Nevada "Mayhem" Laws (NRS 200.280)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

The Nevada crime of mayhem is a serious class of battery involving maiming or disfiguring.  The penalty may include a very long prison term.  It also looks bad on your criminal record and could make it difficult for you to keep or find employment.

Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience in successfully negotiating and litigating all types of battery cases.  To learn more about Nevada mayhem law including its definition, possible penalties and defenses, keep reading below . . . .


The legal definition of "mayhem" in Las Vegas, Nevada, is "unlawfully depriving a human being of a member of his or her body, or disfiguring or rendering it useless."  (NRS 200.280) Examples of mayhem include:

  • cutting out or disabling the tongue
  • putting out an eye
  • slitting or biting off a portion of the nose, ear or lip
  • disabling or cutting off any limb

Malice requirement

A defendant may be liable for mayhem only if he/she had "malice."  But note that you don't have to intend to maim or disfigure in order to have malice.  Rather, the court presumes a defendant has malice if the victim's disfigurement was a natural consequence of the defendant's actions.  An example from a Nevada Supreme Court case is:

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."  (Lamb v. Cree, 86 Nev. 179 (1970).

Here, the court found that Shirley had malice to commit mayhem in the city of Searchlight.  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) was sufficient to qualify as malicious intent in Nevada.

Permanent injury requirement

The Las Vegas offense of mayhem is applicable only in cases where the victim sustained a permanent "disfiguration of appearance, diminution of vigor, or other permanent injury."  (NRS 200.300)  If the injury is only temporary (such as a bruise or even a broken bone), the defendant may instead be convicted of the Nevada crime of battery (NRS 200.481).

Note that a disfigurement is considered "permanent" even if physical therapy or cosmetic surgery could potentially correct it.  As long as the injury would be permanent if it were never given extensive medical treatment, then it qualifies as permanent under Las Vegas mayhem law.


A defendant may be convicted of mayhem even if he/she did not use a weapon.  Therefore a simple punch, kick or bite that results in a permanent handicap or deformity could potentially be prosecutable as mayhem in Nevada.


The Las Vegas offense of mayhem applies only to a very narrow set of battery cases.  Because it's so specific, there are several ways your attorney may explore fighting the charges.  Some strategies include:

  • No malice.  A jury shouldn't convict a defendant of mayhem if they don't find that the defendant acted with malice.  If your attorney can show that your actions fell within the Nevada self-defense law or were an accident, then you had no malice and therefore did not commit mayhem.
  • No permanent injury. A mayhem conviction shouldn't stand if the defendant's actions didn't cause a permanent injury or disfigurement in the victim.  If your defense team can successfully argue that the victim's injury did not rise to the level of 'permanent', then the charge should at least be modified to assault.
  • Over-charging.  Sometimes D.A.s make a serious mistake by "over-charging" a defendant with too many crimes.  If you're ever charged with both mayhem as well as battery with substantial bodily harm (as defined by Nevada law) for the same alleged act, then the court should drop one of the charges out of redundancy.

The Nevada crime of mayhem is a category B felony in Las Vegas.  The punishment is:

If your attorney persuades the D.A. to modify the charge down to the Nevada crime of assault, the new sentence depends on whether a deadly weapon was used.  Assault with a deadly weapon is still a category B felony in Las Vegas, but the possible penalty is reduced to:

  • 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Meanwhile, assault with no deadly weapon is only a misdemeanor in Nevada.  The punishment for a misdemeanor in Nevada may include:

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

And in some cases, the judge may permit the defendant to do only community service.

Arrested?  Call our lawyers . . . .

If you've been charged with mayhem under NRS 200.280, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).  Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can meet with you for free to discuss the possibility of us getting the charges reduced or even dismissed.  We're also ready to take your matter to trial if necessary.

To learn about California mayhem laws, go to our informational article on California mayhem laws under Penal Code 203 & aggravated mayhem under 205 PC

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