Underwood is looking at two counts of open murder in connection with the shooting deaths of two 19-year-olds, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The shooting took place at a home on the 7800 block of Airola Peak Street, near West Grand Teton Drive and North Hualapai Way. Underwood is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.
Overview of Homicide/Murder Laws in Nevada
Under Nevada law, someone can be charged with murder if they are alleged to have taken the life of another human being with malice.
There are varying “degrees” of murder in Nevada.
Someone can be charged with first-degree murder if they are alleged to have committed a premeditated killing. First-degree murder also comprises “felony murder.” This is when someone kills another while committing any of the following serious felonies:
- Child Abuse
- Elder Abuse
- Sexual abuse of a child
A person can be found guilty for felony murder even when they never intended to kill anyone while committing one of the listed felonies.
Here is an example – Tom Smith intended to rob a neighbor. He shows up at the neighbor’s house, breaks in, and instructs the homeowners to empty a safe and provide him with all of their valuables while he holds them up at gunpoint. Tom then accidentally squeezes the trigger and kills one of the neighbors. Even though Tom had no intention to kill anyone, Tom will likely be charged with first degree murder because the neighbor’s death occurred while Tom was committing robbery.
In addition to first-degree murder and felony murder, there is second-degree murder. Someone can be charged with second-degree murder if they are alleged to have unintentionally killed another person while acting recklessly and wantonly. The maximum penalty, if convicted for second-degree murder, is life in prison. Examples of second-degree murder include:
- throwing an object off a roof when there is a crowd below, causing the object to strike and kill one of the people on the street
- firing a gun into a building that the defendant wrongly believes is vacant, and an occupant dies
- setting off fireworks knowing there is a person within an unsafe distance, and the person dies from the explosion
Getting Murder Charges Reduced to Manslaughter
Depending on the facts of your case, it may be possible to negotiate murder charges down to manslaughter charges. You may be asking yourself, “what is manslaughter?” Well, just like murder, manslaughter is a type of homicide. Unlike murder, manslaughter is the killing of another person without malice and premeditation.
There are two different kinds of manslaughter under Nevada law:
- Voluntary manslaughter is killing in the heat of passion. The typical example is a spouse unexpectedly finding his/her spouse in bed with another person and immediately killing the affair partner out of rage. The maximum prison term is ten years.
- Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing done while either breaking the law (such as hunting without a license) or by being negligent (such as leaving out a loaded gun). The maximum prison term is four years.
It may be possible to get murder charges dismissed or, as mentioned, your attorney could try to plea bargain down the charges to manslaughter. Otherwise, murder is a category A felony carrying a possible life sentence in Nevada State Prison. In cases involving first-degree murder, a Nevada court has the discretionary authority to impose the death penalty when the aggravating circumstances outweigh all the mitigating circumstances.
Defenses to Homicide Charges
A conviction for murder may be avoided where your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can show that either:
- the defendant acted in self-defense,
- the killing was an accident,
- the defendant was insane,
- the defendant’s confession was coerced,
- the police performed an illegal search, and/or
- the defendant was misidentified as the killer.
Charged with Homicide? Contact an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with homicide, now is the time for action. Murder charges are some of the most serious under Nevada law and a conviction could result in you serving the rest of your days in prison or being sentenced to death.
This is why you should have the very defense possible. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free case review.