Las Vegas Justifiable Homicide vs Self-Defense
* This article is intended for general interest. It should not be used for legal advice for your particular matter. This information is valid as of March 8, 2017. If you have questions about your case, call our office to speak with an attorney.
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Justifiable homicide is a defense to murder. Nevada follows the castle doctrine (based on the idea that a man’s home is his castle). Generally, the justifiable homicide law/castle doctrine allows occupants of homes, apartments, and vehicles to use deadly force against intruders. Importantly, this law does not require that the occupant retreat before using deadly force.
The castle doctrine is different from stand your ground laws. The castle doctrine applies only to dwellings and vehicles. Stand your ground laws usually apply to all situations and locations where deadly force is used—not just homes or vehicles.
The most famous application of a stand your ground law is the Florida case of Trayvon Martin. Mr. Martin was an unarmed teenager who was shot by Mr. Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community. The two men were outdoors. At trial, Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder by application of the stand your ground law.
In a situation where lethal force is used outside of a dwelling or vehicle, you can still use a self-defense argument. Killing in self-defense is defined in NRS 200.200 as follows:
If a person kills another in self-defense, it must appear that:
1. The danger was so urgent and pressing that, in order to save the person’s own life or to prevent the person from receiving great bodily harm, the killing of the other was absolutely necessary; and
2. The person killed was the assailant, or that the slayer had really, and in good faith, endeavored to decline any further struggle before the mortal blow was given.
NRS 200.120 “Justifiable homicide” defined; no duty to retreat under certain circumstances.
1. Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle or a person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors to commit a crime of violence, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied motor vehicle, of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.
2. A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person:
(a) Is not the original aggressor;
(b) Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and
(c) Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.
3. As used in this section:
(a) “Crime of violence” means any felony for which there is a substantial risk that force or violence may be used against the person or property of another in the commission of the felony.
(b) “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle which is self-propelled.
These laws are defenses against very serious charges that involve lengthy prison sentences if convicted. It is essential that this defense is used correctly and quickly. If this might be a defense in your case, it is urgent that it be presented as soon as possible. We may even be able to avoid criminal charges being filed against you.
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