Murder is the most serious crime in Nevada. And public outrage pressures prosecutors to bring the culprits to justice quickly – even at the risk of arresting the wrong person.
Our Las Vegas murder defense attorneys fight a war of attrition against the district attorney, taking apart their case block by block in an effort to raise a reasonable doubt and show that the defendant is also a victim – of being wrongly accused.
1. What are the best defenses to murder in Nevada?
Four typical defenses to murder charges are:
- The defendant killed in lawful self-defense. Nevada law permits people to use deadly force against an assailant if they reasonably believe they (or others) face immediate death or substantial bodily harm. And the castle doctrine allows people to kill dangerous home intruders.
- The killing was an accident. Murder requires premeditation or extreme indifference to human life. Innocent accidents that result in a fatality are tragic but not criminal.
- The defendant was insane. Defendants facing murder charges are “not guilty by reason of insanity” if they did not understand the nature of their act or could not distinguish between right and wrong. In insanity cases, defense attorneys typically call on expert witnesses to give testimony.
- The police arrested the wrong person. Perhaps a witness wrongly picked the defendant out of a lineup. Or perhaps the defendant was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and law enforcement mistakenly pegged the defendant as a suspect.1
In the end, prosecutors bear the burden to prove that the defendant is guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Unless the incident was captured on video or had credible eyewitnesses, this can be a very difficult bar for the D.A. to meet. The state could drop the murder charge simply due to lack of proof.
2. Is there a statute of limitations in murder cases?
No. Nevada prosecutors can press murder charges no matter how much time has gone by as long as the suspect is still alive.2 However, the odds of getting convicted of murder are less the more time goes by due to evidence disappearing or being contaminated.
See our related article, Is there a statute of limitations to file a murder charge in Nevada?
3. Does Nevada still carry the death penalty?
People with a first-degree murder conviction in Nevada face the death penalty if the court finds that:
- there is at least one aggravating circumstance; and
- the aggravating circumstance(s) outweigh all the mitigating circumstances.
Examples of aggravating circumstances are that the murder was proceeded by torture or done as a hate crime. Examples of mitigating circumstances are that the defendant was abused as a child or had no other criminal history.
Though no one has actually been put to death in Nevada since 2006. Plus it is unlikely that anyone on death row will be executed in the foreseeable future because the state is having difficulty obtaining the materials necessary for lethal injection.
Otherwise, the penalties for first-degree murder are:
- Life in Nevada State Prison without the possibility of parole; or
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years; or
- 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Second-degree murder never carries the death penalty. Instead, the punishment is:
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years; or
- 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years.3
Since murder convictions carry the most serious penalties, defendants facing murder charges should hire experienced criminal defense lawyers to fight the allegations. It may be possible to show the prosecutors that murder charges are not provable beyond a reasonable doubt. The D.A. may then agree to reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or even a dismissal.
4. Can I get bail while awaiting trial?
Judges almost never release defendants on bail if they are facing murder charges. Courts worry that these defendants may be a flight risk or hurt others while out of custody. However, our Las Vegas murder defense lawyers would still schedule a bail hearing in an effort to fight for bail release or house arrest.
5. How can a Las Vegas murder defense lawyer help my case?
Our Nevada criminal defense attorneys take a three-pronged approach when fighting murder charges:
- Investigate. The state’s evidence is only half the story. Maybe there are alibis, surveillance video, and recorded communications that raise a reasonable doubt. Perhaps the D.A.s lab techs contaminated the forensic evidence. Sometimes “witnesses” have motivations to lie, and we can impeach their credibility with their own past statements.
- Litigate. We file every court motion possible in an effort to exclude the state’s evidence that may be irrelevant or unlawfully obtained, such as through an illegal police search or seizure. By chipping away at the state’s case, prosecutors may realize they have insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Negotiate. The vast majority of criminal cases resolve without a trial at all. Through aggressive settlement talks, we may be able to persuade the D.A. to reduce the charges to lesser offenses or to drop them altogether.
In short, our Las Vegas murder defense attorneys exert constant pressure in an effort to make the state realize they have an unwinnable case.
If police have arrested your loved one for murder in Nevada, contact our Las Vegas murder defense lawyers today to discuss the case and how we can fight for a charge reduction or dismissal.
- NRS 200.275. Davis v. State, (2014) 321 P.3d 867, 130 Nev. Adv. Rep. 16. NRS 200.120; Culverson v. State, (1990) 106 Nev. 484, 797 P.2d 238.
- NRS 171.080.
- NRS 200.010 – .035.