Am I allowed to kill someone in self-defense in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

Yes, under certain circumstances. A homicide is justifiable in Nevada occurs if all the following conditions are true:

  • The danger was urgent and pressing;
  • The non-aggressor faced death or major bodily harm;
  • A reasonable person in the non-aggressor's position would also fear for his/her life and safety; and
  • The non-aggressor was not merely acting out of revenge.1

In short, killing in self-defense is legal when the person is facing an immediate threat of being killed or gravely injured. A "bare fear" of being injured is inadequate to justify using lethal force in self-defense.

Duty to Retreat in Nevada

A person does not need to retreat before inflicting deadly force if the following three preconditions are met:

  1. The person did not start the fight; and
  2. The person has the right to be at the location where deadly force is used; and
  3. The person is not otherwise breaking the law at the time deadly force is used. 2

In sum, there is no duty to retreat before fighting back with deadly force if the person is not the original aggressor, is not committing trespass, and is not otherwise committing illegal activity.

Castle Doctrine in Nevada

Under Nevada's "Castle Doctrine," it is legal to kill an intruder of an occupied dwelling or automobile if the intruder is trying to carry out a felony such as home invasion.3 It makes no difference if the intruder has no intention to kill anyone. Note that the Castle Doctrine does not apply when the home or car is currently unoccupied. Learn more about unjustifiable homicide in Nevada (NRS 200.120).

Legal References:

  1. NRS 200.130; NRS 200.120; NRS 200.160; NRS 200.200; Culverson v. State, 106 Nev. 484, 797 P.2d 238 (1990)("[Self-defense] would also be justifiable if there was no actual or immediate danger to the defendant, but the defendant reasonably believed that his assailant could kill or seriously harm him."); Davis v. State, 321 P.3d 867, 130 Nev. Adv. Rep. 16 (2014)("a person is allowed to use "[r]esistance sufficient . . . [t]o prevent an offense against his or her person," and, if the resistance is homicide, it is justifiable if "the circumstances were sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person.").
  2. Id.; Culverson v. State, 106 Nev. 484, 797 P.2d 238 (1990)("Therefore, we hold that a person, who is not the original aggressor, has no duty to retreat before using deadly force, if a reasonable person in the position of the non-aggressor would believe that his assailant is about to kill him or cause him serious  bodily harm.").
  3. Id.

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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