A 19-year-old honors student attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was killed and law enforcement have filed criminal charges against her ex-boyfriend.

The 21-year-old defendant is reportedly being held on a single charge of murder with a deadly weapon, according to People.com.

News reports indicate that the 19-year-old UNLV student was reported missing by her family and subsequently found shot to death in her van. The vehicle parked at Desert Horizons Park in North Las Vegas.

Potential Penalties for a Murder Conviction

Being charged with murder is one of the most serious criminal offenses under Nevada law. The punishments for a murder conviction are severe and unforgiving. For example, Nevada enforces the death penalty

If someone is convicted of first-degree murder in Nevada, the potential penalties include:

  • Death penalty (though this is typically reserved for cases where aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances);
  • Life prison sentence without the possibility of parole;
  • Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years; and/or
  • 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years

If someone is convicted of second-degree murder in Nevada, the potential penalties include:

  • Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years; or
  • 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years

Defending Against Murder Charges

Being charged with murder does not mean you are automatically guilty of the offense. Every American is owed the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the burden is on the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the murder. This means there are numerous potential defenses to a murder charge, including:

  • Insanity;
  • Procedural violation committed by Nevada law enforcement that results in the removal of evidence from the case;
  • Lawful self-defense or defense of others;
  • Police coerced the defendant into a false confession;
  • Wrong defendant was charged

Reducing a Murder Charge to Manslaughter

It is possible to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter, depending on the facts of your case. Murder trials take a lot of time and effort, and prosecutors may be willing to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter as a way to avoid protracted litigation and the risk of losing the case.

The reduction of charges from murder to manslaughter can be appealing to a defendant since the penalties for a manslaughter conviction are much less severe when compared to the penalties associated with a murder conviction. In addition, manslaughter has less of a social stigma and presents a more viable opportunity for a defendant to move forward after accepting a plea deal.

Now is the Time for Action – Contact an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney to Schedule a Free, Confidential Case Review

If you have been charged with murder, retaining skilled and effective legal counsel is critically important. Your life and liberty are literally on the line. A conviction could result in the death penalty or spending the remainder of your days in prison. Take action by contacting LV Criminal Defense. We offer free, confidential case reviews to all prospective clients.