NRS 200.280 - Mayhem laws in Nevada


NRS 200.280 is the Nevada law that prohibits mayhem. This is the legal term for permanently maiming, deforming, or disabling. Mayhem is therefore a type of battery (NRS 200.481)

Examples include:

  • Putting out an eye
  • Tearing off an arm
  • Cutting out a tongue
  • Slitting a nose, ear, or lip

The statute states:

Mayhem consists of unlawfully depriving a human being of a member of his or her body, or disfiguring or rendering it useless.


It is a category B felony to commit mayhem. Maximum penalties include:


Three potential arguments for fighting NRS 200.280 charges include:

  1. The defendant acted in self-defense;
  2. The incident was an accident; or
  3. The injuries are not permanent

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:

wheelchair (NRS 200.280)
Mayhem under NRS 200.280 has two key elements. 1) The defendant acted with malice. 2) The injury is permanent.

1. What is Nevada's legal definition of mayhem?

Mayhem occurs when someone permanently maims, disfigures, or incapacitates part of another person's body.1 It is not necessary that a weapon be involved.2 A simple punch, kick, or bite that results in a permanent handicap or deformity qualifies as mayhem in Nevada.

Note that a disfigurement is permanent even if physical therapy or cosmetic surgery could correct it. As long as the injury would last forever without extensive medical treatment, it qualifies as permanent under Nevada mayhem law. But if the harm is only temporary -- such as a bruise or even a broken bone -- the defendant would instead face battery charges.3

Also note that defendants must act with malice to commit mayhem.4 This does not mean defendants must intend to maim or disfigure. Rather, courts presume there is malice if the victim's disfigurement is a natural consequence of the defendant's actions.5 Here is an example from a Nevada Supreme Court case:

During a fight in Searchlight, Shirley bit off a piece of Mary Ann's ear. Afterwards Mary Ann screamed, "Shirley, you bit a hunk out of my ear!" Shirley answered, "Good! Go to the doctor and get it sewed." 

Here, the court found that Shirley had malice to commit mayhem. Shirley's act of biting Mary Ann's ear hard enough to remove a piece of it -- coupled with her insult about getting it sewed -- shows malicious intent.6

2. What are the penalties under NRS 200.280?

Mayhem is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment includes:

  • Two to ten (2 - 10) years in prison, and
  • Up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)7

Depending on the case, the D.A. may be willing to reduce the charge down to misdemeanor battery. This carries:

  • Up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

3. What are common defenses?

Three typical ways to fight mayhem charges are to argue that:

  1. The defendant acted in self-defense;
  2. The incident was an accident; or
  3. The injuries are not permanent

3.1. The defendant acted in self-defense

Nevada law permits people to fight back with reasonable force if they are in immediate danger.

Example: John is walking home in Las Vegas when a stranger suddenly appears and points a gun at him. John responds by grabbing his own gun and shooting the stranger's face. The bullet destroys his nose, causing permanent disfigurement. John committed no mayhem because he acted in lawful self-defense.

Here, John reasonably believed his life was in danger, and his response was appropriate. Had the stranger simply appeared and posed no threat, then John could face mayhem charges for causing permanent disfigurement.

3.2. The incident was an accident

Permanently injuring a person is not mayhem unless there was malice.

Example: Helen is practicing darts on the dartboard hanging on her door. Suddenly her roommate barges in while a dart is flying, landing in her eye. It causes permanent blindness. Helen committed no mayhem because she acted with no malice.

Here, the roommate's blindness resulted from an innocent accident. Helen had no intention to touch -- let alone harm -- her roommate. Therefore, no crime occurred.

3.3. The injuries are not permanent

Mayhem charges apply to cases only where victims sustain permanent injuries. Injuries that can heal do not count. Defense attorneys may be able to call medical experts to testify that the victim's injuries are only temporary.

Note that this argument is only a partial defense. The defendant could still face battery charges for inflicting unlawful physical force on the victim. Battery charges can apply whether or not the victim sustains injuries, permanent or temporary.

Also note that defendants cannot be convicted of both mayhem and battery for causing the same injury. That would be double jeopardy.8

4. What are the immigration consequences?

Mayhem is a deportable offense.9 Non-citizens convicted of mayhem can be thrown out of the U.S.

This is why it is so important for immigrants to seek legal counsel as soon as they are arrested. An attorney may be able to get the charge dropped or reduced to a non-deportable offense.

5. Can the record be sealed?

Dismissed mayhem charges are sealable right away in Nevada. But mayhem convictions must remain on defendants' record for 10 years. Only afterwards may defendants petition the court for a record seal.

Normally category B felony convictions are sealable after five (5) years. But as a "crime of violence", mayhem's waiting period is 10 years.

If mayhem gets reduced to a misdemeanor battery conviction, the waiting period is two (2) year after the case ends.10

Learn how to get a Nevada criminal record seal.

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Arrested in Nevada? Contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed through negotiation alone. But if necessary, we are prepared to take the matter to trial in pursuit of a not guilty verdict.

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In California? Learn about mayhem (203 PC) and aggravated mayhem (205 PC).

Legal References

  1. NRS 200.280.
  2. NRS 200.290.
  3. NRS 200.300; see also Lomas v. State, 98 Nev. 27, 639 P.2d 551 (1982).
  4. State v. Ralls, 71 Nev. 276, 288 P.2d 450 (1955).
  5. Crawford v. State, 100 Nev. 617, 691 P.2d 433 (1984).
  6. Lamb v. Cree, 86 Nev. 179, 466 P.2d 660 (1970).
  7. NRS 200.280.
  8. Salazar v. State, 119 Nev. 224, 70 P.3d 749 (2003).
  9. See, e.g., Matter of Santoro, 11 I. & N. Dec. 607 (BIA 1966).
  10. NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.

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