Nevada "Assault with Deadly Weapon" Laws
NRS 200.471(2)(b)

Definition

Nevada law defines "assault with a deadly weapon" as using a gun, knife, or other lethal objects to place a person in reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm. Common scenarios include:

  • brandishing a knife at someone's face,
  • pointing a gun at someone,
  • holding a fist up at someone's face while carrying a pistol, or
  • throwing a lead pipe or other heavy object in someone's direction

Penalties

Violating NRS 200.471(2)(b) is a category B felony in Nevada carrying:

But it may be possible to plea bargain the charge down to a full dismissal or simple battery, which is only a misdemeanor.

Defenses

It may be possible to fight Las Vegas NRS 200.471(2)(b) charges by claiming one or more of the following defenses:

  • The defendant had no criminal intent;
  • The defendant did not cause reasonable apprehension of being harmed;
  • The defendant acted in accordance with Nevada self-defense law;
  • The accuser consented to the assault; and/or
  • No lethal weapon was involved

As long as the D.A. lacks sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dismissed.

In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers discuss:

assault with a deadly weapon in Nevada
"Assault with a lethal weapon" is a felony in Nevada.

1. What is "Assault with a Deadly Weapon" in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The Nevada offense of violating NRS 200.471(2)(b) has two components:

  1. assault, and
  2. lethal weapon.1

1.1 Definition of "Assault"

The Nevada crime of assault comprises either:

  • Unlawfully attempting to use physical force against another person; or
  • Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.

The crime of assault does not require actual physical touching. If there is touching, it would then be the Nevada crime of battery. Instead, assault is like attempted battery where the suspect intentionally acts in a way that causes the alleged victim reasonable apprehension of being unlawfully touched in the immediate future.

A common example of assault includes deliberately holding up a fist to someone in a way that would make the person think he/she is about to be punched. Even using fighting words like, "I am gonna break your arm right now" may qualify as assault under certain circumstances.2

1.2 Definition of "Deadly Weapon"

Like it sounds, deadly weapons comprise the following kinds of devices:

  • Any instrument which is likely to cause substantial bodily harm if used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and construction, or
  • Any material which is capable of causing substantial bodily harm under the circumstances in which it is used or threatened to be used

Therefore, lethal weapons comprise not just guns or knives. They also may include normally innocuous objects like pipes, scissors, or bricks that could be used in a deadly way.3

1.3 Definition of "Assault with a Deadly Weapon"

An NRS 200.471(2)(b) violation occurs when a person commits an assault either:

  1. by using a lethal weapon, or
  2. with the present ability to use a lethal weapon4

Therefore, "assault with a deadly weapon" includes situations where a defendant does not necessarily use or brandish the weapon. Simply having the weapon on his/her person or within reach during the assault would qualify as assault with a fatal weapon. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:

Example: Butch suspects Greg is fooling around with his girlfriend. Butch finds Greg in the Hard Rock Hotel and holds his fist up next to his face. Butch is also carrying a hunting knife on his belt. A security guard witnesses this encounter and calls the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, who then arrest Butch and book him at the Clark County Detention Center. Butch faces NRS 200.471(2)(b) charges because he put Greg in reasonable anticipation of being battered by holding up his fist and having a knife within reach.

Other typical scenarios amounting to an NRS 200.471(2)(b) violation in Nevada include pulling a gun or knife on another person. In a bar fight context, hurling a beer bottle at someone else might qualify as well. Throwing a punch usually will not be considered an NRS 200.471(2)(b) violation unless the accused is a professional boxer or wearing "brass knuckles."

2. What are defenses to "assault with deadly weapon" charges in Nevada?

Depending on the case, there may be various effective strategies a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney could use that could raise a reasonable doubt and preclude a guilty verdict. Typical defenses include:

  1. The defendant had no criminal intent
  2. The accuser had no reasonable apprehension
  3. The defendant acted in lawful self-defense
  4. The accuser consented to the assault
  5. The defendant had no deadly weapon

Note that it is not a defense if no one was hurt or physically touched.

2.1 The defendant had no criminal intent

Assault is an intent crime in Nevada.5 This means a defendant can be convicted only if he/she intended to act in a way that caused someone else to feel reasonable apprehension of being battered.

Example: Jack is openly carrying a dirk on his belt. While walking down the street, he trips and falls, causing his knife to detach and fly towards another pedestrian. The pedestrian feared that the knife would strike him. But since Jack had no intention to put the pedestrian in apprehension of immediate bodily harm, Jack is not criminally liable for assault with a fatal weapon.

Accidents do not count as assaults. As long as the state's evidence fails to demonstrate that the defendant had intent, then the case should be dismissed.

2.2 The accuser lacked reasonable apprehension of being hurt

Assault by definition is intentionally acting in such a way that puts someone else in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.6 So if the criminal defense attorney can show that the alleged victim's fear was unreasonable or that the bodily harm threatened was not immediate, then the case should be thrown out. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration:

Example: Kyle is openly carrying a pistol on his belt when he walks into a Mesquite 7-11 to buy a snack. Another patron sees the pistol and shrieks, fearful that Kyle is about to shoot her. The police come and book Kyle at the Mesquite Jail. However, prosecutors decline to press charges because they believe the patron's fear of being hurt was unreasonable.

In the above example, Kyle was allowed to openly carry the pistol at the 7-11, and nothing he did was suspicious. So even though the patron may have genuinely been scared upon seeing the gun, Kyle committed no crime.

2.3 The defendant acted in self-defense

Nevada self-defense laws permit a person to defend him/herself against immediate bodily harm as long as he/she does not fight back with any more force than necessary.7

Example: Harry sees Greg on the street, who owes him money. Harry calls to Greg, holds up his fist and threatens to "beat in his face" if Greg does not pay him back. In response, Greg produces his pocketknife and holds it up. In this situation, Greg displaying the pocketknife is an act of lawful self-defense in response to Harry's threat to punch him.

Since Harry in the above example started the fight by assaulting Greg with his fist, Greg was justified to protect himself by holding up his weapon. The fact that Greg merely displayed the knife and did not try to use it demonstrates that Greg was acting in a measured way and did not use more force than necessary to deflect Harry's threat. 

2.4 The accuser consented

This consent defense usually comes into play in the arena of sports such as boxing or fencing where physical contact is part of the game. If the criminal defense attorney can show that the accuser somehow consented to be assaulted, then the assault charges will not stand.

Note that Nevada law prohibits duels.8

2.5 The defendant did not use or have a lethal weapon

If the prosecution cannot show that a lethal weapon was used or was available to be used, the NRS 200.471(2)(b) charge should be dismissed or reduced to simple assault (which is only a misdemeanor).

Example: Lisa and Julia get into a verbal argument. At one point, Lisa screams, "I am gonna to kill you!" Julia notices a bulge in Lisa's pocket, which Julia presumes is a pistol. Julia calls the police and claims that Lisa committed assault with a deadly weapon on her. But when police arrive and realize that the only objects in Lisa's pocket were her keys and phone, the police decline to arrest her for anything.

Note that had Lisa in the above example held up her fist or attempted to throw a punch, she could be liable for simple assault.9

3. What are the penalties for "assault with a deadly weapon" in Nevada?

Violating NRS 200.471(2)(b) is a category B felony in Nevada carrying

  • One to six years (1 - 6) in prison, and/or
  • up to $5,000 in fines

This penalty remains the same whether or not the assault was against a "protected class" such as police officers. Nor does it matter whether the defendant was a prisoner or someone currently on parole or probation in Nevada.10

3.1 Plea bargains for "assault with a lethal weapon" in Nevada

Depending on the case, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutors to reduce a Nevada NRS 200.471(2)(b) charge down to:

All of these offenses are only misdemeanors. The standard sentence includes:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines (or equivalent community service time)14

4. Can I get my Nevada conviction for assault with a deadly weapon sealed?

A Nevada conviction for violating NRS 200.471(2)(b) may be sealed five (5) years after the case ends. But if the case gets reduced or dismissed, then the waiting period decreases significantly:

Nevada Assault Conviction Waiting period to get a record seal

Assault with a deadly weapon (category B felony)

5 years after the case ends

Simple assault (misdemeanor)

1 year after the case ends15

Dismissed charges (no conviction)

Immediately16

Learn more about how to get a record seal in Nevada.

5. Can I get deported for assault with a deadly weapon?

Yes. Any gun-related conviction carries the risk of deportation for non-citizens.17

Immigrants who are charged with a crime in Nevada should retain an attorney right away. The D.A. may be willing to negotiate the charges down to a non-deportable offense or dismiss them completely. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

6. Related offenses

10.1. Nevada laws for using a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime (NRS 193.165)

When a defendant uses or carries a lethal weapon while executing a crime, the court will increase the sentence by one to twenty (1 - 20) years. But this added sentence may not exceed the sentence for the underlying crime...

So for example, if a defendant is sentenced to 7 years in prison for armed robbery, the additional sentence can be no more than 7 years for a total sentence of 14 years.

Learn more about increased penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a crime in Nevada.18

10.2. Nevada laws for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm (NRS 202.360)

It is against Nevada law for people who have been convicted of felonies to possess guns. Being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm in Nevada is a category B felony, carrying:

  • 1 to 6 years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)19

10.3. Nevada laws for brandishing a firearm (NRS 202.320)

It is a misdemeanor to draw or wave a gun in a threatening or provocative manner. Brandishing a firearm carries:

  • up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
  • up to 6 months in jail20

Call us if you have been arrested . . .

If you have been charged with assault or any other crime in Nevada, then call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) today for a free phone meeting. We will do everything possible to try to get your case reduced to lesser charges or dismissed so your criminal record stays clean.

Arrested in California? Go to our information page on California assault with a deadly weapon.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our information page on Colorado Assault and Menacing crimes.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 200.471 Assault: Definitions; penalties.

          1. As used in this section:

          (a) “Assault” means:

                 (1) Unlawfully attempting to use physical force against another person; or

                 (2) Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.

          (b) “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 or other correctional officer of a city or county jail;

                 (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 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.

          (c) “Provider of health care” means a physician, a medical student, a perfusionist or a physician assistant licensed pursuant to chapter 630 of NRS, a practitioner of respiratory care, a homeopathic physician, an advanced practitioner of homeopathy, a homeopathic assistant, an osteopathic physician, a physician assistant licensed pursuant to chapter 633 of NRS, a podiatric physician, a podiatry hygienist, a physical therapist, a medical laboratory technician, an optometrist, a chiropractor, a chiropractor's assistant, a doctor of Oriental medicine, a nurse, a student nurse, a certified nursing assistant, a nursing assistant trainee, a medication aide - certified, a dentist, a dental student, a dental hygienist, a dental hygienist student, a pharmacist, a pharmacy student, an intern pharmacist, an attendant on an ambulance or air ambulance, a psychologist, a social worker, a marriage and family therapist, a marriage and family therapist intern, a clinical professional counselor, a clinical professional counselor intern, a licensed dietitian, an emergency medical technician, an advanced emergency medical technician and a paramedic.

          (d) “School employee” means a licensed or unlicensed person employed by a board of trustees of a school district pursuant to NRS 391.100 or 391.281.

          (e) “Sporting event” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 41.630.

          (f) “Sports official” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 41.630.

          (g) “Taxicab” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 706.8816.

          (h) “Taxicab driver” means a person who operates a taxicab.

          (i) “Transit operator” means a person who operates a bus or other vehicle as part of a public mass transportation system.

          2. A person convicted of an assault shall be punished:

          (a) If paragraph (c) or (d) does not apply to the circumstances of the crime and the assault is not made with the use of a deadly weapon or the present ability to use a deadly weapon, for a misdemeanor.

          (b) If the assault is made with the use of a deadly weapon or the present ability to use a deadly weapon, 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, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

          (c) If paragraph (d) does not apply to the circumstances of the crime and if the assault is committed upon an officer, a provider of health care, a school employee, a taxicab driver or a 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, a provider of health care, a school employee, a taxicab driver, a transit operator or a sports official, for a gross misdemeanor, unless the assault is made with the use of a deadly weapon or the present ability to use a deadly weapon, then 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, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

          (d) If the assault is committed upon an officer, a provider of health care, a school employee, a taxicab driver or a 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 by a probationer, a prisoner who is in lawful custody or confinement or a parolee, and the probationer, prisoner or parolee charged knew or should have known that the victim was an officer, a provider of health care, a school employee, a taxicab driver, a transit operator or a sports official, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130, unless the assault is made with the use of a deadly weapon or the present ability to use a deadly weapon, then 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, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

  2. Id.; Wilkerson v. State, 87 Nev. 123, 482 P.2d 314 (1971)("In Nevada assault is an unlawful attempt coupled with present ability to commit a violent injury on the person of another. NRS 200.470. Mere menace is not enough. There must be an effort to carry the intention into execution."); Anstedt v. State, 89 Nev. 163, 509 P.2d 968 (1973)("In this case, evidence showed that appellant raised a knife and, voicing an aggressive utterance, moved within one and one-half feet of the alleged victim, whereupon defendant's friends intervened and pushed him away. In our view, this evidence justified the jury in determining that appellant had proceeded beyond mere menace, and had engaged in an actual effort to inflict bodily harm.").
  3. NRS 193.165; Loretta v. Sheriff, Clark County, 93 Nev. 344, 565 P.2d 1008 (1979)("An unloaded pistol may, under certain circumstances...be used as a deadly weapon; e.g., if the assailant uses or attempts to use a pistol as a bludgeon, proof that it was loaded would not be required to support a charge of assault with a deadly weapon; rather, whether or not the weapon is deadly would, under these circumstances, be a question to be determined by the trier of fact."); State v. Napper, 6 Nev. 113 (1870)("So the weapon is presumed to be deadly, because defendant attempted to use it as if it was, and the intention and ability are both presumed from the attempt; thus raising an inference upon an inference. There must be some primary proven fact to support any legitimate inference.").
  4. NRS 200.471.
  5. Id.
  6. Id.
  7. See NRS 200.200.
  8. NRS 200.450.
  9. State v. Davis,14 Nev. 407 (1879)("The law is well settled that when it is practicable for the court to declare whether a particular weapon is deadly or not, the question "is one of law for the court, and not of fact for the jury" (1 Bish. Cr. L., sec. 335, 3d ed.), but in all cases where the character of the weapon in this respect is doubtful, or where the question depends upon the particular manner in which it was used, the question should be submitted to the jury."); Holland v. State, 82 Nev. 19, 414 P.2d 590 (1966)("Therefore, we hold that aiming or discharging a firearm is not a lesser included offense of assault with a deadly weapon.").
  10. NRS 200.471.
  11. Id.
  12. NRS 200.481.
  13. NRS 207.200.
  14. NRS 193.150.
  15. NRS 179.245.
  16. NRS 179.255.
  17. 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(C), INA § 237(a)(2)(C); Camacho-Cruz v. Holder, 621 F.3d 941 (2010)("Petitioner alien's conviction for assault with a deadly weapon under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.471 was categorically a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C.S. § 16 because the Nevada statute required that a defendant, by using a deadly weapon, intentionally create in another person a reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm. Whether the alien actually intended to harm the victim or whether any harm did, in fact, the result was irrelevant... Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.471 constituted a crime of violence prohibiting cancellation of removal pursuant to 8 U.S.C.S. § 1229b(b)(1) because the statute required that a defendant, by using a deadly weapon, intentionally create in another person a reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm."); however, note that the U.S. Supreme Court in Sessions v. Dimaya, No. 15–1498 (2018) invalidated the law that required mandatory deportation for "crimes of violence."
  18. NRS 193.165.
  19. NRS 202.360.
  20. NRS 202.320.

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