Does Nevada follow the Castle doctrine?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Yes. Under the castle doctrine (NRS 200.120), people in Nevada have the right to use deadly force to protect their occupied home or occupied vehicle from assault by a third party. They have no duty to retreat:

Example: Tom walks back to his apartment building after getting drunk at a Las Vegas bar. He lives in Apartment 1A, but he tries to get in apartment 1B next door because he is too intoxicated to realize it is the wrong apartment.

Meanwhile, John is in bed in apartment 1B when he hears someone trying to break in his front door. So John takes out his pistol and shoots through the door, killing Tom. In this case, John should face no criminal charges because he was under the reasonable belief that someone was trying to break in.

In the above example, it makes no difference that John could have escaped through a window. He was allowed to use deadly force instead of retreating.

Note that the castle doctrine applies only to homes and vehicles that have at least one person inside. If apartment 1B in the above example was empty, and John saw from the road that Tom was trying to break in, John would not be justified in using deadly force to stop him from breaking in. If John shot Tom from the road, he would certainly face charges for the Nevada crime of murder.

Castle Doctrine versus "Stand your Ground"

Nevada is a "stand your ground" state. This means that people facing an immediate threat of bodily harm do not have the duty to retreat. Instead, they may fight back. Nevada self-defense laws permit people to use deadly force as long as:

  1. They were not the original aggressor (in other words, they did not start the fight);
  2. They are in reasonable fear of immediate death or substantial bodily harm (including rape);
  3. They are legally allowed to be in their current location; and
  4. They are not otherwise breaking the law.

Therefore, the bar for using deadly force is higher when the person acting in self-defense is outside of his/her empty home or vehicle than inside his/her home or vehicle:

Example: Tom is sleeping in the backseat of his parked car in a rough neighborhood in Henderson. Suddenly he is awoken by a gang member trying to break the windshield. Tom takes his pistol and shoots him, killing him. Here, the castle doctrine applies because he was in a vehicle. Therefore, he was legally permitted to use deadly force against any intruder, even if he did not fear for his life.

Had Tom in the above example been in his home when he saw the gang member trying to break into his empty car, the castle doctrine would not apply because no one was physically in the vehicle. Therefore, Tom would not be justified in shooting the gang member from his home. Even if Tom felt scared for his life, he would not be able to claim self-defense because there was no immediate physical threat of bodily harm.

Learn more about Nevada's "Stand Your Ground" laws.

Legal References

NRS 200.120  “Justifiable homicide” defined; no duty to retreat under certain circumstances.

      1.  Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle or a person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors to commit a crime of violence, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied motor vehicle, of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.

      2.  A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person:

      (a) Is not the original aggressor;

      (b) Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and

      (c) Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.

      3.  As used in this section:

      (a) “Crime of violence” means any felony for which there is a substantial risk that force or violence may be used against the person or property of another in the commission of the felony.

      (b) “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle which is self-propelled.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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