NRS 202.320 makes it a misdemeanor in Nevada to draw or brandish a gun, knife, or another deadly weapon in a rude, threatening or angry manner in front of two or more people.
A brandishing conviction is punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and a six-month jail sentence. But the charge should be dropped if the defendant acted in self-defense.
NRS 202.320 states:
1. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 202.287, a person having, carrying or procuring from another person any dirk, dirk-knife, sword, sword cane, pistol, gun or other deadly weapon, who, in the presence of two or more persons, draws or exhibits any of such deadly weapons in a rude, angry or threatening manner not in necessary self-defense, or who in any manner unlawfully uses that weapon in any fight or quarrel, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
2. A sheriff, deputy sheriff, marshal, constable or other peace officer shall not be held to answer, under the provisions of subsection 1, for drawing or exhibiting any of the weapons mentioned therein while in the lawful discharge of his or her duties.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will discuss:
- 1. How does Nevada law define brandishing a weapon?
- 2. How is “brandishing” different from “assault with a deadly weapon”?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. How can I fight the charges?
1. How does Nevada law define brandishing a weapon?
In order to convict a person of brandishing a deadly weapon under NRS 202.320, the prosecutor has to prove the three elements of the crime:
- The weapon is a deadly weapon, such as dirks, dirk-knifes, swords, sword canes, pistols, revolvers, or shotguns; and
- You draw or brandish it in the presence of at least two (2) other people; and
- You draw or brandish the weapon in a rude, angry, or threatening manner.
It is irrelevant under Nevada state law whether you own the weapon, were carrying it, took it from another person, or if it was a concealed weapon. Nor does it matter if the event caused no great bodily injury, did not occur in a public place, and was not in the presence of a peace officer.
Merely brandishing a deadly weapon in an aggressive manner in front of two or more people invites criminal weapons charges in Nevada. An obvious exception is that police officers may brandish weapons in the lawful course of their duties.1
See our related article, Can you open carry a knife in Las Vegas?
2. How is “brandishing” different from “assault with a deadly weapon”?
Assault with a deadly weapon is a more serious offense than threateningly drawing a deadly weapon. There are four main distinctions between the two Nevada crimes:
- Immediate bodily harm. An assault is intentionally putting someone in “apprehension of immediate bodily harm.” Meanwhile, brandishing does not require that anyone present fear for their safety.
- Use of the weapon. Merely having a deadly weapon within your reach during an assault qualifies as “assault with a deadly weapon” even if you never touch the weapon. In contrast, a brandishing charge requires that you draw or exhibit the weapon.
- Type of weapon. You can be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for using a weapon that is not by nature deadly, such a brick or pipe. But brandishing charges only apply when the weapon is deadly, like a loaded gun.
- The number of people present. Prosecutors can bring charges against you for assault with a deadly weapon even if the victim is the only other person present. Whereas drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening way is not a crime unless there are at least two other people present besides you.2
If you get accused of assault with a deadly weapon, it may be possible to get the charge reduced down to brandishing.
3. What are the penalties?
Brandishing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment is:
- Up to 6 months in county jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines.3
Since brandishing is just a misdemeanor, a conviction should not affect your gun rights.
Note that assault with a deadly weapon is a category B felony. The sentence is:
- 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison, and/or
- Up to $5,000 in fines.4
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines.5
4. How can I fight the charges?
Five potential legal defenses to Nevada criminal charges of brandishing are:
- You were acting in lawful self-defense.
- There were less than two other people present.
- The weapon was not a deadly weapon.
- You were falsely accused.
- Law enforcement officers committed misconduct, such as coercing a confession.
Of all of these, the self-defense strategy is most common. Nevada law permits you to fight back with proportional force to defend yourself or others from immediate bodily harm. So if you brandished a weapon in attempt to deter an assailant you reasonably believed was about to inflict injury, you committed no crime.
In any case, the criminal charge should be dismissed as long as the district attorney cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
For additional help…
Have you, a family member, or a loved one been arrested in Clark County, Reno, or elsewhere in the state of Nevada? Contact our Henderson and Las Vegas, NV criminal law firm for legal advice. You can reach us by a phone call or through this website.
Our criminal defense lawyers fight for charge reductions and dismissals for Nevada gun law crimes, knife crimes, controlled substances offenses, concealed carry of handgun (CCW) crimes, DUI, domestic violence, possession of a firearm by a felon, disorderly conduct, and all other related offenses.
In Los Angeles? Go to our informational article about the California Penal Code Section 417 PC | Brandishing a weapon under California law. Brandishing a weapon in the presence of another person is usually a misdemeanor under Penal Code 417, even if it happens on school property. But if it occurs in a daycare center, the charge becomes a wobbler.
- NRS 202.320. Drawing deadly weapon in threatening manner (Brandishing). See Cortes v. State, (2011) 127 Nev. 505, 260 P.3d 184, 127 Nev. Adv. Rep. 44 and Berry v. State, (2009) 212 P.3d 1085, 212 P.3d 1085.
- NRS 202.320. Nev. Rev. Stat. 200.471(2)(b).
- NRS 202.320.
- Nev. Rev. Stat. 200.471(2)(b).
- NRS 202.290.