery constituting domestic violence in Las Vegas, it's important to try to have the criminal record sealed as soon as possible. Nevada employers may be hesitant to hire people with BDV convictions, and they're also socially stigmatizing and embarrassing.
Exactly how long you have to wait before you may petition the Nevada court to seal your criminal records of battery domestic violence depends on whether charges were brought as a misdemeanor or felony:
But if your BDV charges are ultimately dismissed and there's no conviction, then sealing Nevada criminal records should be able to be done right away in Las Vegas.22
In 2008, a Nevada congressmen called for a "Domestic Violence Registry" like the Nevada Sex Offender Registry and Nevada Central Registry so anyone may search for the address of people convicted of BDV in Nevada.23 But it's never happened and probably won't anytime soon.
If an American citizen gets convicted of misdemeanor battery domestic violence (BDV) in Las Vegas, he/she can theoretically 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:
Non-citizens who've been charged with domestic violence are encouraged to retain counsel experienced in the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada. 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 U.S.
Read more at our information page on the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
Although battery domestic violence is nothing new, it wasn't until the 1970s during the height of women's liberation that it garnered widespread national attention from the general public and lawmakers. The Nevada Legislature specifically addressed BDV starting in 1979:
"Domestic abuse" in Nevada is a broad, general category of crimes of which "battery domestic violence" (BDV) is only one. Also considered domestic violence in Las Vegas are the offenses of "child abuse, neglect or endangerment" and "elder abuse."26
Nevada domestic violence law incorporates the lesser-included offenses of battery and assault. If a familial relationship is uncertain in an abuse case, prosecutors may file battery or assault charges instead. Finally, serious BDV cases may even be treated as attempted murder.
Below are brief descriptions of these domestic violence-related Nevada crimes. Click on the links to read more in-depth information about each of them including their definitions, defenses, penalties, and how possibly to fight charges of them in Las Vegas.
Nevada crime of child abuse, neglect or endangerment | NRS 200.508
The Nevada crime of child abuse, neglect or endangerment makes it a gross misdemeanor or felony to harm or abandon a child under eighteen years old. The specific penalties hinge on whether the abuse was sexual, resulted in substantial harm, and if the child was under fourteen.27
Nevada crime of elder abuse | NRS 200.5099
The Nevada crime of elder abuse outlaws the injuring, isolation or exploitation of people aged 60 or older. It's punished more seriously than typical BDV cases, and whether it's charged as a gross misdemeanor or felony turns on the type of abuse alleged and if bodily/mental harm occurred.28
Nevada crime of battery | NRS 200.481
Prosecutors bring battery charges if the people allegedly involved in the incident aren't in a domestic relationship. The Nevada crime of battery may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether substantial bodily harm occurred or if a deadly weapon was used.29
Nevada crime of assault | NRS 200.471
The Nevada crime of assault is attempted battery where the victim is in apprehension of being touched or hurt. Similar to battery, assault charges are not limited to domestic conflicts, and whether it's treated as a felony or misdemeanor depends on if deadly weapons were involved.30
Nevada crime of murder | NRS 200.010
"Domestic homicides" refer to alleged battery domestic violence incidents that result in death.31 Sometimes prosecutors will charge a BDV suspect with attempting to commit the Nevada crime of murder if the injuries are particularly bad or if they believe they can show an intent to kill.32
Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence (NNADV) - A statewide organization that among other things coordinates networking meetings, provides advocacy training, and educates on DV issues.
An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection (AARDVARC) - Lists contact information by county of Nevada domestic violence advocates and support organizations.
Nevada Attorney General - Provides a list of Nevada domestic violence shelters and programs.
Southern Nevada Domestic Violence Task Force (SNDVTF) - An organization dedicated to preventing domestic violence by interdepartmental information sharing and serving as a conduit to the new media.
UNLV Women's Center - 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.
Both California and Nevada make it a crime to use unlawful physical force on a family member, cohabitant or dating partner. They also allow for battery DV charges to be brought as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the suspect's criminal history and the extent of injuries.
But one way Nevada battery domestic violence crime differs from that of California is how the laws are organized. Whereas Nevada has one main criminal statute on BDV, California divides the law into two separate statutes:
The states also have different penalty schemes: The maximum sentence for battery domestic violence in California under PC 243(e)(1) is a year in jail and a $2,000 fine,35 which is twice that of a first conviction for misdemeanor BDV in Nevada.
Whatever your situation is, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers will 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 for you as well.
Phone us at (702) DEF-ENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation about your Las Vegas Battery DV case. Our Clark County criminal defense lawyers can also help with sealing records, Nevada DUI,36 all misdemeanor and felonies, and guiding you through CCDC bail procedures.37
1NRS 200.481 Battery: Definitions; penalties.
2NRS 33.018 Acts which constitute domestic violence.
3NRS 171.137 Arrest required for suspected battery constituting domestic violence; exceptions.
4Clearing Nevada arrest warrants tends to be harder than quashing bench warrants. Before clearing an arrest warrant, judges often require suspects be briefly booked or to post bail before being released on their own recognizance.
5Runion 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.").
6The Mesquite Jail, also called the Mesquite Detention Center, is located at 500 Hillside Dr., Mesquite, NV 89027, and it's reachable at (702) 346-6925.
8The Henderson Jail, also called the Henderson Detention Center, is located at 243 Water Street, Henderson, NV 89015, and it's reachable at (702) 267-5245.
9NRS 200.485 Battery which constitutes domestic violence: Penalties; referring child for counseling; restriction against dismissal, probation and suspension; definitions. [Effective July 1, 2009.]
11NRS 4.373 Suspension of sentence; conditions of suspension; reduction of sentence; arrest for violation of condition of suspension.
NRS 5.055 Suspension of sentence; conditions of suspension; reduction of sentence; arrest for violation of condition of suspension.
12NRS 203.010 Breach of peace. Every person who shall maliciously and willfully disturb the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person or family by loud or unusual noises, or by tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
14NRS 33.017 Definitions. As used in NRS 33.017 to 33.100, inclusive, unless the context otherwise requires:
15NRS 125.480 Best interests of child; preferences; presumptions when court determines parent or person seeking custody is perpetrator of domestic violence or has committed act of abduction against child or any other child.
16The Clark County Detention Center is the biggest jail in Clark County. Citizens charged with felonies in Las Vegas and who couldn't bond out are often housed there up through their trials.
17Some 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).
18How to quash Las Vegas bench warrants is a simple procedure in most cases, and usually an attorney can appear in court on your behalf without you having to be present.
19NRS 51.035 "Hearsay" defined.
NRS 51.069 Credibility of declarant.
20Duncan v. State of Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968) ("Crimes carrying possible penalties up to six months do not require a jury trial if they otherwise qualify as petty offenses . . . .").
21Also read our article on Nevada extradition law to learn how to protect your rights under Nevada extradition law.
22NRS 179.255 Sealing records after dismissal or acquittal: Petition; notice; hearing; order.
23"Domestic Violence Registry Proposed," by Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal (Jul. 27, 2008).
24U.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).").
25"Herstory of Domestic Violence: A Timeline of the Battered Women's Movement," SafeNetwork: California's Domestic Violence Resource (1999).
26To learn about other domestic violence crimes in Nevada like child or elder abuse, go to our site on domestic violence crimes in Nevada.
27NRS 200.508 Abuse, neglect or endangerment of child: Penalties; definitions.
28NRS 200.5099 Penalties [for elder abuse].
29NRS 200.481 Battery: Definitions; penalties.
30NRS 200.471 Assault: Definitions; penalties.
31Antonio Planas, DEADLY RELATIONSHIPS: Domestic homicides on rise, Las Vegas Review-Journal (December 22, 2008).
32NRS 200.010 "Murder" defined.
33California Penal Code 243(e)(1) pc - [Domestic] battery; punishment.
34California Penal Code 273.5 PC -- Domestic violence.
35California Penal Code 243 pc - [Domestic] battery; punishment.
36Go to our article on Nevada DUI laws.
37Go to our article on CCDC bail procedures to learn more about bail in Nevada.
If you or a loved one faces misdemeanor or felony charges, contact our Las Vegas NV criminal defense attorneys at (702) DEFENSE. We'd be glad to meet with you for a free consultation. We practice throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, Carson City, Boulder City, Mesquite and Laughlin.
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Great staff, straight shooters and trustworthy! From my first meeting with Nancy who made me feel at ease, to Michael Becker's knowledge and experience all the way through court with Michael Castillo, I felt I was in the best hands Vegas has to offer!
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I am forever in debt with gratitude with my Lawyer and the Criminal Defense Group because they helped during the time when I almost gave up hope but everything happens for a reason and my case turned out just the way he told me the first day I talk to my Lawyer. I just wish that all the people that will and had made some bad decisions in their life will be able to find the means to hire/use the services of Michael Becker or the Group where he belongs. God bless you sir and keep doing what your doing and I will see you again when I will have my case sealed.
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