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4 Questions about Mutual Battery Answered – Domestic Attorney Ross Goodman


There are cases of alleged battery domestic violence where “mutual physicality” occurs between intimate partners. This is commonly known as “mutual battery”.

1.   What is mutual battery?

As its name suggests, mutual battery happens when domestic partners both use any deliberate and unlawful force or violence against each other. (Source: Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention) The criminal process of mutual battery usually starts when a witness or one of the involved seeks help from a police officer. It is the responsibility of the police officer to determine who will be arrested and charged with a crime.

2.   Who will be arrested and charged with a crime?

Compared to typical cases of battery, it is more difficult for police officers to assess who should be arrested in mutual battery cases because both the domestic partners allegedly committed battery.

In some cases, dual arrest occurs. This is possible if it was found out that both of the involved committed individual battery against each other and the arrest of both parties are warranted. However, dual arrest is usually discouraged because it creates a criminal history for both parties. (Source: NVPAC)

If the assessment showed that mutual battery took place, the police officer will attempt to recognize the primary physical aggressor between the domestic partners. In case the police officer identified that one of them was the primary physical aggressor, it is not required to arrest anyone who had allegedly committed battery throughout the case. (Source: Primary Aggressor Statutes)  The police officer shall consider several factors in order to know whether the person is actually the primary physical aggressor or not.

3.   How will you identify the primary physical aggressor?

Some people think that the first person to inflict violence is the primary physical aggressor. In many cases, if one of the domestic partners was previously involved in a domestic violence case (arrested, charged or convicted), he/she has a higher chance of getting arrested. This is the simplest and most definite method for a law enforcement officer to apply the law as it is written. (Source: Domestic Violence Defense Blog)

According to NRS 171.137, the police officer shall consider the following factors when identifying the primary physical aggressor:

(a) Previous domestic violence involving either person;

(b) The relative severity of the injuries inflicted upon the persons involved;

(c) The potential for future injury;

(d) Whether one of the alleged batteries was committed in self-defense; and

(e) Any other factor that may help the peace officer decide which person was the primary physical aggressor.

The officer will make a report after considering all the factors mentioned above. This should include the name of the primary physical aggressor and a description of the supporting evidence. (Source: NCJFCJ)

4.   What are the penalties?

Battery domestic violence may result in severe and costly penalties like imprisonment. (Source: Ross C. Goodman)

In accordance with NRS 178.484, the aggressor should be detained for at least twelve (12) hours and must be admitted to bail. There are legal guidelines specified in the statute that are used in setting the required bail amount. The penalty is usually higher than any other typical battery charges.

For misdemeanor cases, the required number of imprisonment days in county jail is:

  • two days to six months (1st offense)

  • ten days to six months (2nd offense)

For felony cases, a minimum of one year imprisonment is required. Felony cases are identified as the third offense within seven years, or a battery domestic violence case that involves a deadly weapon or serious bodily harm.

Aside from fines and imprisonment, the aggressor is compelled by the law to pay for and undertake:

  • Mandatory fines and administrative assessment fees

  • Community service

  • State-approved counseling of not less than 1 ½ hours per week (for six months up to one year)

(Source: Covering Domestic Violence)

These are just some of the many questions regarding mutual battery. Being aware of these things can help you in the future. Always keep in mind that battery domestic violence should be one of the last things that you’d want to get involved with.

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