The Vegas Massacre on October 1 was another reminder of the vital importance that first responders play in our community. That same day a new Nevada law--Senate Bill 541--went into effect that punishes defendants convicted of harming first responders because of the fact that the victim is a first responder with an extra penalty of one to twenty years in prison. (2019 UPDATE: This extra penalty now applies to spouses or children of first responders. Assembly Bill 102) Specifically, the judge may impose this additional sentence when the defendant is convicted of any of the following crimes against a peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical provider acting in the normal course of duty:
- sexual assault
- battery with intent to commit a crime
- false imprisonment
- felony assault
- felony battery
- felony theft
- grand larceny
- grand larceny of a firearm
- larceny from a person and/or
- killing or maiming another person's animal
Note that this added sentence must run consecutively--not concurrently--with the underlying sentence. Also note that this added sentence may not be longer than the sentence imposed for the underlying crime. For instance if a person is sentenced to five years for felony battery, the judge may impose an additional sentence of no more than five years if the victim was an EMT--amounting to a maximum of ten years total behind bars.
In determining the length of any additional penalty imposed for harming or stealing from a first responder, the Nevada court shall consider the following information:
- The facts and circumstances of the crime;
- The criminal history of the defendant;
- The impact of the crime on any victim;
- Any mitigating factors presented by the defendant; and
- Any other relevant information.
SB 541 does not create a separate offense but rather provides an additional penalty for the primary offense, whose imposition is contingent upon the finding of the prescribed fact. Therefore if the defendant gets acquitted of harming or stealing from a first responder or the charges get dropped, then the judge may not impose the additional one to twenty-year penalty.
Remember that SB 541 applies only when the defendant harmed the first responder because he/she was the first responder. If a person steals from someone who happens to be a first responder, the thief would not get an added penalty because the thief's reason for stealing had nothing to do with the victim being a first responder.