Several offenses in Nevada carry harsher penalties if someone sustained "substantial bodily harm" during the course of the crime or as a result of it. On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers explain what "substantial bodily harm" is and how it can affect your case. If you've been arrested, call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation today!
What is substantial bodily harm in Nevada?
The legal definition of "substantial bodily harm" in Las Vegas, Nevada is very broad and falls under either one of two categories:
- Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ; or
- Prolonged physical pain.
Therefore "substantial bodily harm" in Clark County refers not only to near-fatal or disabling injuries but also to permanent cosmetic damage or long-lasting pain. Examples of substantial bodily harm in Nevada might include the following:
- broken bones (even though they may fully heal eventually)
- any injury needing stitches
- organ damage
- severe burns
- contusions that last a long time
- wounds from gunshots
- losing consciousness
Note that substantial bodily harm in Las Vegas does not encompass financial harm or emotional harm. And if someone physically injures him/herself in the commission of a crime, the prosecutors do not count that as "substantial bodily harm" when determining what charges to press and what penalties to ask for.
How do Clark County courts determine substantial physical harm?
Nevada judges and juries examine the evidence on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the injury in question falls under the legal definition of substantial bodily harm. Some factors they may take into consideration include:
- how severe the injury is
- how long it lasted/ is lasting
- how much pain it causes
- how much medical care it requires
- how the injury was sustained
For instance, a black eye that fades in a few days might not be substantial bodily harm in Las Vegas, but a black eye that lasts for weeks and impairs the victim's vision probably would.
What Nevada crimes carry harsher penalties for substantial bodily harm?
Many Nevada crime laws are written so that prosecutors may bring more serious charges if the suspect allegedly caused substantial bodily harm in the course of committing the underlying offense. Below are brief descriptions of five common Las Vegas crimes where physical injury increases the penalty range:
Kidnapping (NRS 200.320)
If a victim of the Nevada crime of kidnapping suffers substantial bodily harm during the kidnapping act or from the subsequent detention, confinement, or any attempt to escape, the suspect faces a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole. But if there was no substantial bodily harm, the maximum sentence is life with the possibility of parole.
Rape (NRS 200.366)
When an adult victim of the Nevada crime of sexual assault sustains substantial bodily harm from the rape, the suspect may be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. But if there was no substantial bodily harm, the harshest sentence the judge can hand down is for life with the possibility of parole.
Battery (NRS 200.481)
Assault and battery law in Nevada provides several different penalty ranges depending on not only whether substantial bodily harm occurred but also if a deadly weapon was used or if a child was involved. Regular adult-on-adult battery without weapons but with substantial bodily harm may result in a prison term of one to five years in prison and maybe a fine of $10,000. But if there's no substantial bodily harm, the battery is only a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Child abuse, neglect or endangerment (NRS 200.508)
Child abuse, neglect or endangerment laws in Nevada mandate very severe penalties for substantial bodily harm even if it resulted from neglect rather than direct physical abuse. A typical neglect conviction without harm is a gross misdemeanor carrying up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines. But if substantial bodily harm (or mental harm) occurred, the sentence range for child neglect is two to twenty years in prison.
Aggravated stalking (NRS 200.575)
A strange aspect of aggravated stalking law in Nevada is that the accused doesn't have to cause substantial bodily harm to be punished extra for it . . . he/she merely has to make the "victim" fear substantial bodily harm! If he/she does, the penalties range from two to fifteen years in prison and maybe a $5,000 fine. But if the victim isn't apprehensive about being hurt, the stalking is only a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
How do I fight an allegation of substantial bodily harm in Nevada?
If you're accused of causing substantial bodily harm as part of a Nevada crime, your criminal defense attorney may hire medical experts to examine the evidence and testify that any injury sustained wasn't substantial. Your attorney will also research any past criminal cases that concerned injuries similar to the ones in your case . . . if the injuries in those cases were ruled unsubstantial, the prosecutor in your case may be persuaded to lessen the charges.
We're here to help . . . .
Have you been arrested for a crime in or around Clark County? Then our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers are eager to try to get your charges dismissed or reduced to something lesser. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone meeting to discuss how we may be able to help your case so you can go back to your life.
For the definition of great bodily injury in California, go to our page on great bodily injury in California.