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Each of these types of first-degree murder carries the death penalty as a possible punishment only if any aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. Otherwise, the court may impose either:
life in prison without the possibility of parole,
life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years, or
a 50-year prison term with the possibility of parole after 20 years
1. Premeditated killing
The primary definition of first-degree murder is a killing that is perpetrated by means of either:
lying in wait,
any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing
Note that a person does not have to plan for a long time to kill someone in order to be convicted of premeditated killing. A split-second but conscious decision to kill someone qualifies as first-degree murder. In contrast, killing someone in a sudden heat of passion is the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter in Nevada, which does not carry the death penalty.
2. Felony murder
Another common type of first-degree murder is “felony murder in Nevada.” This comprises any killing committed in perpetration (or attempted perpetration) of either of the following felonies:
invasion of the home,
sexual abuse of a child,
sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years,
child abuse, or
abuse of an older person or vulnerable person pursuant to NRS 200.5099;
It does not matter if the suspect had no intention to kill anyone before committing the underlying felony: A person can still be convicted of first-degree murder if he/she ends up killing someone in the perpetration of one of the above felony offenses.
3. Killing to avoid arrest or incarceration
The third type of first-degree murder is when someone kills in order to either:
avoid or prevent the lawful arrest of any person by a peace officer, or
effect the escape of any person from legal custody
In other words, first-degree murder comprises a killing done while trying to escape arrest or incarceration. A suspect can still be convicted of first-degree murder even if he/she intended to avoid arrest or escape jail, prison, or other legal custody without hurting anyone.
4. Killing at a school event
The fourth type of first-degree murder is a killing committed by a person who intended to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person by means of a hazardous weapon, device, or course of action:
on the property of a public or private school, or
at an activity sponsored by a public or private school, or
on a school bus while the bus was engaged in its official duties
An example would be a death(s) caused by unleashing gunfire or detonating a bomb at a pep rally.
5. Killing in the perpetration of terrorism
The final type of first-degree murder is a killing committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an act of terrorism.
About the Author
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, 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.