Is Nevada a "stand your ground" state?

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

Yes, but there are conditions. Under Nevada self-defense laws, a person in Nevada is not required to retreat before using deadly force if the person:

  • does not start the fight;
  • has the reasonable belief that his/her life is in immediate jeopardy;
  • has the right to be in the location where deadly force is used; and
  • is not otherwise breaking the law at the time deadly force is used.

In short, law-abiding non-aggressors in reasonable fear for their life may legally stand their ground even if they have the opportunity to retreat.

Example: Kevin and Victor get into an argument while jogging at Sunset Park. Kevin pulls out a knife and begins lunging at Victor. Victor pulls out his gun and shoots at Kevin.

Even though Victor had the ability to run away since he is in an open area, Victor did nothing illegal by "standing his ground." This is because 1) Kevin was the initial aggressor; 2) Victor reasonably believed that Kevin was about to kill him by brandishing the knife at him; 3) Victor had the right to be at Sunset Park, and 4) Victor was breaking no law at the time.

If Kevin in the above example did not pull out a knife or lunge towards Victor but instead just seethed, "I'm gonna kill you," then Victor probably would not have been justified in fighting back. "Fighting words" may be upsetting but do not by themselves pose a risk of immediate death. Even if Victor honestly feared for his life when Kevin said, "I'm gonna kill you," Nevada courts do not care what Kevin himself believed...

Instead, judges use the "reasonable person" standard when determining whether people are justified in standing their ground. Since a reasonable person hearing "I'm gonna kill you" would not believe he/she was about to be killed at that moment, a reasonable person would not kill Kevin. So if Victor shot Kevin in response to Kevin's verbal threats, Victor would be charged with the Nevada crime of murder.

Note that the term "imperfect self-defense" refers to when people genuinely believe they were justified in fighting back with deadly force, but their case fails the "reasonable person" standard. Although imperfect self-defense cannot get murder charges dismissed, it could cause a judge to impose laxer penalties or even reduce a murder charge to a manslaughter.

Stand Your Ground versus The Castle Doctrine

A person in a home or vehicle in Nevada may use deadly force against another person merely for trying to break in, whether or not the intruder had any intent to kill the occupant:

Example: Helen is having dinner when she sees a man trying to break into her house by hitting her window with a lead pipe. Helen then shoots at the man through the window, killing him. Since the man was clearly trying to break in, the Castle Doctrine allowed Helen to use deadly force on him. It does not matter that the man only intended to steal her TV and had no desire to harm anyone.

Therefore, the Castle Doctrine allows people inside a home or car to kill intruders. They do not have to wait until the moment they are facing immediate death to stand their ground with deadly force. Just by virtue of being inside a home or vehicle, they can kill as soon as someone is wrongfully trying to enter the premises.

Learn more about Nevada Castle Doctrine laws and justifiable homicide (NRS 200.120).

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.

Culverson v. State, 106 Nev. 484, 797 P.2d 238 (1990)("[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.").

Earl v. State, 111 Nev. 1304, 904 P.2d 1029 (1995)("This court has interpreted the "no duty to retreat" rule to mean that the person must reasonably believe he is about to be attacked with deadly force.").

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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