Nevada "Battery on a Peace/ Police Officer" Laws (NRS 200.481)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

Nevada battery law metes out harsher punishments for battering a policeman (or other types of "officers" such as judges) than for hitting civilians.  

NRS 200.481 reads : “Battery” means any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.

But sometimes people find themselves falsely accused of "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada merely for talking back to a cop. Therefore evidence such as witnesses and surveillance video become very important to rebutting the state's accusations. 

Examples

"Battery on an officer" includes such scenarios in Nevada as:

  • kicking a police officer
  • throwing an object at a firefighter
  • spitting on a jailer
  • punching a bailiff

Penalties

The punishment for "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada depends on the severity of the situation. As long as the officer did not sustain substantial bodily harm in Nevada and was not strangled, the defendant will be charged with a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. This carries:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Meanwhile, "battery on an officer" involving major injuries or strangulation is a category B felony in Nevada, carrying:

Note that the felony sentencing range may increase to a mandatory prison sentence with a maximum of 15 years if the incident involved involved a deadly weapon.

Legal Defenses

Common ways to fight Nevada charges for "battery on a peace officer" charges include:

  • The incident did not amount to battery
  • The defendant had no intention to hit or unlawfully touch the peace officer
  • The peace officer was not on active duty at the time

In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about the Nevada crime of "battery on a peace officer" or "battery on a "police officer" or "battery on an officer." Scroll down to learn more or click on a topic below to go directly to that section.

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Many people get falsely accused of "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada.

1. What is "battery on a police officer" in Nevada?

The legal definition of "battery on an officer" in Nevada consists of three elements:

  1. The defendant commits battery on the victim;
  2. The victim is a peace officer; and
  3. The peace officer was on active duty, and the defendant knew (or should have known) this

Each of these elements is discussed below.1

1.1 Meaning of "battery" in Nevada cases of "battery on an officer"

The definition of battery in Nevada is the willful and unlawful use of force or violence on another person. Common examples include punching, pushing, burning, kicking, slapping, stabbing, throwing an object at, poisoning, biting, or pulling an object out of the victim's hand. Note that the physical touching constitutes battery only if the defendant does it intentionally.

1.2 Meaning of "peace officer" in Nevada cases of "battery on an officer"

Peace officers comprise anyone holding the following occupations:

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Hitting a police officer in Nevada carries harsher penalties than hitting a civilian.
  • police officers (also called peace officers)

  • firefighters (including volunteers)

  • correction officers, including jailers, guards and matrons

  • judicial officers, such as judges, hearing masters, commissioners, and referees

  • any state employee whose job includes making home visits

Certainly, it is a crime in Nevada to commit battery on anybody whether he/she is a peace officer or not.  But Nevada law mandates harsher penalties when the alleged victim is a peace officer. This law is intended to underscore their position of authority and to deter violence against them.

1.3 Meaning of "duty and knowledge" in Nevada cases of "battery on an officer"

The final element of the Nevada crime of battery on a peace officer is, in turn, two-fold:

  1. the battery occurs while the officer is in the course of performing his/her duty, and
  2. the person accused of the battery knew, or should have known, that the alleged victim was an officer

Therefore, the defendant's state of mind is key to determining whether "battery on a peace officer" may have occurred. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

Example: John is storming down the Strip angry over losing his job. An active-duty plain-clothes officer yells at him to slow down since the street is crowded with pedestrians. This sets off John, who punches the officer in the nose. The officer then arrests him and books him at the Clark County Detention Center for battery on a peace officer. But since John had no idea the officer was an officer...let alone on active duty...he may be convicted of battery but should not be convicted of battery on a peace officer.

If the officer in the above example was dressed in uniform and John punched him, then he likely would be prosecuted for battery on an officer in Nevada. This is because the uniform would give a reasonable person notice that the officer was an active-duty officer.

2. Defenses to "battery on a police officer" in Nevada

Every case is different and lends itself to different defense strategies. The following are just some of the possible ways that a criminal defense attorney could fight Nevada charges of "battery on a police officer."

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People should not be convicted of "battery on an officer" in Nevada if they have no idea the victim was an officer.

2.1 "No physical touching" as a defense to "battery on a peace officer" charges in Nevada

It is not battery on a peace officer to simply yell at a cop or to run away from them.  If a defense lawyer can show the prosecutor that no violence took place, then the accused may face charges for violating Nevada breach of peace law or even Nevada resisting arrest law but not battery under NRS 200.481.

2.2 "Accident or lack of intent" as a defense to "battery on a peace officer" charges in Nevada

Battery is an intent crime, so the accused cannot be found guilty of battery on a peace officer in Nevada if the state cannot prove that he/she deliberately used unlawful physical force against the cop. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration:

Example: Douglas is a bystander at a crowded political rally in Laughlin. At one point a fight breaks out, and someone knocks into Douglas who then falls onto an on-duty cop paroling the area. The cop immediately arrests Douglas and books him at the Tucker Holding Facility for battery on a peace officer. Fortunately, another bystander had the whole incident on iPhone video. Once the prosecutor saw that Douglas was at no fault for falling on the officer, he dropped the charges.

In short, purely accidental touching is not battery. Unless the prosecutor can prove that Henry should have reasonably known that being in the crowd would likely cause him to fall on the cop, he should not be liable for a crime.

2.3 "Lack of knowledge or duty" as a defense to "battery on a peace officer" charges in Nevada

"Battery against a peace officer" charges cannot stand in Nevada if the officer was not acting in the course of his duty when the incident happened or if the accused could not reasonably have known that the victim was an officer. So if the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was on active-duty and that the defendant knew that, the case should be dismissed or at least reduced to simple battery.

3. What are the penalties for "battery on a police officer" in Nevada?

The specific circumstances of a "battery on a peace officer" case in Nevada dictate the harshness of the punishments:

3.1. Punishment for "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada (no special circumstances)

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Hitting an officer can carry high fines and even jail or prison in Nevada.

The typical "battery against a peace officer" case in Nevada that has no extenuating circumstances is a gross misdemeanor. The sentence is:

  • a maximum of 364 days in jail, and/or

  • a maximum of $2,000 in fines

3.2 Punishment for "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada involving strangulation or substantial bodily harm

"Battery on a peace officer" involving strangulation or resulting in substantial bodily harm to the victim is charged as a category B felony. The sentence is:

  • two to ten years imprisonment, and/or

  • a maximum of $10,000 in fines

3.3 Punishment for "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada involving deadly weapons

"Battery on a peace officer" involving deadly weapons is a category B felony. If it resulted in no substantial bodily harm to the victim or did not involve strangulation, the sentence is:

  • two to ten years imprisonment, and

  • maybe a maximum of $10,000 in fines

If the case did result in substantial bodily harm or involved strangulation, the sentence is:

  • two to fifteen years imprisonment, and

  • maybe a maximum of $10,000 in fines

In other words, the more egregious the alleged circumstances, the harsher the punishment.2

Battery on a Peace Officer in Nevada

Penalties

Misdemeanor charge

364 days in jail, and/or

up to $2,000

Category B Felony charge involving strangulation or substantial bodily harm

2 – 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and/or

up to $10,000

Category B Felony charge involving deadly weapons with no strangulation nor substantial bodily harm

2 – 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and

maybe up to $10,000

Category B Felony charge involving deadly weapons with strangulation or substantial bodily harm

2 – 15 years in Nevada State Prison, and

maybe up to $10,000

3.4 Plea Bargains

In some cases, prosecutors may be amenable to lowering a Nevada "battery on a peace officer charge" to "simple battery." Simple battery is only a misdemeanor in Nevada carrying:

  • up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

  • up to six months in jail

The advantage of pleading to only a misdemeanor in Nevada is that you may petition to get the criminal record sealed in Las Vegas after only two (2) years from the time the case is closed.  Gross misdemeanors and felonies mandate a waiting period of five (5) years. And in cases where the prosecutor agrees to dismiss the charge or at trial where the defendant is found "not guilty," the defendant can begin the record seal process right away; no conviction equals no waiting period for record seals.

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Call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation with a Nevada criminal defense attorney today.

Arrested for "battery on a peace officer" in Nevada?  Call us now.

If you have been charged with the Nevada crime of battery on a peace officer under NRS 200.481, our Las Vegas battery on a peace officer lawyers may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to get your case reduced or even dismissed.  Call us today for a free consultation at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) so we can move forward with putting this behind you.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 200.481 Battery: Definitions; penalties.

    As used in this section:

    (a) “Battery” means any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.

    (c) “Officer” means:

    (1) A person who possesses some or all of the powers of a peace officer;

    (2) A person employed in a full-time salaried occupation of fire fighting for the benefit or safety of the public;

    (3) A member of a volunteer fire department;

    (4) A jailer, guard, matron or other correctional officer of a city or county jail or detention facility;

    (5) A justice of the Supreme Court, judge of the Court of Appeals, district judge, justice of the peace, municipal judge, magistrate, court commissioner, master or referee, including, without limitation, a person acting pro tempore in a capacity listed in this subparagraph; or

    (6) An employee of the State or a political subdivision of the State whose official duties require the employee to make home visits.

  2. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 200.485, a person convicted of a battery, other than a battery committed by an adult upon a child which constitutes child abuse, shall be punished:

    (a) If the battery is not committed with a deadly weapon, and no substantial bodily harm to the victim results, except under circumstances where a greater penalty is provided in this section or NRS 197.090, for a misdemeanor.

    (b) If the battery is not committed with a deadly weapon, and either substantial bodily harm to the victim results or the battery is committed by strangulation, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

    (c) If:

    (1) The battery is committed upon an officer, provider of health care, school employee, taxicab driver or transit operator who was performing his or her duty or upon a sports official based on the performance of his or her duties at a sporting event;

    (2) The officer, provider of health care, school employee, taxicab driver, transit operator or sports official suffers substantial bodily harm or the battery is committed by strangulation; and

    (3) The person charged knew or should have known that the victim was an officer, provider of health care, school employee, taxicab driver, transit operator or sports official,

    for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

    (d) If the battery is committed upon an officer, provider of health care, school employee, taxicab driver or transit operator who is performing his or her duty or upon a sports official based on the performance of his or her duties at a sporting event and the person charged knew or should have known that the victim was an officer, provider of health care, school employee, taxicab driver, transit operator or sports official, for a gross misdemeanor, except under circumstances where a greater penalty is provided in this section.

    (e) If the battery is committed with the use of a deadly weapon, and:

    (1) No substantial bodily harm to the victim results, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.

    (2) Substantial bodily harm to the victim results or the battery is committed by strangulation, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.

    (f) If the battery is committed by a probationer, a prisoner who is in lawful custody or confinement or a parolee, without the use of a deadly weapon, whether or not substantial bodily harm results and whether or not the battery is committed by strangulation, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years.

    (g) If the battery is committed by a probationer, a prisoner who is in lawful custody or confinement or a parolee, with the use of a deadly weapon, and:

    (1) No substantial bodily harm to the victim results, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years.

    (2) Substantial bodily harm to the victim results or the battery is committed by strangulation, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years.

  3. Id.
  4. NRS 179.245.

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