Nevada’s felony murder rule allows the state to charge a person with first-degree murder if a person is killed in the commission of certain felony crimes, even if the death was accidental and the defendant had no intent to kill. A conviction can be punished by a term of 50 years in state prison, life in prison, or the death penalty.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker has nearly two decades of experience in defending felony murder cases and fighting to achieve successful resolutions. Scroll down to learn about Nevada’s “felony murder rule” and how we can help.
The legal definition of felony murder in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a homicide committed in the perpetration of either of the following crimes:
- the Nevada crime of sexual assault (see our article on Nevada sex crimes)
- the Nevada crime of sexual abuse of a child
- the Nevada crime of arson
- the Nevada crime of robbery
- the Nevada crime of burglary
- the Nevada crime of invasion of the home
- the Nevada crime of sexual molestation of a child under 14
- the Nevada crime of kidnapping
- the Nevada crime of child abuse
- the Nevada crime of elder abuse
A classic Las Vegas felony murder scenario is someone burglarizing a jewelry store after hours and the owner unexpectedly shows up, who the thief shoots dead out of panic. Even though the thief never wanted to hurt anyone, he could face first-degree murder charges.
Under the Nevada felony murder rule, it is still considered murder whether the killing was intentional or accidental. It also does not make a difference whether the killing was in furtherance of the felony. The death merely needs to be logically connected to the felony for it to be murder. For example:
Example: Tom goes into a supermarket to commit the felony of robbery. He holds up the cashier by gunpoint, who proceeds to have a stroke and dies. Because the death is logically connected to the robbery, the felony murder rule attaches.
Each Las Vegas felony murder case is very different, and which defenses would be most effective turns solely on the facts. Below are some of the more common defenses used in murder cases:
- Self-defense. Nevada self-defense law is a complete defense to a murder charge as long as your attorney can show that you acted reasonably and were threatened with immediate bodily harm.
- Illegal search. Lots of murder cases are thrown out because of procedural errors on the part of the police. If they execute a faulty search warrant in Las Vegas or contaminate evidence, your attorney may ask the judge to throw out the evidence. And with no evidence, the charges may be dismissed for insufficient proof.
- Unrelated death. If the prosecution cannot show that the death was connected to the underlying felony, then the felony murder rule does not apply. For example, if Tom is burglarizing Jim’s house, and Jim’s ex-wife happens to show up at the same time and shoots Jim for cheating on her, Tom should not be charged with felony murder
Felony murder is a category A felony in Las Vegas. The sentence may be either:
- Death, or
- Life in Nevada State Prison without the possibility of parole, or
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after twenty years, or
- Fifty years in prison with the possibility of parole after twenty years
The judge will impose an additional one to twenty years if the defendant had a deadly weapon or if the victim was sixty years old or older. Read more about Nevada murder law.
Facing charges? Call us . . . .
If after reading this you would like to talk to our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for free about your case. An arrest is not a guilty verdict. We may be able to get the charges dropped or reduced to lesser offenses. And if necessary we will fight for a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
For information about California felony murder law, go to our page on California’s felony murder rule.