Nothing is scarier than having a loved one be accused of murder in Las Vegas. But an arrest is not a conviction, and there is still hope the entire case can be dropped or resolved favorably.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker has defended several clients in murder trials over his two-decade long career. He is even achieved dismissals in two first-degree murder cases. Keep reading to learn the basics of Las Vegas murder law and how we can help.
The legal definition of murder in Las Vegas, Nevada is "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought." In other words, murder is any premeditated or extremely reckless killing. There are two types of murder: First degree and second degree . . .
First-degree murder in Las Vegas, NV, comprises any deliberate act of killing. Examples are purposely shooting, stabbing or poisoning someone.
First-degree murder is also charged in cases where the defendant may not have intended to kill but ends up doing so in the perpetration of either rape, burglary, arson, kidnapping, robbery, child abuse, elder abuse, or sexual abuse of a child. This is called "felony murder" in Nevada.
Second-degree murder in Las Vegas, NV, comprises unintentional homicides where the defendant behaved so recklessly that the death was a foreseeable result. An example is killing someone by playing Russian Roulette.
The federal definition of first and second degree murder is very similar to Nevada's. Read more about federal murder law in Nevada in our article on federal murder law in Nevada.
Murder vs. Manslaughter in Las Vegas, NV
Murder and manslaughter are both types of homicide, but manslaughter is a less serious crime. This is because manslaughter, unlike murder, is killing without malice and premeditation. There are two kinds of manslaughter in Nevada: Voluntary and Involuntary . . .
Voluntary manslaughter in Las Vegas is killing in the heat of passion. An example is a husband unexpectedly finding his wife in bed with another man and immediately killing them. The maximum prison term is ten years.
Involuntary manslaughter in Las Vegas is an unintentional killing done while breaking the law (such as speeding slightly and hitting a pedestrian) or by being negligent (such as adjusting your shoelaces while driving and hitting a pedestrian). The maximum prison term is four years.
How best to defend against a murder charge depends on the facts of the case and the available evidence. The following are standard defenses to murder in Las Vegas, NV:
- Insufficient evidence. The prosecution has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard to meet. Therefore if your attorney can cast a reasonable doubt by showing that their evidence is erroneous, illogical, baseless or inadmissible, the murder charges should not stand.
- Self-defense. It is legal to kill in self-defense as long as it is a necessary and reasonable response. If your attorney can show you were facing immediate and substantial harm, the murder charges may be dropped.
- The police made a mistake. Murder cases often involve extensive searches and forensic investigations. If your attorney can argue that the police violated the Fourth Amendment by executing an illegal search warrant in Las Vegas or mishandling evidence, the judge may suppress the evidence. This could then cause the charges to be dropped for lack of proof.
When determining the harshness of the final sentence, the judge or jury takes into account all of the aggravating and mitigating factors . . .
Aggravating factors are circumstances which make the murder more egregious. An example is if the defendant tortured the victim before killing him. Mitigating factors make the defendant more deserving of a lighter punishment. An example is if the defendant came from an abusive home.
Penalties for 1st Degree Murder
First degree murder is a category A felony in Las Vegas. The sentence may be either:
- Death, or
- Life in Nevada state prison without the possibility of parole, or
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years, or
- 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years
The death penalty may be imposed only if the aggravating circumstances, if any, outweigh any mitigating circumstances. People under eighteen at the time of the crime or who are mentally retarded may not be sentenced to death. Read more in our article on the death penalty in Nevada.
Penalties for 2nd Degree Murder
Second-degree murder is a category A felony in Las Vegas. Since second-degree murder is unintentional, the possible sentences are lighter:
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years, or
- 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years
Enhanced penalty for deadly weapons
If the defendant used a deadly weapon such as a gun to commit the murder, the judge will impose an additional penalty of 1 to 20 years.
Enhanced penalty for elderly victims
If the victim in the case was sixty or older, the court will order an additional sentence of 1 to 20 years.
Murder is an "aggravated felony" and a "crime of moral turpitude" in Nevada. Therefore, aliens who are convicted of murder face deportation following completion of their criminal sentences. Read about the criminal defense of aliens in Nevada.
Call us if your loved one is facing charges . . . .
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) are available to talk to you for free. Through thorough investigation, negotiation and litigation, we may be able to have a murder charge reduced to a lesser defense or thrown out completely.
For information about California murder law, go to our page on California murder law.