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COERCION

Coercion is a serious and commonly charged offense in Nevada. Below is a common scenario that leads to a coercion charge.

An argument between boyfriend and girlfriend escalates to pushing, and the girlfriend says she's calling the police. The boyfriend grabs her phone out of her hand, preventing her from making the call. The boyfriend will most likely find himself charged with the crime of coercion.

COERCION DEFINED

The Nevada law that defines coercion is NRS 207.190. According to NRS 207.190, there are two essential elements to the crime of coercion. The first element of coercion is the criminal intent to force a person to do something (or not do something), so long as the person has a legal right to do (or not do) that particular act.

The second element of coercion is the criminal act which is used to coerce the victim. The criminal act can be using actual physical violence or merely threatening the use of violence against the victim. The criminal act can also include "[d]epriv[ing] the [victim] of any tool, implement or clothing, or hinder[ing] the [victim] in the use thereof."

In the example above, assume the boyfriend wants to prevent the girlfriend from calling the police. She has a legal right to call police, so the first element of criminal intent is met. As for the second element, whether the boyfriend grabbing the phone constitutes violence or force, the second element is met because he "deprived" her of her phone or "hindered" her from using it. However, whether violence or force was used will make a big difference in the potential punishment. Read below.

PUNISHMENT FOR COERCION

If physical force or the immediate threat of physical force is used to commit coercion, the offense is a category B felony and is punishable by 1 to 6 years in Nevada state prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Where no physical force or immediate threat of physical force is used, coercion is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

If a person is convicted of coercion, the District Attorney can, under NRS 207.193, request that a hearing be held prior to sentencing to determine whether the coercion was "sexually motivated." The determination of whether a coercion is "sexually motivated" will be considered by the judge at sentencing.

DEFENDING COERCION CHARGES

As explained above, there are two elements to a coercion charge: the criminal intent, and the criminal act. Defending a coercion charge will focus on attacking one or both of those elements. False allegations are more common that many people realize. To change the example I've used on this page, imagine the boyfriend and girlfriend are arguing, and the girlfriend starts hitting the boyfriend in the chest, holding her phone in one hand. He uses reasonable force to push her back to repel her attack. This is a legal use of self defense. She drops her phone and it breaks. She's mad that he pushed her and mad that her phone is broken, so she calls the police and gives them an altered version of the facts.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to this and you have now been charged with coercion, call me today to talk about your case.

By Michael Pandullo

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