There are many different crimes that change in nature if they include the use of a “deadly weapon.” Because of that, it is important to understand what constitutes a “deadly weapon.”

What is the legal definition of a “deadly weapon”?

In Nevada, the definition of “deadly weapon” is stated, in N.R.S. 193.165(6), as:

  1. Any insturment which, if used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and construction, will or is likely to cause substantial bodily harm or death;
  2. Any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing substantial bodily harm or death; or
  3. A dangerous or deadly weapon specifically described in N.R.S. 202.255, 202.265, 202.290, 202.320 or 202.350.
  • N.R.S. 202.255 relates to traps, spring pistols and rifles.
  • N.R.S. 202.265 relates to explosive or incendiary devices; dirks, daggers, or switchblade knives; nunchaku or trefoil; blackjack, billy club, or metal knuckles; pistol, revolver, or other firearm; any device used to mark any part of a person with paint or any other substance.
  • N.R.S. 202.290 relates to guns, pistols, revolvers, air guns, deadly missiles or other firearms or weapon, whether loaded or not.
  • N.R.S. 202.320 relates to dirks, dirk-knives, swords, sword canes, pistols, guns, or other deadly weapons.
  • N.R.S. 202.350 relates to belt bukle knives, switchblade knives, blackjacks, slungshot, billy, sand-clubs, sandbags, metal knuckles, machine guns, silencers, nunchaku, trefoils, explosive substances other than ammunition or components thereof, dirks, daggers, machetes, pistols, revolvers, other firearms, or other weapons. It also defines the following terms:
    • Machine gun – any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot or can be readily restored to shoot more than one shot by one pull of the trigger;
    • Nunchaku – two or more sticks, clubs, bars or rods, connected by a rope, cord, wire or chain
    • Silencer – any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the sound of a firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling a silencer or muffler, and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication;
    • Switchblade knife – a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, or any other knife having the appearance of a pocketknife, any blade which is 2 or more inches long and which can be released automatically by a flick of a putton, pressureon the handle or other mechanical device, or is released by any type of mechanism. It does not include a knife that holds the blade in place with a spring if the blade does not have any type of automatice release.
    • Trefoil – an instrument consisting of a metal plate having three or more radiating points with sharp edges, designed in the shape of a star, cross or other geometric figure and used as a weapong for throwing (also commonly known as a “ninja star” or “throwing star”).

This sounds like there are a lot of things that are considered “deadly weapons,” is there anything else I should know about laws concerning “deadly weapons”?

Yes. You may have noticed that the definition of “deadly weapon” sounds very broad. The legislature did this intentionally so that prosecutors could make discretionary decisions about what is considred a “deadly weapon.” The intent of this broad definition is essentially to allow the prosecutor to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to use the “deadly weapon” enhancement in situations where the “weapon” is not obvious (where the weapon isn’t a gun, knife, or other object intended to be a weapon).

So, if just about anything can be deemed a “deadly weapon,” do I have any defense to the charge?

The only real defense to the “deadly weapon” enhancement is to claim that there was no deadly weapon present. Obviously, this defense only applies in situations where the prosecution is trying to use the broad definition of “deadly weapon” on an item that is not intended to be a weapon.

As with all other crimes, the actual defenses will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Also, there may be defenses to your underlying charge and sepearate defenses that apply to the “deadly weapon” enhancement.

What is the penalty for the use of a deadly weapon enhancement?

The first thing that you need to understand is that the “deadly weapon” enhancement adds to whatever penalties you may face for the underlying charge.

The use of a “deadly weapon” in the commission of a crime will add:

  • An additional sentence of between 1 and 20 years to your sentence;
  • No probation or suspended sentence if you are convicted of using a deadly weapon in the comission of any of the following crimes;
    • Murder;
    • Kidnapping in the first degree;
    • Sexual assault;
    • Robbery.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with a crime that carries a “deadly weapon” enhancement?

You should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss any possible defenses and trial strategies.

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