Nevada law defines homicide as the unlawful, malicious killing of a person. First-degree murder includes premeditated killings and felony murder, which is when killing is done while a suspect commits a serious felony.

First degree murder may be done through shooting, stabbing, poisoning, torturing, strangling, or beating. Felony murder is done while committing arson, burglary, rape, kidnapping, robbery, elder abuse, child abuse, or sexual abuse of a child. A defendant may be charged with felony murder even if they didn’t intend to kill anyone while committing the felony.

Second-degree murder is unintentional killing in which death was a foreseeable consequence of the suspect’s reckless behavior.

Penalty For Homicide

In some cases, a murder charge can be dismissed or plea-bargained down to manslaughter. Otherwise, homicide is a category A felony punishable by life in prison.

When aggravating circumstances outweigh all mitigating circumstances in a case, the judge may impose a death penalty.

Potential Defenses For Homicide

Defendants charged with homicide may be counseled to use one of the following defenses:

  • The defendant acted in self-defense
  • The defendant was insane during the killing
  • The defendant’s confession was coerced
  • The killing was accidental
  • The police performed an illegal search
  • The defendant was misidentified as the killer

Aiding & Abetting Homicide

An accomplice may be charged with homicide even if they didn’t physically cause the death. An accomplice may be charged if they:

  • Kept a “lookout” as the other person committed murder
  • Provided a false alibi to the individual who committed murder
  • Gave information to an individual to help him/her commit murder

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is reckless behavior that leads to a foreseeable death. For example, throwing an object off a roof onto a crowd below, killing an individual on the street is grounds for second-degree murder charges. Setting off fireworks in a crowd of people who aren’t a safe distance away, causing death, is also second-degree murder.

Second-degree murder also involves death by drugs. For example, bringing food laced with a drug to a potluck, causing a guest’s death is second-degree murder.

Attempted Murder

Attempted murder is deliberately trying to kill someone and failing. If the victim dies from his or her injuries while the defendant is being tried for attempted murder, the prosecutor can raise the charge to homicide.

Reducing Homicide Charges To Manslaughter

In some cases, prosecutors may be willing to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter in an effort to avoid litigation. Manslaughter is a type of homicide but the killing is done without malice and premeditation.

The two types of manslaughter in Nevada are:

  1. Voluntary manslaughter. This is killing in the heat of passion. The maximum prison term is 10 years.
  2. Involuntary manslaughter. This is unintentional killing done while breaking the law or being negligent. The maximum prison term is four years.

A manslaughter charge not only carries lighter penalties, but also less social stigma. It is easier for defendants convicted of manslaughter to assimilate into society and lead a productive civilian life, than for defendants convicted of homicide.

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