Attempted murder by poisoning (NRS 200.390) carries potentially harsher penalties in Nevada than attempted murder by other means. The defendant may face a life sentence in prison. But a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Continue reading to learn the law, defenses, and penalties.
The legal definition of “attempted murder by poisoning” in Nevada is when someone willfully and maliciously administers poison – or causes poison to be administered – to a person with the intent to kill that person. A poison may include any noxious or destructive substance or liquid.
Therefore, this crime is identical to attempted murder except that the defendant allegedly uses poison as the murder weapon. Note that a defendant is not liable for violating NRS 200.390 if they did not mean to kill the victim.
Example: Jan in Henderson was preparing her husband’s favorite stew dinner. She reached into the cabinet for oil but carelessly grabbed a bottle of cleaning liquid and poured it into the pot. At dinner her husband digs into the dinner and starts convulsing. He’s rushed to the hospital where he nearly dies. The police arrest Jan for attempted murder by poisoning and book her at the Henderson Detention Center. But if the prosecution can’t prove that Jan intended to kill her husband, the charge should be dismissed.
Note that if Jan’s husband had died, she would probably be charged with murder in the first degree. But as with attempted murder charges, Jan wouldn’t be liable because she never meant to kill her husband. If anything, Jan may be convicted of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter for negligently causing her husband’s death.
The best defenses to charges for attempting to kill with poison always turn on the specific circumstances of the case. In general, the defense attorney may employ the following strategies:
- No intent to kill. A person may not be convicted of NRS 200.390 unless the court finds that the defendant intended to cause the death of the victim. If the prosecution can’t prove that the defendant had such intent and that the poisoning wasn’t accidental or otherwise inadvertent, then the charge should be dropped.
- No poison. Perhaps the substance the defendant ingested-if the defendant even ingested anything-was not poison at all. If the defense attorney can show that any substance the defendant administered was not poisonous, then he/she shouldn’t be criminally liable for attempted murder by poisoning.
- Lack of evidence. The prosecution bears the burden to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defense attorney can show that the prosecution’s evidence is too unsubstantial, unreliable or inaccurate to sustain a conviction, then the attempted murder by poison case should be dismissed.
Note that self-defense may be a feasible defense in certain attempted murder by poisoning cases.
Example: Henry in North Las Vegas is raging against his wife by swinging a knife at her in the kitchen. Afraid that he’s about to maim or kill her, she grabs for a can of bug repellant on the counter and sprays it into his mouth, causing him to nearly die. Police then book the wife at the North Las Vegas Detention Center for attempted murder by poisoning. But she should be acquitted since she sprayed the repellent only because Henry was ostensibly about to kill her.
Note that self-defense is valid only if the defendant reasonably believed he/she was facing immediate bodily harm. If Henry in the above example eventually put down the knife, and Jan later that evening poisoned his dinner, self-defense wouldn’t apply because she was no longer facing immediate bodily harm.
Attempting to kill a person with poison is a category A felony. The punishment includes either:
- life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years incarceration, OR
- 15 years in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years incarceration
Attempted murder without poison
Attempting to kill a person without poison is a category B felony. The punishment includes 2 to 20 years in prison. The judge may as much as double the penalty if the victim was 60-years old or older, or if the defendant used a deadly weapon.
Murder by poison
Willfully killing someone by poisoning them is a category A felony. The punishment includes either:
- Death penalty in Nevada, OR
- Life in prison with no possibility of parole, OR
- Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years incarceration, OR
- 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years incarceration
Negligently causing the death of someone with poison is a category D felony, carrying a sentence of:
- 1 to 4 years in prison, AND
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Arrested for a crime in Nevada? Call a lawyer …
If you or someone you know has been charged with “attempted murder by poisoning” in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers for a consultation. We may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or else we’ll fight for your innocence at trial.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
In California? See our article on California murder laws.