Nevada Laws for Brandishing (NRS 202.320):
"Drawing a Deadly Weapon in a Threatening Manner"
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Drawing a knife, firearm, or other deadly weapon in a rude, threatening or angry manner is illegal in Nevada.1 This is also sometime referred to as “brandishing” a weapon. Maximum penalties are $1,000 in fines and 6 months in jail.2 But a skilled lawyer may be able negotiate the charge down to a dismissal.  Scroll down to learn the law.

Brandishing a deadly weapon in a rude or angry manner is a crime in Nevada.

Definition of drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner

Drawing or brandishing a weapon is a crime in Nevada if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The weapon is a deadly weapon, such as dirks, dirk-knifes, swords, sword canes, pistols, or guns;
    AND
  • The drawing or brandishing of the weapon occurs in the presence of at least two (2) other people;
    AND
  • The weapon is drawn, brandished, or exhibited in a rude, angry, or threatening manner.3

It is irrelevant whether the defendant owns the weapon, carries it, or takes it from another person.

An element of NRS 202.320 is that at least two people be present at the time of the threatening drawing of the weapon.

Exceptions:

NRS 202.320 applies differently to the following law enforcement members:

  • Sheriffs
  • Deputy sheriffs
  • Marshals
  • Constables
  • Other peace officers include cops4

These officers may draw deadly weapons threateningly as long as it takes place on the job for the job.5North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Mike Becker explains with an illustration:

Tom is a cop with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.  While patrolling the streets, he discovers gang members congregating for a rumble.  Tom yells at them to break it up, but they ignore him.  Tom then takes out his gun and waves it around while repeating his demands to leave.  Here, Tom is breaking no law by waving his gun.  This is because he is acting in the lawful discharge of his duties in an effort to induce the gang members to disperse.

Peace officers may be exempted from prosecution for drawing guns, knives, or other deadly weapons in a threatening way.

Differences from Assault with a Deadly Weapon:

The Nevada crime of assault with a deadly weapon is a more serious offense than threateningly drawing a deadly weapon.6 The following are the main distinctions between the two crimes:

  • Immediate bodily harm.  An assault is intentionally putting someone in “apprehension of immediate bodily harm.”7 An example is brandishing a sword at someone's body or pointing a gun at someone's head.  Meanwhile, a person may be convicted of brandishing a deadly weapon in a rude manner even though no one else there fears for his/her safety.8
  • Use of the weapon.  Merely having a deadly weapon within reach during an assault qualifies as assault with a deadly weapon even if the assaulter never touches the weapon.9 An example is a person throwing a punch at someone while he has a gun on his belt.  But a 202.320 charge can stand only if the defendant draws or brandishes the weapon.10
  • Type of weapon.  A person may be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for using a weapon that is not by nature deadly, such a brick or pipe.  The Nevada Supreme Court held that an unloaded pistol can be deadly as a bludgeoning object.11 In contrast, a conviction for NRS 202.320 stands only if the weapon is in itself deadly, such as a knife or gun.12
  • Number of people present.  A person may be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon even if the victim is the only person present.13 Whereas drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening way is not a crime unless there are at least two people present.14
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Assaulting someone with a deadly weapon is a felony in Nevada.

Note that a person may not be convicted of both “assault with a deadly weapon” and “threateningly drawing a deadly weapon” for the same incident. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

Sam and Jack are neighbors in Henderson. One night Sam invites several friends over for a party.  Jack is upset by the noise level and goes to Sam's to complain.  No one is listening to him, so he grabs the sword Sam has displayed over the fireplace and waves it in Sam's face to get his attention.  Someone calls the police, who then arrest Jack and book him at Henderson Detention Center.

Technically, Jack brandished the sword in a rude, angry, and threatening way in front of more than one person.  However Jack also committed assault with a deadly weapon on Sam, which is a harsher crime.  Since NRS 202.320 is a “lesser include offense” of assault with a deadly weapon,15 Jack may be convicted only of assault with a deadly weapon.

Defenses against drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner

Which defenses work best in a criminal case always hinge on the specific facts and circumstances.  The following are possible defenses to fight Nevada charges of drawing a deadly weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner:

  • Self-defense. Self-defense law in Nevada permits people to fight back if they reasonably believe they or someone else faces immediate bodily harm or death.16 If a defense attorney can show that the defendant drew a deadly weapon in a threatening way in a reasonable attempt to protect him/herself, the criminal charges should be dropped.

Self-defense is a defense to NRS 202.320.

  • Less than two people present.  Threateningly drawing a deadly weapon is not a crime unless there are at least two people present.17 It does not count if the people were just in the next room or next door.  A defense attorney would do a thorough investigation of witnesses to determine who was there.  As long as the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that more than one other person was present, the case should be dismissed.
  • False allegations.  Sometimes people wrongly accuse others out of anger, revenge, or a simple misunderstanding.  Often a defense attorney can reveal whether someone was lying or misinformed during cross-examination.  If the court finds that the defendant may have been falsely accused, he/she should be acquitted of drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner.
Penalties for drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner

Violating NRS 202.320 carries up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Drawing a knife, gun, or other deadly weapon in a threatening manner is only a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes:

  • Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • Up to $1,000 in fines18

Assault with a deadly weapon:

Assault with a deadly weapon is a category B felony in Nevada. This harsh classification is due to there being victim(s) in apprehension of imminent bodily harm.  The sentence is:

Arrested for drawing a weapon in a threatening way in Nevada? Call an attorney for help…

Call us at 702-DEFENSE

Accused of “drawing or brandishing a knife, firearm, or other deadly weapon in a threatening manner” in Nevada?  Call our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone meeting. We might be able to get the charges dismissed so your record stays clean.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Clark County, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

To learn about Penal Code 417 PC | California crime of brandishing a weapon, go to our informational article about the Penal Code 417 PC | California crime of brandishing a weapon.

Legal References

1 NRS 202.320 (“1. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 202.287, a person having, carrying or procuring from another person any dirk, dirk-knife, sword, sword cane, pistol, gun or other deadly weapon, who, in the presence of two or more persons, draws or exhibits any of such deadly weapons in a rude, angry or threatening manner not in necessary self-defense, or who in any manner unlawfully uses that weapon in any fight or quarrel, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

2. A sheriff, deputy sheriff, marshal, constable or other peace officer shall not be held to answer, under the provisions of subsection 1, for drawing or exhibiting any of the weapons mentioned therein while in the lawful discharge of his or her duties.”)

2Id.

3 NRS 392.466(7)(b).

4 NRS 202.320(2).

5Id.

6 NRS 200.471.

7 NRS 200.471(1)(a).

8 NRS 202.320.

9 NRS 200.471(2)(a).

10 NRS 202.320.

11Loretta v. Sheriff, 565 P.2d 1008, 1009, 93 Nev. 344, 345 (1977).

12 NRS 202.320.

13 NRS 200.471.

14 NRS 202.320.

15Crandal v. State, 281 P.3d 1165 (2009), WL 1456476.

16See NRS 200.200.

17 NRS 202.320.

18 NRS 202.320.

19 NRS 200.471(2).

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