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Self-Defense Versus Assault

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Self-Defense Versus Assault


The legal system is complicated and varied when it comes to acts of violence against another person, and reasonably so. Crimes of this nature are categorized in different ways, such as assault and battery, and the consequences are relative to the nature of the crime. However, there are situations in which people must behave in a violent nature against another person for their own protection. How are acts of self-defense differentiated from other acts of violence in a court of law?

Defining Self-Defense

The line between self-defense and assault is thin when someone is in a physical fight with another person. For someone being physically attacked, retaliating with violence may be their only option to avoid serious injuries. Self-defense is defined as defending one’s body or interests through physical force, which is allowed as a defense to violent crime charges in certain cases. Violent acts in the name of self-defense are legal in Nevada if:

  • Someone reasonably believes the person they are defending themselves against poses an immediate threat to their physical well-being
  • The force inflicted against an aggressor is an appropriate and reasonable amount relative to their threat

Sometimes, an act of self-defense results in the death of the aggressor. It is legal for someone to kill for self-defense in the state of Nevada if the situation meets the following conditions:

  • The aggressor presented a clear and urgent danger
  • The danger included major bodily harm and/or death
  • Any reasonable person would have feared for their life and physical safety in the same situation.
  • The person claiming self-defense did not act solely out of revenge.

Fear of injury alone is not enough to justify killing someone in Nevada. A killing can only be justified by a claim of self-defense if the person faced an immediate threat of being seriously injured or killed themselves.

You Can Stand Your Ground in Nevada

Some states require victims to attempt escaping their aggressor before a killing in self-defense can be considered legal. However, Nevada citizens are allowed to stand their ground if they are in a situation that causes them to reasonably fear for their lives, even if they are presented with an opportunity to escape. For someone to stand their ground legally, the following conditions must be met:

  • The person claiming self-defense did not initiate the confrontation
  • The person claiming self-defense has a reasonable fear the aggressor would kill or seriously injure them
  • The person claiming self-defense had the right to be at the location they used deadly force, such as their home
  • The person claiming self-defense was not committing a crime when they used deadly force

What is Assault?

The state of Nevada defines assault as an act of attempted violence with the intent of harming another individual. A court must prove the following elements to convict someone of assault:

  • The accused individual illegally tried to use physical force against someone
  • The accused individual intentionally put someone in a position to become physically injured
  • The accused individual’s actions caused someone to have a reasonable fear of bodily harm

Someone’s actions can only be considered an assault in a court of law if no physical contact was made. When a person attempts to injure someone else and makes a physical connection with them, their actions are considered battery, not assault.

Assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Assault is charged as a misdemeanor when it is considered simple assault, which is when someone threatens another person with violence. Aggravated assault is a felony charge and becomes applicable when someone threatens violence using a deadly weapon.

Assault Consequences

The legal consequences of an assault conviction can be severe depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime itself. Penalties for a simple assault include:

  • A jail sentence up to 6 months long
  • A fine worth $1,000 or less

Penalties for aggravated assault include:

  • A prison sentence between 1 and 6 years long
  • A fine of $5,000

Knowing the Difference

The lines between assault and self-defense can become blurred, especially considering the serious nature violent crimes are litigated in. However, the conditions that need to be met for an act of violence to be considered self-defense are very specific. Comparing the circumstances of a violent act to these conditions can help determine whether self-defense is a realistic defense.

  • For someone to legally commit a violent act in self-defense, they must have been the recipient of an imminent threat of harm.
  • For a use of force in self-defense to be justifiable, it must be proven that it was in response to a similar use of force that would result in injury or death.
  • The use of force must be of an appropriate level and no greater than the initial force from the aggressor. For example, if an aggressor attacks someone with a deadly weapon, it would be appropriate for someone to respond with a similar weapon for self-defense.

We Can Help

If you have been charged with an assault but believe you acted in self-defense, contact the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover today. With over 25 years of experience working in the justice system, our attorney can help determine the best line of defense for your case and work towards having your charges lowered or dropped. An assault charge can be life-altering, which is why our firm will work with empathy to guide you through the legal process.

Reach out online or at (775) 502-1575 for a free consultation today.

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