Felony Murder

In Nevada, felony murder refers to any death that occurs in the commissioning of a crime that's listed under NRS 200.030(1)(b). A defendant doesn't necessarily need to kill or attempt to kill a victim to be charged with felony murder. A conviction for felony murder carries up to fifty years of imprisonment. This makes it extremely necessary to seek the help of an attorney if you're facing felony murder charges in Las Vegas, NV, and its surroundings. Please schedule an appointment with The Law Offices of Martin Hart, and let's work towards the dismissal or reduction of your felony murder charges. 

Definition of Felony Murder in Nevada

Felony murder refers to killing someone while attempting or committing any of the following dangerous felony offenses:

  • NRS 200.366: Sexual assault
  • NRS 200.320: Kidnapping
  • NRS 205.010 – 025: Arson
  • NRS 200.380: Robbery
  • NRS 205.060: Burglary
  • NRS 205.067: Invasion of the home
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • NRS 201.030: Sexual molestation of a child below 14 years
  • NRS 200.508: Child abuse
  • NRS 200.5099: Abuse of a vulnerable person
  • NRS: 200.5099: Abuse of an older person

Under Nevada laws, felony murder is first-degree murder, making it the most serious homicide in Nevada. A defendant doesn't require the intention to kill to be prosecuted for felony murder. You could be prosecuted for felony murder even if the killing was accidental or unexpected.

Here is an example that explains this rule better:

Rick goes robbing a liquor store. Bryce, an innocent bystander, attempts to stop Rick by blocking the liquor store's exit during the robbery. Rick knocks Bryce down on the ground, where he hits his head on the floor and dies.

In this situation, Rick can be charged with Felony Murder. Although Rick's sole intention was stealing money from the liquor store and leaving, hitting Bryce makes him guilty of felony murder, even though the death was unintentional. 

Penalties for Felony Murder in Nevada

Felony murder is a category A felony in Nevada with the following penalties:

  • A death penalty
  • Life imprisonment without parole
  • Life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving twenty years
  • 50 years of imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving for twenty years

The judge can further impose twenty years into your prison term if you were armed with a deadly weapon and the victim was disabled or at least sixty years old.

Immigrants convicted of felony murder can face deportation from the United States if released from prison.

How to Fight Felony Murder Charges

When a felony murder case is brought against you, your attorney should work hard towards dismissing or reducing your charges. Your attorney should adapt relevant legal defense strategies to help in your situation. The kind of defenses often cited in felony murder cases purpose to reduce your charges to a less serious offense. Here is an in-depth view of the legal defense strategies that you can rely on. 

Self Defense

Self-defense can help you excuse your offense from the law only if you can prove that your actions were purely out of self-defense. Using this legal defense strategy doesn't entirely help dismiss your felony murder charges but can help you receive a lesser punishment for the underlying felony. Some of the defenses listed under the category of self-defense include:

  • Perfect Self-Defense: You can use perfect self-defense as your legal defense when your actions were out of a reasonable and honest belief that the killing was necessary. You must prove that you didn't instigate the violence, and you used equal force to defend yourself.
  • Imperfect Self-Defense: Imperfect self-defense works when there's an honest belief that self-defense is necessary, but another person would not think otherwise

Inability to Intentionally Kill

You can use the inability to intentionally kill as a legal defense strategy if you cannot understand your duty not to take another person's life or were unable to act on that duty. This is not a defense that would excuse your killing, but it successfully reduces your felony murder charges to voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. The court will reduce your felony murder charges based on the following circumstances.

  • Insanity: A felony murder defendant can use insanity as a legal defense at times. However, you must prove that you weren't mentally sound at the time of your action. This, however, doesn't mean that you'll be acquitted of all the charges made against you. You'll still face the consequences for the underlying crimes.
  • Intoxication: Intoxication is used to reduce your felony-murder charges to less serious ones. However, you should note that involuntary intoxication carries much more persuasion in court than voluntary intoxication.

False Confession

Overzealous law enforcement officers can arrest a felony murder case, whereas you aren't the perpetrator. They might also end up engaging in inappropriate coercive interrogation tactics, violation of procedures, and violating civil rights. If you can prove that your confession was false, involuntary, or coerced, the court can exclude the evidence collected from your case. 

Unlawful Search and Seizures

When a law enforcement officer conducts unlawful searches and seizures that allow them to secure evidence against you, they violate your civil rights. The evidence collected through the unlawful search and seizure can be thrown out, making it more difficult for the prosecution to prove that you're guilty of the charges made against you.

Mistaken Identity

There are chances of being mistakenly identified as a felony murder perpetrator. You can use mistaken identity as your legal defense strategy if you can prove that you were unavailable at the place where the crime took place.

Sealing Your Felony Murder Criminal Records

You can seal your felony murder criminal records ten years after your case closes. However, you can never seal your records if you're serving your life sentences.

Please note, if your charges are dismissed, you can pursue your records immediately. Sealing your records keeps your felony murder criminal background hidden and confidential from specific people. Therefore, information regarding your arrest, charges, and conviction is kept away from the public, allowing you to easily meet various life needs.

In Las Vegas, NV, and other cities in Clark County, every court follows a five-step record sealing process. The process is as follows:

Step 1: Obtaining Copies of Necessary Files

You should obtain a verified copy of your criminal history, commonly referred to as SCOPE. SCOPE contains:

  • Information about your past arrest
  • The date of your arrest
  • Criminal charges
  • Conviction

You should obtain a "judgment of conviction and discharge" from the District Court Clerk if you were convicted.

Step 2: Determining Your Charges

Read the SCOPE to determine which court within Clark County you should petition your charges. If your charges are in one court, you'll have to petition to file the seal in that specific court. If the SCOPE shows that you were charged in more than one court, you should file to record the seals in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County.

If you're having trouble determining which court to file your petition, please consult your attorney for guidance.

Step 3: Composing the Petition, Affidavit, and Order

You can find documents for your petition, affidavit, and order for download at the Clark County District Attorney's Record Sealing Websites. You must type these documents and fill in the following information:

  • Your arrest
  • The police agency that arrested you
  • Your date of arrest
  • Your criminal charges
  • The final disposition made against you

Please note, if your SCOPE forms don't contain your final disposition, you must obtain documentation for the disposition from the law enforcement agency that arrested you or the court where the prosecutor filed your case.

Complete the process by signing and dating your petition, affidavit, and order. Make three copies of every document.

Step 4: Delivery

Mail or drop the paperwork in person at the District Attorney's office. Ensure that the package contains:

  • Your criminal history printout
  • The judgment of your conviction or discharge of your case
  • The original petition, affidavit, and order, with the inclusion of the three copies you made for each form

The District Attorney's office will take several weeks to review your petition. Eventually, they will keep copies of the forms and mail back the originals and excess ones.

Step 5: Signing of the Order to Seal

It's your responsibility to take the paperwork to the court clerk if the District Attorney signs the order to seal. The court clerk will then pass the paperwork to the court's judgment. The judge might agree to sign the order since the prosecutor had already signed it off.

Once the judge signs the order to seal, they will return the form to you. You are responsible for distributing the signed copies to the agencies that have your criminal records. These agencies will remove the records from their database.

The D.A will still mail unsigned records. The D.A might decide not to sign the order to seal if you didn't fill out the forms correctly or deems you ineligible for a criminal record seal. Fix the problem and resend the filled paperwork if the DA fails to sign the order out of neglected information.

However, if the D.A indicates that you're ineligible for a seal, you can bypass the decision by filing a case in court. You should secure an attorney to help you seal your records since it's difficult to win without the D.A's approval.

Crimes Related to Felony Murder in Nevada

There are several crimes related to felony murder charges in Nevada. These crimes work best in reducing your felony murder charges since they carry less severe sentences. These crimes are as follows:

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder refers to an unintentional killing that results from extremely reckless behavior. For instance, dropping a rock from a building and killing someone below can be charged as second-degree murder in Nevada. You might have no intention to kill that person, but your action is extremely likely to kill someone, making it second-degree murder.

A category A felony second-degree murder in Nevada carries the following penalties:

  • Life imprisonment with parole after serving for ten years
  • 23 years of imprisonment with parole after serving for ten years

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter refers to killing someone in the heat of passion, but the killing was not premeditated since you acted it immediately. For instance, when a bully stabs another person for saying something that's particularly hateful, this suffices as voluntary manslaughter.

A category B felony, voluntary manslaughter in Nevada, is punishable by:

  • One to ten years of imprisonment
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter refers to an unintentional killing when committing an unlawful act. For instance, when you accidentally go off and kill someone while trying to pick your cell phone, this counts as involuntary manslaughter.

The penalties for involuntary manslaughter as a Category D felony in Nevada include:

  • One to four years of imprisonment
  • A maximum fine of $5,000

Understanding Parole in Nevada and How it Works

Anyone convicted of felony murder can seek parole after serving prison for twenty years. It's recommendable to learn about parole to know your options before seeking it.

Under NRS 213.120, maintaining good behavior while in custody can earn you the possibility of parole. Other conditions for a parole release include the following:

  • Whether you will live and remain at liberty after your release
  • Whether your release is compatible with society's welfare
  • The seriousness of the offense and your criminal history

Please note, since felony murder carries life imprisonment or fifty years in prison with parole, the terms of your release might be different from other felonies.

If you're facing life imprisonment, you must serve at least twenty consecutive years in state prison and are not detained to answer charges for parole violation or probation in another jurisdiction. You should also not have a history of:

  • Repetitive criminal conduct
  • Recent misconduct that has been reported and recommended by the department of corrections
  • Criminal conduct that's related to alcohol or drug use
  • Violence or repetitive sexual deviance
  • Failure in work release, probation, or parole

You should also note that you will remain under the jurisdiction of the Board of Parole Commissioners for the entire period of your sentence that it's running. Therefore, you'll remain under the authority of the board for your life if you're charged with a life sentence and for fifty years if your prison term runs for this period.

Find a Felony Murder Attorney Near Me

The results of a felony murder conviction are devastating. It's imperative to seek the help of a Las Vegas criminal attorney to reduce your charges or even have them dismissed. Unfortunately, not all criminal defense attorneys can present the best defenses to help you achieve your goals. At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we are committed to bringing the best defenses that would limit your chances of a conviction or reduce your charges. For more information, you can call us at 702-380-4278 and schedule an appointment.