You commit the crime of attempted murder in Nevada if you try unsuccessfully to murder another human being. The three main elements of this offense are:
- you intended to kill the victim,
- you took a direct step towards carrying out the killing, and
- the victim did not die.
It may be possible to get criminal charges dismissed or reduced through a plea bargain. The most common arguments for fighting attempt homicide allegations include that you:
- acted in lawful self-defense,
- had no intent to kill, and/or
- made no attempt to kill,
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss the following attempt murder topics:
- 1. What is attempted murder in Nevada?
- 2. How long is the prison sentence?
- 3. Can the charges be fought?
- 4. Is my criminal record sealable?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. Related offenses
1. What is attempted murder in Nevada?
Like it sounds, attempt murder is when you intentionally try to kill someone else — but the would-be victim does not die.1
Therefore, prosecutors have to prove three elements in order to convict you of attempted homicide in Nevada:
- you had the intention to kill the would-be-victim,
- you took at least one direct step towards accomplishing the killing, and
- the victim did not die.2
The central difference between murder and attempted murder is that the victim in attempt murder cases did not die from your actions. Examples of attempted murder include:
- shooting a gun at someone’s head, heart, or other vital organs with the intent to kill, but the victim ducks in time
- stabbing someone in the chest with the intent to kill, but the victim survives
- paying a hitman to kill someone, but the victim escapes in time
If a victim in an attempt murder case ultimately dies from the injuries, then the D.A. will upgrade your charges to the crime of murder. This carries potential life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
2. How long is the prison sentence?
In Nevada, attempt murder is generally a category B felony carrying two to 20 years in state prison. The judge will impose an additional one-to-20 years if either:
- you used a deadly weapon, or
- you were acting on behalf of a gang, or
- the victim was age 60 or older.
However, this enhanced sentence may not be longer than the underlying sentence for attempted murder:
Example: Rudy gets convicted of attempting to kill his co-worker, who is 65 years old. The judge imposes a 10-year penalty for the attempt murder.
Because the co-worker is age 60 or older, the judge will impose a penalty enhancement. Though since the underlying sentence is only 10 years, this additional penalty may be no longer than 10 years.
Had the judge in the above example imposed an underlying penalty of 20 years, then the judge would be able to impose an additional 20 years due to the victim’s age.
Note that attempted homicide never carries the death penalty. Also note that judges may grant probation in lieu of prison in some cases.3
2.1. Attempted murder by poisoning
Nevada law classifies attempting to poison someone to death as a category A felony. The judge may impose either of the following sentences:
- life in prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years; or
- 15 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years4
Learn more about attempting murder by poison.
3. Can the charges be fought?
Attempted murder is usually much harder for Nevada prosecutors to prove than actual murder. There is no dead body, and no one can read your mind to tell whether you intended to kill.
There are several possible defense strategies for getting attempted homicide charges dismissed. Below are three common strategies:
- lack of intent
- lack of attempt
Note that it is not a defense to attempt homicide charges if the victim sustained no injuries.
3.1. You acted in self-defense
Killing in self-defense is legal in Nevada as long as you reasonably believe the aggressor is about to kill or seriously injure you or another person.5
Example: Jeff is walking down a dark alleyway when a thief holds him up with a gun. The thief then cocks the gun, and Jeff uses a karate move to wrest the gun away and shoot him in the chest. The thief survives.
The D.A. investigates the case and decides not to bring attempt murder charges against Jeff. Even though Jeff intended to kill the thief when he shot him, his action was justifiable because he had good reason to believe that the thief was about to kill or seriously harm him.
The thief in the above example will himself probably face attempted murder charges or at least robbery charges.
3.2. There was no intention to kill
Attempted murder is a specific intent crime. This means that in order for you to be convicted, you must have intended to kill someone.
Merely intending to injure does not make you liable for attempted murder.6 Typical evidence in these cases includes:
- surveillance video,
- eyewitness accounts,
- text messages, voicemails, and other communications
The D.A. would likely argue that any wounds you allegedly inflicted on the victim’s head or chest are evidence of premeditation to kill because of their proximity to vital organs. If you shot straight up into the sky or straight down into the floor, the D.A. would have a tougher time arguing you had intent to kill.
Either way, you are not guilty of attempted murder as long as the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to cause death.
3.3. There was no attempt to kill
You do not commit an attempted crime merely by thinking about or planning to do it: You would have had to put the plan into action and “attempt” it.
Therefore, attempted murder charges should be dismissed if you took no “direct” step towards accomplishing a killing of a human life. For example, writing a journal diary about planning to kill someone is not a substantial step towards killing. Instead, pointing a gun at someone could be an attempted killing.7
Note that you could be liable for conspiracy to commit murder if you agreed with at least one other person to kill someone else. It is irrelevant if no further action was taken to accomplish the killing. Learn more about Nevada conspiracy laws.
4. Is my criminal record sealable?
Attempted murder convictions in Nevada may be sealed 10 years after the case ends. A case ends when you are done serving your sentence and parole.8
If you get acquitted of attempted murder — or if the charges otherwise get dismissed — then you may pursue a record seal immediately. The following table summarizes the record seal rules.9
Learn more about how to get a record seal.
5. What are the immigration consequences?
Non-citizens convicted of attempted murder may be thrown out of the U.S. As a serious crime involving malice aforethought, murder is considered:
both of which are deportable.10
Immigrants facing attempted murder charges may be able to avoid deportation if their attorney can get the criminal case:
- dismissed or
- reduced to a non-deportable offense.
6. Related offenses
6.1. Battery with substantial injuries
Battery (NRS 200.481) occurs when someone inflicts unlawful physical force on someone else. Common examples are punching or kicking someone.
- whether a deadly weapon was involved, or
- if the defendant was part of a “protected class,” such as a law enforcement officer.11
Another name for mayhem is maiming. It comprises cutting off, disfiguring, or disabling a part of someone’s body.
Like attempt murder, mayhem is a category B felony in Nevada. The penalties are:
- 2 to 10 years in state prison, and
- up to $10,000 in fines.12
It is against Nevada law to impose physical brutality on an initiating or current member of a club. Hazing is typically an issue in gangs, sports teams, and fraternities.
If hazing causes serious bodily injury, it is a gross misdemeanor, carrying:
- up to 364 days in jail and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines.
Hazing with no serious injuries is a misdemeanor carrying:
- up to 6 months in jail and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.13
6.4. Assault with a deadly weapon
Assault with a deadly weapon (ADW) is using a weapon to place the intended victim in fear of immediate bodily harm. An example is pointing a gun at a person but not shooting.
ADW is a category B felony, carrying a sentence of:
- 1 to 6 years in state prison, and
- up to $5,000 in fines.14
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Arrested? Call our criminal law firm to speak with our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers. We will draw on our vast experience as negotiators and as trial lawyers to try to resolve your case as positively as possible.
Arrested in California? Go to our page on California attempted murder law.
Arrested in Colorado? Go to our page on Colorado attempted murder law.
- Keys v. State (1988) 104 Nev. 736, 766 P.2d 270 (“[T]he performance of an act which tends, but fails, to kill a human being, when such acts are done with…the deliberate intention unlawfully to kill.”). NRS 200.010.
- State v. Thompson (1909) 31 Nev. 209, 101 P. 557 (“In an attempt to commit a crime, three elements are involved: First–The intent to commit the crime. Second– Performance of some act towards its commission. Third– Failure to consummate its commission.”).
- NRS 193.330; NRS 200.030. NRS 193.168. NRS 193.167. NRS 193.165. NRS 193.130. NRS 176A.100. See also, for example, Burns v. State (2021) ; Bolden v. State (2021) 499 P.3d 1200; Turner v. State (2020) 473 P.3d 438; Anderson v. State (2019) .
- NRS 200.390.
- NRS 200.120.
- Keys v. State, supra (“Express malice, called malice in fact, is the deliberate intention to kill; implied malice, called malice in law, does not relate to a deliberate, intentional killing but is rather a mens rea inferred in law from the ‘circumstances of the killing.’“).
- Moffett v. State (1990) 96 Nev. 822, 618 P.2d 1223 (“The preparation for a crime consists in “devising or arranging the means or measures necessary for the commission of the offense; the attempt is the direct movement towards the commission after the preparations are made.”).
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- 8 U.S.C. § 1227.
- NRS 200.481.
- NRS 200.280.
- NRS 200.605.
- NRS 200.471(2)(b).