Committing a homicide offense attracts criminal consequences, primarily because it involves ending the life of another human. Subsequently, the law imposes strict penalties to deter others from committing the same crime. Homicide cases vary depending on the circumstances, and each presents different elements of a crime that the prosecutor must prove. As a first-time offender, you need to work closely with a skilled criminal attorney to ensure you understand the nature of your crime and the most suitable defenses applicable.

Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney gives you a better chance of securing a favorable case outcome, especially if you strongly believe your charges were inaccurate and imposed unfairly. With the help of our skilled legal team at the Law Offices of Martin Hart, you can present strong defenses to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecutor’s case. You must ensure that these defenses are well-researched and backed by evidence, further justifying the need to work with a skilled attorney.

The Nature of Homicide Cases

The term homicide covers different murder charges, each presenting different case facts and thus varying elements of crime. Similarly, penalties vary based on the charge, and their severity primarily depends on the judge’s factual assessment.

Section 18, subsection 111 of the United States Code (USC) used in Nevada classifies homicide under two main categories: first- and second-degree murder. Based on the separation, the prosecutors handling homicide cases must rely on the legal provisions for proper case execution.

The basic definition of murder under the USC section above is the unlawful killing of another human being using either express or implied malice. If you relied on express malice, you were deliberate in your efforts to kill, while implied malice signifies acting without proper thought or care for others’ safety. These two classifications thus form the cornerstone for first- and second-degree murder charges.

First-Degree Murder

Under Section 200.030 of the Nevada Code, first-degree murder is unlawfully killing someone after having premeditated your actions. The killing act may occur through various processes, both violent and non-violent. Based on this, each case presents scenarios the prosecutor must highlight and present. Examples include strangulation, shooting with a firearm, physical violence resulting in death, and using torture.

Moreover, you may face a first-degree murder charge while committing another crime like robbery, carjacking, or arson. If so, the prosecutor may decide whether to present two charges concurrently or to consolidate them into a first-degree murder charge, depending on the facts. In this case, you may be liable even if you did not intend to cause death when committing the other listed offenses.

First-degree murder is the most serious offense charged in Nevada, primarily because it indicates a deliberate effort to end the victim’s life. Based on that, the prosecutor handling your case must establish that your case encompassed express malice, thus forming part of the essential components of all murder charges.

Penalties for First-Degree Murder

If found guilty of first-degree murder, you risk facing life imprisonment as guided by the Nevada Code. You may have a parole option after serving twenty years, subject to the court’s authorization.

Alternatively, you may receive a fifty-year state prison sentence instead of life imprisonment if your case involves less severe facts. You also benefit from the same parole option requiring you to serve twenty years first.

The judge may also choose whether to impose the death penalty, especially if your case involves severe aggravating factors like torturing your victim before death.

Second-degree Degree Murder

The primary difference between first- and second-degree murder is that the latter does not involve deliberate or premeditated efforts. Subsequently, the prosecutor’s case cannot include elements of malice or forethought, as the nature of your case involves engagement in careless actions.

For example, speeding when driving on a busy street is highly likely to cause a severe pedestrian accident that could kill the victim. Similarly, shooting in public may cause a victim’s death, regardless of whether you intend to do so. If your case involved similar facts, you may face a second-degree murder charge based on the general elements of homicide cases, with causing death as the main point.

Penalties for Second-Degree Murder

You risk facing life imprisonment in state prison for second-degree murder, mainly because your actions are reckless and cause innocent parties to lose their lives.

 The judge may, however, adjust the sentence and lower it if your case involved mitigating factors, resulting in up to 25 years in state prison instead of a life sentence.

Additionally, the charge allows you a parole option after serving ten years. However, this is subject to verification and authorization by the parole officer and the judge who presided over your case.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Homicide Cases

Although first- and second-degree murder charges involve different elements of crime, the judge considers similar factors when determining the appropriate sentence to issue. The two factors may be aggravating or mitigating, affecting the case.

An aggravating factor exceeds the nature of regular homicide cases and introduces even harsher facts involving killing the victim. For example, if you killed an innocent and unsuspecting third party, killed a minor under the age of fourteen, or tortured the victim before ending their life, these factors count as aggravating. Consequently, you risk facing harsher penalties that may extend your jail sentence.

On the other hand, mitigating factors make your case less severe, indicating that some of your actions were beyond your control or are justifiable. Examples of mitigating factors include having an abusive childhood with no parental guidance, which influenced your personality and pushed you to commit crimes. While the judge may still issue a sentence despite the mitigating factors, they are more likely to be lenient.

Overall, aggravating and mitigating factors play a significant role in your case outcome, and you need to have more mitigating factors to tip the balance and push for a favorable case outcome.

Defenses to Fight Murder Charges

As an accused, you have the constitutional right to present defenses against the prosecutor’s allegations. The court grants you this opportunity after the prosecutor closes their case, making it essential to prepare beforehand. Legal defenses must be founded on disputed case facts, and your defense lawyer has to help you articulate the contention as clearly as possible.

As a result, giving your attorney all relevant details to prepare a more apparent defense strategy is always advisable. You should not worry about giving implicating information, as they have a fiduciary duty to uphold confidentiality. After processing the information, your attorney finds evidential sources to support your case and for better credibility. The following are common defenses applicable to fighting murder charges:

You Acted in Self-Defense

Protecting yourself is essential in all circumstances, and the law acknowledges self-defense as a valid reason for acting violently. Despite this, your actions are only justified if you acted reasonably and within the confines of the self-defense rule.

Based on this, you can only use self-defense as a counter-argument if you meet various criteria. Among them is the need to demonstrate that you faced a real threat of danger and genuinely believed that your safety was under attack. Your attorney helps establish this by showing that the perpetrator showed signs of harming you, especially if they had a weapon or acted aggressively.

Additionally, you must establish that you tried to avoid the danger but lacked an escape route. In doing so, you demonstrate that you did not intend to use retaliatory violence but were pushed to do so in response to the current circumstances. The judge expects you to demonstrate the specific circumstances through evidence, so your criminal defense attorney should engage in your research.

Lastly, the court only accepts self-defense as a counterargument if you used reasonable force against the perceived aggressor. The reasonable force test applies by weighing the nature of the threat you faced versus the response. If the retaliatory force was excessive, you have fewer chances of having the defense accepted. For example, if the aggressor had a knife and you retaliated by shooting from a pistol, self-defense is less likely to be acceptable.

The Evidence Used in Your Case was Illegally Sourced

According to the laws of evidence and a fair trial, investigation officers must retrieve justification sources lawfully. This includes respecting privacy rights and obtaining the correct justification documents from the court before conducting a sergeant on the suspect.

As the primary accused person in a murder case, you can dispute the prosecutor’s reliance on incriminating evidence if you demonstrate that it was illegally obtained. For example, if officers ambushed you and forced you to produce specific evidence, note it in your records for the court’s persuasion. You can expect the court to verify your claims and accept your defense, ruling out the evidence's applicability.

Temporary Insanity

Actions taken when you were not in the right mind may attract less harsh penalties. The primary reason for this is that the prosecutor cannot prove that you committed malice before, even if you lacked the mental capacity to plan a murder. Although the defense is acceptable, it is subject to legal rules that ensure the correct standard applies in case determination.

Among the principles to establish is that the temporary insanity was a result of extreme intoxication or an emergency medical condition. You should, therefore, source evidence to support the claims in readiness for your defense hearing, and your attorney must ensure that it corresponds with your case facts.

Further, you must establish that you were so intoxicated that you did not know what you were doing or that what you were doing was wrong. Establishing either of these facts reduces your chances of facing a guilty verdict because the prosecutor will not have established malice aforethought.

Police Misconduct

Although arresting officers must apprehend lawbreakers, they must conduct themselves within ethical and professional standards. The obligations to meet include respecting your rights as an accused person and avoiding violent or coercive methods to retrieve information.

Police misconduct often occurs when officers use threats, physical abuse, blackmail, and other torturous methods to force you to admit guilt. They may also extend the misconduct to third parties they believe could provide incriminating evidence against you.

Details obtained through coercive means are therefore inadmissible in court as evidence, as they violate the right to a fair trial. You can present your defense by highlighting the nature of the abuse or police misconduct you suffered to prevent the prosecutor’s evidence from being acceptable.

Raising this defense also brings into question the mentioned officers’ professional standing, and it may put their jobs at risk. Your defense officer will thus be obligated to consolidate solid sources of proof like video footage, audio recordings, and witness statements to back your claims.

The Cause of Death was Accidental

Although you may be the primary party liable for the victim’s death, you may argue that it was accidental. Presenting this defense is helpful if you intend to have the penalties reduced from murder to manslaughter, as you aim to disprove having formed malice aforethought in your actions.

Subsequently, you can demonstrate that your actions were accidental by challenging the prosecutor’s arguments about your deliberate actions. To do this, you need to rely on circumstantial evidence that shows your lack of intention to end the victim’s life.

Mistake of Identity

During a suspect lineup, witnesses may wrongfully identify you, resulting in wrongful arrest. These instances are common where you and the actual suspect look alike, making wrong profiling possible.

If your case involves a mistake of identity, your defense attorney should raise it as soon as possible to avoid a wrongful conviction. You can use alibis and footage of the wrongdoer to establish that you are not the correct party.

Regardless of your defenses, your criminal defense attorney should form part of your preparation process to strengthen your case. With their help, the judge and jury may be more open to your position, resulting in an acquittal or a sentence reduction.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Facing a homicide charge can lead to life-altering outcomes, including spending life in prison. As a result, you need to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the various homicide charges and their elements of crime. With this information, you are better positioned to prepare compelling defenses that could reduce your chances of harsh penalties. When choosing a criminal defense attorney to work with, consider their experience and knowledge in the practice area. Their initial input on your case is a good indicator of whether they are reliable.

At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we dedicate ourselves to providing quality legal advice and representation for clients facing homicide charges. Our years of experience handling criminal defense matters make us reliable, and you can also expect us to represent you in court accordingly. With the team’s help, you will prepare persuasive defenses that reduce your chances of conviction under the Nevada Homicide Law. If you or a loved one is facing homicide charges in Las Vegas, Nevada, call us today at 702-380-4278.