Las Vegas Murder Lawyer Explains Homicide Laws in Nevada (NRS 200.010)

Murder is the most serious charge a person can face. Nevada allows the death penalty in certain cases. If you are charged with murder, you should seek a violent crimes legal counsel as soon as possible because your freedom is at stake. You need every advantage in this situation.

Legal Definition of Murder

While the Nevada legal definition of murder may seem obvious, it actually has many parts that the state must prove. Murder is the unlawful killing of another person with “malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought means the deliberate intention to unlawfully take away another person’s life.

What is malice? How is it proven?

Malice is assumed when there is no provocation for the killing by the deceased, and the circumstances of the case show an “abandoned and malignant heart.” The Nevada courts have looked at many cases in which the defendant had an opportunity- even for a second- not to go through with the killing and did so anyway. This is enough to show that the killing was done with an abandoned and malignant heart.

Degrees of Murder in Nevada

The crime of homicide is separated into four types depending on the circumstances of the case and the mindset of the alleged killer:

  • First Degree Murder, which is unlawful, done with malice aforethought, deliberate, and thought out in advance (premeditated);
  • Felony-murder, which is the same as first degree murder but occurs when a person is committing another felony such as rape or kidnapping, even if the murder was not originally planned. Nevada felony-murder charges can also arise from ambush, torture, or poisoning;
  • Second Degree Murder, which is not premeditated, covers all killings not which are not murders in the first degree; and
  • Attempted Murder.

Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter are separate crimes.

Sentence for First Degree Murder in Nevada

Murder in the first degree is a Category A felony. It can punishable by death or by life in prison without parole if aggravating factors are present. Other sentences include 50 years with the possibility of parole after 20 years served, or life with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

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Aggravating Factors for Nevada Homicide Sentences (First Degree)

A sentence for first degree murder can be increased, or even doubled, if the killing involved any of the following:

  • Torture or mutilation of the body;
  • Was a random act without a motive;
  • A child under the age of 14;
  • A senior over the age of 60;
  • Was motivated by race; or
  • If the deceased was a police officer.

Mitigating Factors for Nevada Homicide Sentences (First Degree)

In sentencing, the court will consider mitigating factors, which are factors that show the defendant in a positive light, such as:

  • No significant prior criminal history;
  • That he or she was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time;
  • Age; and
  • Other circumstances that warrant leniency.

Sentence for Second Degree Murder in Nevada

Second degree murder is also a Category A felony but it is punishable by life with the possibility of parole after 10 years served, or 25 years with the possibility of parole after 10 years.

Nevada Attempted Murder Charges and Sentencing

Attempted murder does require a death. Instead, the prosecutor must only prove two things:

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  • The defendant intended to kill a person, and
  • The defendant made at least some preparation, or took one step, toward killing that person.
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Attempted murder is a Category B felony in Nevada, which carries 2 to 20 years in prison. The sentence can be doubled if a deadly weapon is involved or the victim is 60 years old or older.

Attempted Murder Defense

If the specific desire to kill, not just injure, cannot be proven, the charge could be reduced to an aggravated assault.

Resources on Homicide/Murder in Las Vegas

Clark County Family Assistance Center Phone Number:
Call Center Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PDT daily
Local callers: (702) 455-AIDE (2433);
Out-of-state callers: 1-833-299-AIDE (2433).

Nevada Victims of Crime
PO Box 94525
Las Vegas, NV 89193-1525
Fax: (888) 941-7890

LVMPD – Homicide Division

Interesting: Gary Gauger was sentenced to death based mostly on statements he allegedly made


Nevada Homicide Defenses

Homicide charges have two main defenses: the insanity defense (a temporary mental episode where the defendant could not control him or herself) and self-defense. Self-defense must show a danger “so urgent and pressing” that the killing was absolutely necessary to prevent the killing of the defender or someone else.