Can Someone File Assault Charges Months Later?

If someone is filing assault charges against you months after the incident, you may wonder if the case is even valid in court. Understanding Nevada law surrounding assault can help you understand your rights as a defendant and ensure you get adequate representation. In this guide, our team at De Castroverde breaks down everything you need to know about assault charges. We’ll discuss the legal definition of assault, share common defense arguments, and provide insight into how long the victim has to file charges.

What Is Assault?

Las Vegas Argument leading to Assault.
Yelling by Frederick Dennstedt is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

According to NRS 200.471, assault is the crime of intentionally attempting to use force against a person or placing the person in reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm. Assault victims only experience the fear of danger, meaning perpetrators never make physical contact. Examples of assault include:

  • Holding a knife to someone’s throat.
  • Pointing a loaded taser at a person.
  • Throwing an object in someone’s direction.
  • Punching a person who ducks to avoid physical contact.

As these examples demonstrate, physical threats are usually present in assault cases. It’s unlikely for prosecutors to argue cases that only involve verbal threats. For instance, imagine an intoxicated man threatening to fight a security guard at a bar. The security guard wouldn’t have much of a case unless the drunk man also raised his fist at him or threw a beer in his direction.

Another important thing to know about the assault is that the victim must be aware of an imminent physical threat. For the prosecution to win, it must convince the court that the victim wasn’t sleeping or otherwise unconscious at the time of the assault. It is also important to assert that the assault victims weren’t looking away during the incident, as doing so could have prevented them from being aware of the imminent physical threat.

How Does Assault Differ From Battery?

Many people conflate the terms assault and battery, but Nevada treats these terms as two different crimes. Assault is considered less severe than a battery, which 200.481 defines as intentionally touching another person in an unlawful way. Essentially, a battery is a “completed assault” and may result in the victim sustaining severe bodily harm. A battery comes with more severe penalties, mainly if the perpetrator used a deadly weapon or attacked a victim that is part of a “protected class.”

What Are the Types of Assault Charges?

If a court finds you guilty of assault, you may face one of the following charges:

Misdemeanor

If the defendant didn’t use a deadly weapon or didn’t have the present ability to do so, the assault would be a misdemeanor crime. A guilty verdict results in up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.

Gross Misdemeanor

A gross misdemeanor is more serious than a misdemeanor but less serious than a felony. A court classifies assault as a gross misdemeanor if the defendant didn’t use a deadly weapon but assaulted an on-duty police officer or any victim considered part of a “protected class.” Protected victims include firefighters, state officials, school employees, doctors, judges, health care providers, and taxi drivers. Those guilty of gross misdemeanors face up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.

Category D Felony

If the defendant was in prison or custody or on probation or parole, the court might deem the assault a category D felony. This classification is appropriate even if the defendant didn’t use a deadly weapon or didn’t have a present ability to do so. Category D felonies come with one to four years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Category B Felony

A defendant who commits an assault with a deadly weapon has committed a category B felony. In Nevada, a deadly weapon constitutes any lethal object like a gun or knife. Category B felonies come with one to six years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

How Long After an Assault Incident Can Someone File Charges?

The statute of limitations for assault depends on the nature of the alleged crime. If someone has committed felony assault, NRS 171.085 states that the victim has three years from the incident to file charges. The statute of limitations is two years for gross misdemeanor assault and one year for misdemeanor assault (NRS 171.090).

For example, imagine that Ben and Carter get into a verbal argument. During the altercation, Ben throws a glass bottle in Carter’s direction but misses. Because Ben didn’t use a deadly weapon or hurt Carter but physically threatened him, Nevada would define Ben’s actions as a misdemeanor assault. Carter consults with a lawyer six months after the incident to determine if the court would consider his case. The lawyer explains that a misdemeanor comes with a one-year statute of limitations, meaning Carter is within his right to file assault charges several months after the incident.

What Are Common Defenses to Assault Charges?

If someone is within the statute of limitations to file assault charges against you, your attorney may rely on one of the following common defenses:

  • You didn’t intend to attempt the use of force against the victim or place them in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
  • You acted in defense of yourself or others.
  • Another party falsely accused you of assault.

Is Assault a Deportable Offense?

Any violent offense can put those with visas or green cards at risk of deportation. Deportation is more likely in the case of a felony assault conviction, but it’s possible even with a misdemeanor assault conviction. If you’re a non-U.S. citizen facing assault charges, hiring the proper legal representation is essential. Contact our expert immigration and criminal law team today to reduce your risk of deportation.

This guide has demonstrated that assault charges are not something to take lightly. A guilty conviction can lead to jail time, fines, or even deportation for non-U.S. citizens, making it important for you to know that victims can file legitimate charges for up to three years after the incident. Increase your chances of a positive outcome by contacting De Castroverde today. Our team of seasoned attorneys is ready to build your case and offer expert representation in court.