Under NRS 199.310, you commit the Nevada crime of malicious prosecution when, with malicious intent and lacking probable cause, you cause or attempt to cause an innocent person to be arrested or prosecuted for a crime that he or she did not commit.
In this article, we will answer the following three key questions:
- 1. What is “malicious prosecution” in Nevada?
- 2. How do I fight NRS 199.310 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
1. What is “malicious prosecution” in Nevada?
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.”1
In other words, it’s illegal under NRS 199.310 to try to get someone else arrested for a crime when you have no legitimate reason to believe the accused may be guilty. Malicious prosecution charges often arise out of cases of battery domestic violence. 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.
2. How do I fight NRS 199.310 charges?
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 your defense attorney may employ in these types of cases:
- Absence of malice: Obviously, a charge of malicious prosecution should not stand if you did not act with malice. If your defense attorney can show that you instead acted out of good intentions and in public interest, then the case should be dismissed.
- There was probable cause: It is perfectly legal to report someone to the police as long as you have probable cause to believe that the person you are reporting committed the crime. If your defense attorney can demonstrate to the court that you reasonably believed there was probable cause, then the malicious prosecution charge should be dropped.
- The person committed the crime: There is no malicious prosecution if the person you accused actually committed the crime. The best way to show the person committed the crime is if they are charged and convicted, though this may take some time to play out.
- Insufficient 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.
3. What are the penalties?
The punishment for committing the Las Vegas offense of malicious prosecution depends upon the seriousness of the crime that you originally accused the victim of. For example, falsely accusing someone of murder will carry harsher penalties than falsely accusing someone of only trespass.
If the falsely alleged crime is a felony, then you will be charged with a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence 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 or misdemeanor, then you may be convicted of a misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines2
Note that the alleged victim in a malicious prosecution case may also sue you in civil court for money. The judge may order you to pay compensatory and punitive damages.