Murder, NRS 200.010, the seriousness of being charged with the crime of murder needs no embellishment. It’s probably also understood that anyone who has been charged of a murder should waste no time finding an attorney who has the extensive experience in criminal defense that a charge of this nature will require. Murder cases can be exceedingly complicated and carry the harshest of penalties, including capital punishment. For this reason, in addition to finding an attorney that you trust, who will be willing to work tirelessly to build a case for your defense, it’s also important that anyone charged with murder understand the broad strokes of how Nevada handles murder cases and the charges and penalties that are associated with them.
A Difference of Degrees: First and Second Degree Murder Explained NRS 200.030
Legally, there are two primary classifications of murder – first degree and second degree – although there are some variations on these. The difference in these degrees comes down mostly to a matter of intention.
First Degree Murder – A murder that is deliberately committed is a first degree murder. This means taking the life of another person consciously and through deliberate actions, such as shooting or stabbing them. First degree murder is punishable by death and is the most serious of the criminal murder charges in Nevada.
Penalties for first degree murder, which is a category A felony in Nevada, vary according to the mitigating and aggravating factors, but are generally one of the following:
● Death. The only method of execution in Nevada is lethal injection.
● Life in a Nevada State Prison with no possible eligibility for parole
● Life in a Nevada State Prison with the possibility for parole eligibility after 20 years
● 50 years in prison with possible eligibility for parole after 20 years
First Degree/Felony Murder in Nevada
There is another variance of a first degree murder charge in Nevada which is associated with cases in which someone has deliberately committed a crime without the intention to kill someone, but does so in the course of the intended crime. In cases of this nature, a homicide will be classified as a homicide whether the death itself was accidental or intentional. Nevada recognizes homicides that occur during the following crimes as potential felony murder charges:
● Home Invasions
● Sexual Molestation of a Child Younger Than 14
● Elder Abuse
Second Degree Murder
A murder that was unintentional but occurred in the course of reckless behavior that the parties involved should have known was potentially fatal can be categorized as a second degree murder.
Penalties for second degree murder, which is a category A felony in Nevada, are not as harsh as those for first degree murder due to the unintentional nature of these crimes. Penalties for this are generally one of the following:
● Life in a Nevada State Prison with the possibility for parole eligibility after 10 years
● 25 years in prison with possible eligibility for parole after 10 years
The Crime of Manslaughter in Las Vegas
A manslaughter charge and what makes it different than a first or second degree murder charge is something that often needs a little more clarification. Simply put, a charge of manslaughter is still technically a murder charge, but manslaughter (which is also sometimes referred to “3rd degree murder) is considered to be a less serious offense because it involves an unlawful killing that has occurred without premeditation or malice.
● Involuntary Manslaughter – The state of Nevada recognizes two forms of manslaughter. One is involuntary manslaughter, which is when an individual who is breaking the law in some way kills someone without having an intention to kill them. Four years is the longest maximum prison term for involuntary manslaughter.
● Voluntary Manslaughter – The second form of manslaughter recognized by Nevada is that of voluntary manslaughter, which is when an individual kills another human being, but with no deliberation or malice. Examples of circumstances that are often associated with a voluntary manslaughter charge include those committed in the heat of passion, during the course of an unlawful act or during the course of a lawful act, but one approached without appropriate levels of caution. Ten years is the longest maximum prison term for voluntary manslaughter.
Attempted Murder Vs. Aggravated Assault Charges
This is another distinction that boils down to the intention of the defendant. If there is a way to prove that defendant had no true intention to murder their alleged victim, then an attempted murder charge, which is a category B felony, can be lowered to one of aggravated assault, which has less severe penalties.
Sentencing for Convicted Murder Charges
In the determination of the sentence for murder, there are usually aggravating and mitigating factors that have to be taken into consideration by the judge and jury.
● Aggravating Factors are relevant details and circumstances related to a murder conviction that add cause for a harsher sentence. A few examples of aggravating factors include prior murder or felony convictions, murders of more than one person committed at random, age of the murder victim, or intention to commit or propagate an act of terrorism.
● Mitigating Factors are relevant details and circumstances that would give cause for the judge or jury to consider a lighter sentence. Some common examples of mitigating factors are a lack of prior criminal history, being at a young age at the time the murder took place, acting as an accomplice in a murder but with much less participation than another offender involved, or committing a murder while experiencing an extreme and legitimate form of emotional or mental disturbance. At sentence hearings, this can also include testimony and letters from family members and friends requesting leniency for the defendant.
If you or somebody that you love has been charged with the crime of murder, we encourage you to contact our offices without hesitation. We can provide you with a free case evaluation and take the first steps toward building your defense against such a profoundly serious charge.