Substantial Bodily Harm Enhancements

Nevada Violent Crimes Defense Attorney

In Nevada, many violent crime allegations are enhanced, or made more severe, when there is an allegation of “Substantial Bodily Harm” in the Criminal Complaint, Indictment or Information.  This can dramatically increase the range of punishment the person accused is facing under the law.  While injury or harm may have a very common sense definition to most people, in Nevada, the law clearly defines what qualifies as “Substantial Bodily Harm.” 

Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) NRS 0.060 defines Substantial Bodily Harm:

1) Definition of the Crime and Essential Elements

Substantial Bodily Harm

For the State to prove someone guilty of committing a crime with substantial bodily harm, it must show beyond a reasonable doubt one of the two of the following elements:

1)      Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss of impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

2)      Prolonged physical pain.

Loss of a limb, broken bones, any injury needing stitches, severe burns, concussions, gunshot wounds and organ damage are all examples of Substantial Bodily Harm.  The law in Nevada has included cosmetic injury, such as scarring in the definition of Substantial Bodily Harm (Levi v. State, 602 P.2d 189 (1979).  The judge or jury can look at a witness’s testimony about pain and pain treatment in finding that there is prolonged physical pain qualifying as Substantial Bodily Harm.   Substantial Bodily Harm can result, and therefore be included in the charge of several underlying offenses, in crimes of battery, sexual assault, aggravated stalking, attempted murder, domestic violence or driving under the influence charges.

2) Related Offenses

While many crimes are punishable to a greater severity when there is found to be Substantial Bodily Harm, there are some related crimes that do not include enhancements, they include crimes of a threatening nature, such as:

1. Assault – NRS 200.471

2. Assault with a Deadly Weapon – NRS 200.471

3. Assault by an Inmate, Probationer or Parolee – NRS 200.471

3) Examples of Substantial Bodily Harm Enhancements

While a woman was driving home from a party, she lost control of her vehicle. She crashed into another car. At the scene, police officers determined that she was under the influence of alcohol. She was arrested for driving under the influence. Later on, she found out that the man in the car that she hit had suffered from a broken arm and had a concussion. This would result in her being charged with a driving under the influence resulting in substantial bodily harm.  This scenario would take what would otherwise be a Misdemeanor offense, Driving under the Influence, and makes it a far more serious Felony offense, punishable by 2-20 years in Nevada State Prison.  Moreover, if convicted of the crime of DUI with Substantial Bodily Harm, the sentence is non-probationable, meaning the person charged cannot receive probation. 

Likewise, when a person is accused of a first offense of domestic violence (or domestic battery), the charge is a Misdemeanor.  However, if the allegation includes Substantial Bodily Harm, it becomes a Category C Felony, punishable by 1-5 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections.   

4) Defenses to Substantial Bodily Harm

As with every other type of crime charged in Nevada, the fact that a charge is filed does not mean the Defendant will be convicted of what the State has accused the person of.  There could be many different defenses to crimes with Substantial Bodily Harm allegations which could lead the charges being reduced or raised as defenses at Trial.

It is possible that your criminal defense attorney will hire medical experts who will examine the same evidence that the State’s experts did. They may be able to testify that the injuries sustained were not substantial, or that they were not directly a result of the incident. It is also possible to research past criminal cases with similar injuries to the ones in your case. If the injuries in previous cases were ruled to be non substantial in nature, it could be an important point for your case.

This is just a basic example to illustrate a simple point.  Each criminal allegation is different and almost every case has a defense.  An experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense attorney can review the facts and the law in each case to build the best defense possible.

5) Potential Penalty for Substantial Bodily Harm

The penalty varies based on the case that created the alleged substantial bodily harm. If a kidnapping victim suffers substantial bodily harm, then the accused can be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If a person sustains substantial bodily harm during a sexual assault, the accused can be sentenced to life without possibility of parole. If a simple battery results in substantial bodily harm, the accused faces one (1) to five (5) years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000. If a person is convicted of driving under the influence resulting in substantial bodily harm, the person faces two (2) to twenty (20) years in prison.

6) Criminal Defense for Substantial Bodily Harm

Charges that have substantial bodily harm involved can be very complex. It is absolutely critical that the accused meets with an experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney immediately in order to begin building the best defense possible.  If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with this offense a call to former Chief Deputy District Attorney Josh Tomsheck is one of the best decisions you can make.  Las Vegas Criminal Lawyer Josh Tomsheck has a wealth of experience handling these charges and all other serious felonies. 

For more information about the allegations of crimes with an enhancement for Substantial Bodily Harm and defenses to these serious charges, call the law firm of Hofland & Tomsheck right away to schedule your free consultation.  (702) 895-6760.