Nevada "Attempted Murder by Poisoning" Laws (NRS 200.390)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Attempted murder by poisoning carries potentially harsher penalties in Nevada that attempted murder by other means.  The defendant may face a life sentence in prison.  But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped altogether.

This article summarizes the Nevada crime of attempted murder by poisoning.  Continue reading to learn the law, defenses, and penalties.


The legal definition of "attempted murder by poisoning" in Nevada is when someone willfully and maliciously administers poison ... or causes poison to be administered ... to a person with the intent to kill that person.  A poison may include any noxious or destructive substance or liquid.

Therefore, this crime is identical to the Nevada crime of attempted murder except that the defendant allegedly uses poison as the murder weapon.  Note that a defendant is not liable for violating NRS 200.390 if he/she didn't mean to kill the victim. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker explains:

Jan in Henderson was preparing her husband's favorite stew dinner. She reached into the cabinet for oil but carelessly grabbed a bottle of cleaning liquid and poured it into the pot.  At dinner her husband digs into the dinner and starts convulsing. He's rushed to the hospital where he nearly dies. The police arrest Jan for attempted murder by poisoning and book her at the Henderson Detention Center. But if the prosecution can't prove that Jan intended to kill her husband, the charge should be dismissed.

Note that if Jan's husband had died, she would probably be charged with the
Nevada crime of murder in the first degree.  But as with attempted murder charges, Jan wouldn't be liable because she never meant to kill her husband. If anything, Jan may be convicted of the lesser Nevada crime of involuntary manslaughter for negligently causing her husband's death.


The best defenses to charges for attempting to kill with poison always turn on the specific circumstances of the case. In general, the defense attorney may employ the following strategies:

  • No intent to kill. A person may not be convicted of NRS 200.390 unless the court finds that the defendant intended to cause the death of the victim.  If the prosecution can't prove that the defendant had such intent and that the poisoning wasn't accidental or otherwise inadvertent, then the charge should be dropped.
  • No poison.  Perhaps the substance the defendant ingested-if the defendant even ingested anything-was not poison at all.  If the defense attorney can show that any substance the defendant administered was not poisonous, then he/she shouldn't be criminally liable for attempted murder by poisoning.
  • Lack of evidence.  The prosecution bears the burden to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the defense attorney can show that the prosecution's evidence is too unsubstantial, unreliable or inaccurate to sustain a conviction, then the attempted murder by poison case should be dismissed.

Note that self-defense in Nevada may be a feasible defense in certain attempted murder by poisoning cases. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates one such example:

Henry in North Las Vegas is raging against his wife by swinging a knife at her in the kitchen. Afraid that he's about to maim or kill her, she grabs for a can of bug repellant on the counter and sprays it into his mouth, causing him to nearly die.  Police then book the wife at the North Las Vegas Detention Center for attempted murder by poisoning.  But she should be acquitted since she sprayed the repellant only because Henry was ostensibly about to kill her.

Note that self-defense is valid only if the defendant reasonably believed he/she was facing immediate bodily harm.  If Henry in the above example eventually put down the knife, and Jan later that evening poisoned his dinner, self-defense wouldn't apply because she was no longer facing immediate bodily harm.


Attempting to kill a person with poison is a category A felony in Nevada. The punishment includes either:

    • life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years incarceration, OR
  • 15 years in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years incarceration

Attempted murder without poison

Attempting to kill a person without poison is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment includes 2 to 20 years in Nevada State Prison. The judge may as much as double the penalty if the victim was 60-years old or older, or if the defendant used a deadly weapon.

Murder by poison

Willfully killing someone by poisoning them is a category A felony in Nevada.  The punishment includes either:

  • Death penalty in Nevada, OR
  • Life in Nevada State Prison with no possibility of parole, OR
  • Life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years incarceration, OR
  • 50 years in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years incarceration

Involuntary manslaughter

Negligently causing the death of someone with poison is a category D felony in Nevada, carrying a sentence of:

  • 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, AND
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Arrested for a crime in Nevada? Call a lawyer ...

If you or someone you know has been charged with "attempted murder by poisoning" in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. We may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or else we'll fight for your innocence at trial.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

For information on California murder laws, see our article on California murder laws.




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