Maliciously causing an innocent person to be arrested for a crime is unlawful in Las Vegas. A conviction could carry several years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. However, a skilled Nevada criminal defense lawyer may achieve a favorable resolution such as reduced charges or a full dismissal.
This article explains the Nevada offense of malicious prosecution. Scroll down to read about the law, punishments, and defenses.
The legal definition of "malicious prosecution" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is when, "a person, maliciously and without probable cause, causes or attempts to cause an innocent person to be arrested or proceeded against for any crime."
In other words, it's illegal under NRS 199.310 to try to get someone else arrested for a crime when the accuser has no legitimate reason to believe the accused may be guilty. Malicious prosecution charges often arise out of cases of battery domestic violence in Nevada. For example:
Jen is furious that her husband John cheated on her. Out of revenge Jen calls Las Vegas Metro and lies that John hit her. The police arrest John for battery domestic violence in Nevada, but the D.A. later determines that John is innocent. The police may then arrest Jen for malicious prosecution in Las Vegas.
How best to defend against an allegation of malicious prosecution in Nevada turns on the specific facts of the incident. Below are some of the more common strategies a defense attorney may employ in these types of cases:
- Absence of Malice: Obviously, a charge of malicious prosecution shouldn't stand if the defendant didn't act with malice. If a defense attorney can show that the defendant instead acted out of good intentions and in public interest, then the case should be dismissed.
- Presence of Probable Cause: It's perfectly legal to report someone to the police as long as the accuser has probable cause to believe that the person they're reporting committed the crime. If a defense attorney can demonstrate to the court that the accuser reasonably believed there was probable cause, then the malicious prosecution charge should be dropped.
- Lack of evidence: In every criminal case the D.A. has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. If a defense attorney can raise that reasonable doubt by suggesting that the state's evidence is unreliable, erroneous or insufficient, then the D.A. may drop the case for lack of proof.
The punishment for committing the Las Vegas offense of malicious prosecution depends upon the seriousness of the crime that the defendant originally accused the victim of. For example, falsely accusing someone of murder in Nevada will carry harsher penalties than falsely accusing someone of only trespass in Nevada.
If the falsely alleged crime is a felony, then the defendant in a malicious prosecution case will likewise be charged with a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence for a category D felony in Nevada carries:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Similarly, if the falsely alleged crime was only a gross misdemeanor in Nevada or misdemeanor in Nevada, then the defendant in a malicious prosecution case may be convicted of a misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Note that the alleged victim in a malicious prosecution case may also sue the accuser in civil court for money. The judge may order the accuser to pay compensatory and punitive damages.
Accused? Call an attorney . . . .
If you've been arrested for malicious prosecution under NRS 199.310, phone 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will meet with you for free to discuss the possibility of getting your charge lowered to a more minor offense or thrown out completely. And if the situation calls for it, they're ready to take your case to trial to fight for a "not guilty" verdict.