Definition of "Battery Domestic Violence" in Nevada Law

"Battery domestic violence" (abbreviated "BDV") occurs when someone uses unlawful physical force against his/her relative or current or former spouse or dating partner. However, any bodily contact that is accidental or otherwise unintentional is not criminal under Nevada domestic violence law.

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers explain the legal definition of the Nevada crime of battery domestic violence. Keep reading to learn about what qualifies as BDV and how it differs from the more general Nevada offense of battery.

The Elements of BDV

The crime of battery domestic violence -- which may be called "domestic abuse" or "domestic violence" under Nevada law -- has three main components:

  1. Using unlawful physical force on another person,
  2. The physical force is intentional, and
  3. The physical force occurs between people in an intimate, family, or domestic relationship.1

Each of these elements of Nevada BDV law is discussed in detail below.

1) Unlawful physical force

Like it sounds, unlawful physical force is touching another person's body in an aggressive or unwanted manner. Common examples include:

  • Hitting
  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Crushing
  • Pinching
  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Choking
  • Biting
  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Poisoning
  • Spitting
  • Tugging a person's clothes
  • Any other uninvited touching, such as spilling a drink on a person
  • Indirect touching (such as hitting an occupied car with a bat)
  • Domestic violence by stragulation

Note that physical force does not have to result in injury for it to qualify as the Nevada offense of battery (NRS 200.481).2 What makes physical force prosecutable as "battery" is when the suspect acts intentionally…

2) The Intent Requirement

Nevada battery domestic violence law criminalizes only intentional acts of unlawful physical force. Honest accidents -- such as a person swinging open a door and not realizing that his spouse was right on the other side of the door -- does not qualify as BDV.

But note that BDV's intent requirement has nothing to with whether the defendant meant to hurt anybody -- all that matters is whether he/she intended to commit the act that hurt the victim. North Las Vegas domestic violence attorney Michael Becker illustrates this distinction:

Jackie in Las Vegas is angry at her boyfriend and throws a dish on the floor near his feet. The dish shatters, causing shards to lacerate his leg. If caught, Jackie could be booked at the Clark County Detention Center for BDV for intentionally throwing the dish at her boyfriend's feet.

It is immaterial that Jackie in the above example had no intention of hurting her boyfriend and only wanted to show him how angry she was. All Nevada courts care about is that Jackie intentionally threw the dish at his feet and that a reasonable person should have foreseen that throwing the dish would result in shattered pieces hitting him.

3) Domestic relationships

The final component of Nevada BDV law is that the suspect has one of the following relationships with the alleged victim:

  • Spouses (current or former),
  • Dating partners (current or former),
  • Co-parents of a child,
  • Legal guardian or appointed custodian of a minor child, or
  • Family (by blood or marriage) except for siblings or cousins (unless they are in a custodial or guardianship relationship with each other)

Therefore an identical act of violence can be can be prosecuted as the crime of battery or the crime of battery domestic violence depending on how the defendant and victim are related. Las Vegas domestic violence attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:

Anna in Henderson lends money to her wife Betty and Betty's best friend Carla. After Betty and Carla fail to pay her back, Anna flies into a range and slaps both Betty and Carla. If caught, Anna could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for battery as well as battery domestic violence.

Even though Anna in the above example hit Betty and Carla in the same way with the same force, she faces two different charges because of their respective relationships. As Betty's wife, Anna may be liable for BDV. But because Anna has no familial, romantic, or domestic relationship with Carla, Anna will be charged with straight battery for hitting her.

The typical Nevada battery domestic violence scenario

Many domestic violence cases begin with two people in a household having a verbal argument that turns physical. Then the alleged victim or a witness dials 911, and police arrive at the scene. The police then ask questions and take statements from the accuser and witnesses.

Depending on the circumstances, the police may also photograph any apparent injuries. Finally, they make a judgment as to which person started the fight and arrests him/her.

Note that Nevada police often make an arrest in alleged BDV cases even if there are no injuries and the victim recants.3 If the prosecutors decide to file charges following an arrest, they may try to use the following as evidence against the defendant:

  • Victim or witness testimony
  • 911 call recordings
  • photographs or other medical evidence of injuries
  • any admissions that the defendant may have made

Also note that if the alleged aggressor flees after arrest, Nevada police have 24 hours to arrest him/her without first securing a warrant. (Learn about clearing Nevada arrest warrants.)

Arrested for BDV? Call an attorney…

Img minor copulation help

If you have been charged with the "Nevada offense of domestic violence," call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. We may be able to negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense or full dismissal.

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


1NRS 200.485 - Battery Constituting Domestic Violence.

2NRS 33.018 - Acts which constitute domestic violence.

3NRS 171.137 - Arrest required for suspected battery constituting domestic violence; exceptions.




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