Being accused of killing another person is extremely serious, if not the most serious crime someone can be charged with. A conviction for such a crime is life-altering and can result in significant prison sentences and fines. The state of Nevada has charges for both manslaughter and homicide. These charges differ and are applied to killings based on the severity and specific circumstances. What are the differences between these charges, and what defenses are there for someone facing such a charge?
The state of Nevada defines homicide as killing another person in a malicious and unlawful manner. The circumstances surrounding the incident will help law enforcement decide whether someone accused of murder will be charged in the first or second degree. Murder charges in Nevada are broken down as follows:
- First-degree homicide: A person will be charged with first-degree homicide for any murder that is premeditated. This is the most serious crime a person can be charged with in Nevada. The potential penalties are extremely serious. Felony homicide is also a first-degree homicide charge made when the accused killed someone while committing a different felony, such as rape, arson, or burglary.
- Second-degree homicide: A person will be charged with second-degree homicide if they killed someone because they were acting in a reckless manner that a reasonable person would see as dangerous. Second-degree homicide is considered the second most serious crime in the state of Nevada. An example of second-degree homicide would if someone threw something heavy from a tall building and it hit someone on the sidewalk below and killed them. For a killing to be considered second-degree homicide, the recklessness must be so extreme that the accused would have known it would result in death.
- Third-degree homicide: Third-degree homicide is another term for manslaughter.
Manslaughter charges are brought upon people who are accused of killing someone in an unpremeditated fashion. Manslaughter is broken down further into voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Those terms are defined as follows:
- Voluntary manslaughter: Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person during a heated argument out of rage and without premeditation. This charge only applies to situations in which a different, reasonable person would have felt a similar rage. For a killing to be considered voluntary manslaughter, the event that caused the rage must be extreme.
- Involuntary manslaughter: Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person unintentionally while committing a different crime or acting negligently. This charge is similar to second-degree homicide but less serious in nature. A reasonable person in the same situation might not have known the incident would result in death.
The state of Nevada also has a charge for vehicular manslaughter, which is applicable when someone kills another person while driving negligently.
Penalties for Murder
The penalties for murder can be the most severe a person can receive depending on the circumstances of a specific case. The penalties for second-degree homicide convictions are less severe than those for first-degree homicide because the killings are unintentional. However, they are still severe, and will permanently alter the lives of anyone convicted. The penalties for murder in Nevada are as follows:
- First-degree: First-degree murder is a Category A felony. Depending on the circumstances, a person convicted of this crime may face life in prison without the possibility of parole or the possibility of parole after 20 years. Some people may receive a sentence of 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole afforded to them after 20 years. The death penalty is given to those who commit first-degree murder with aggravating factors.
- Second-degree: Second-degree murder is also a Category A felony crime. Someone convicted of this crime may face life in prison with the possibility of parole once they’ve served 10 years of their sentence. They may also receive a sentence of 25 years in prison with the same possibility of parole.
The way a judge sentences someone who receives a murder conviction might come down to whether there are any aggravating or mitigating circumstances that pertain to the crime. Aggravating circumstances make a murder more serious and more shameful. Some examples of aggravating circumstances in murder include torturing the victim before killing them or killing someone without a clear motive. On the other hand, mitigating circumstances are factors that help explain a murder and make the convicted person deserving of a punishment that is less harsh. Some examples of mitigating circumstances in murder include growing up in an abusive environment or severe mental illness.
There are certain circumstances that may lead the courts in Nevada to increase a person’s sentence when convicted of murder. These circumstances are formally known as penalty enhancements. They allow the courts to increase a person’s sentence by 1 to 20 years. Examples of such penalty enhancements include killing someone older than 60 or using a deadly weapon to kill someone.
In some cases, a murder charge can be reduced to a voluntary manslaughter charge through a plea bargain. This route is sometimes chosen because the penalties and social stigmas associated with manslaughter are less serious than those associated with murder.
Penalties for Manslaughter
The penalties for voluntary manslaughter are generally more severe than the penalties for involuntary manslaughter due to the intentional nature of such killings. The consequences of being convicted for either type of manslaughter are still very serious and will change the person’s life after serving their sentence. The penalties for voluntary manslaughter are as follows:
- A prison sentence between 1 and 10 years long as well as fines up to $10,000. This crime is a Category B felony.
The penalties for involuntary manslaughter include:
- A prison sentence between 1 and 4 years long as well as a fine up to $5,000. This crime is a Category D felony.
What About Attempted Murder?
Attempted murder has much less serious penalties than those of first- or second-degree murder, but they still impact a person’s life in many ways. Legally, attempted murder occurs when someone tries to kill someone intentionally but fails. An example would be trying to stab someone but missing or wounding them minimally. The potential penalties for attempted murder include:
- A prison sentence between 2 and 20 years long and a Category B felony charge if the murder attempt was made without poison
- Life in prison or a 15-year prison sentence with the possibility of parole after serving 5 years if the murder attempt was made with poison
Fighting a Murder or Manslaughter Charge
Being charged with such a serious crime can be extremely intimidating. However, some people can have their charges lowered or dropped altogether with quality legal representation and a strong defensive strategy. There are some defenses that are commonly used in murder cases. Anyone charged with homicide or manslaughter could consider applying one or more of these defenses to their case with the assistance of an experienced criminal charges lawyer.
A person can kill someone if they are acting in self-defense. For a killing to count as self-defense, it must take place because the accused party was in danger at the hands of the person they killed. The accused party must also use a level of force appropriate for the threat they were facing. If it is determined that they used more force than necessary to defend themselves, their legal defense strategy will not hold up in court.
A defendant may be able to get their murder or manslaughter charges dropped if they can prove that the death in question occurred due to an accident. A defendant and their legal team must prove the following elements to the court to show that the death was caused by an accident:
- the defendant did not intend to cause harm to the deceased
- negligence did not play a part in the death
- the defendant was not breaking any crimes when the death occurred
Ultimately, claiming the death was an accident is a good defense for when the accused cannot be blamed for the death in a legal sense.
A person can have their charges dropped if the court decides they are not guilty by reason of insanity. For this to happen, it has to be proven that the defendant is incapable of understanding the serious nature of the crime and cannot tell what’s right from what’s wrong. Note that most people whose murder charges are dropped by reason of insanity will be committed to a mental institution for a period.
We Can Represent You
If you have been accused of killing another person and are facing criminal charges, the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover can help. We understand the serious nature of these charges, which is why we will investigate your case thoroughly and collect the best evidence to create a strong legal defense. With over 25 years of experience, Attorney Ken Stover has the experience and knowledge to defend you. Contact us today at (775) 502-1575 or online to schedule a free consultation.