In this section, our attorneys explain Nevada’s criminal laws and legal concepts, A to Z
Nevada self-defense laws allow you to stand your ground without a duty to retreat if (1) you did not start the fight, (2) you have a reasonable belief that your life is in immediate jeopardy, (3) you have a right to be in the location where deadly force is used, and (4) you are not otherwise breaking the law at the time deadly force is used.1
Nevada law does not require victims to try to flee before they can lawfully kill in self-defense. But in order to lawfully stand their ground, the following four conditions must be true:
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. Seeing this an in imminent threat, Victor pulls out his handgun 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.
An imperfect self-defense case is when people genuinely believe they were justified in fighting back against an aggressor, but their case fails the “reasonable person” standard. Therefore, imperfect self-defense does not serve as a defense to criminal charges. 3
Example: Kevin and Victor get into an argument while jogging at Sunset Park. Kevin steps towards Victor and seethes, “I’m going to kill you.” Fearing imminent danger, Victor pulls out his handgun and shoots at Kevin.
Here, Victor’s use of deadly force probably would not be legally justified. “Fighting words” may be upsetting but do not by themselves pose an immediate threat of death. Even if Victor honestly feared for his life when Kevin said, “I’m gonna kill you,” Nevada courts do not care about the victim’s “bare fear.” Courts only care whether a reasonable person under the same circumstances would fear for his/her life. In this case, a reasonable person would probably have used non-deadly force.
Although imperfect self-defense cannot get murder charges dismissed, a criminal defense lawyer can use it to persuade a judge to impose laxer penalties or even reduce a murder charge to manslaughter.
Under Nevada state law’s Castle Doctrine, a person in a home or vehicle may use deadly force against another person who is trying to break in seemingly for the purpose of committing a violent crime. It does not matter whether or not the intruder actually 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 commit a home invasion and appeared violent, 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.
In short, the Castle Doctrine allows people inside a home or car to kill intruders. And they do not have to wait until the moment they are facing immediate death or severe injury to hit back with deadly force. And they have no duty to retreat, even if there is an open door or window available.
In this way, the Castle Doctrine has a lower bar than the stand your ground doctrine, which requires that the person fear immediate death or severe injury before they inflict a lethal blow. Just by virtue of being inside a home or vehicle, a person can kill as soon as someone is wrongfully trying to enter the premises.4
You and your loved ones are welcome to our law firm for a free consultation on your legal rights. Our criminal defense attorneys serve clients in Las Vegas, NV and throughout the state.
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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