Self-defense in Nevada: Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Laws

The State of Nevada has a number of statutes that apply to situations involving assertion of the right of self-defense. The laws establish clear criteria for when acting in self-defense is justifiable. However, whether use of force (particularly deadly force) qualifies under the statutory criteria is not always apparent. If self-defense is an issue in a criminal charge you face, representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is absolutely essential.

Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten vigorously defends individuals charged with state and federal crimes, including cases involving circumstances of self-defense. At The Gersten Law Firm, your first consultation and case evaluation are always free.

Defending Your Home and Vehicle: The Castle Doctrine

The term Castle Doctrine commonly applies to laws in the United States that protect a person’s right to defend their home against intruders, including the use of deadly force. Individual states have their own variations of castle laws.

While Nevada does not formally use the term Castle Doctrine, statutory provisions give individuals the rights typically afforded under a castle law. NRS 200.120 and NRS 200.130 define justifiable homicide as including defense of an occupied dwelling or motor vehicle, when another person tries to enter the dwelling or vehicle with the intent of committing a violent crime against a person or property. Generally, no duty of retreat exists if the person using deadly force is: 1) not the original aggressor, 2) has a right to be at the location, and 3) is not otherwise violating the law. There is no duty to retreat before using deadly force if all the requirements are met.

A separate Nevada statute provides some protection from civil liability in self-defense cases. In a civil lawsuit for damages, NRS 41.095 creates a presumption that a person in their home or transient lodging has a reasonable fear of death or immediate bodily injury when faced with a burglary or home invasion. The law applies to any building or vehicle intended for lodging.

Defending Yourself Outside Your Home or Vehicle: Stand-Your-Ground

Stand-your-ground laws are similar to castle laws, but they extend the right of self-defense beyond protecting one’s home. They allow a person threatened with immediate death or serious bodily injury to refrain from retreating and meet the threatened force with deadly force, when the threat occurs in any location, if the circumstances meet specific requirements.

Generally, a non-aggressive person may defend with deadly force and is not required to retreat if that person: 1) Did not initiate the situation; 2) Has the right to be at the location; 3) Is not otherwise violating the law, and 4) Has a reasonable fear of immediate death or significant bodily harm. A mere fear is not sufficient to justify use of deadly force. The circumstances must be sufficient to lead a reasonable person to believe the threat of death or injury is imminent.

Nevada does not distinguish between acting in your own self-defense and acting in defense of another person. A specific law applies justifiable homicide to situations in which the threat is made to a spouse, parent, child, sibling, or any other person in the presence or company of the person using deadly force. As with other justifiable homicide situations, there must be reasonable basis for believing that there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Deadly force in self-defense is permissible only if the situation presents an immediate threat of death or serious injury and the other statutory elements are satisfied. There is no duty to retreat in qualifying circumstances. Deadly force is not justified if the original aggressor is fleeing (and no longer a threat) or to stop a non-violent crime. However, a person can take action to the extent necessary to resist commission of an offense (short of deadly force), whether the threatened offense is to the person taking action or another person.

Asserting Self-Defense in a Criminal Case

Any criminal charge involving issues of self-defense is extremely complex. In addition to the general rules summarized above, there are other Nevada statutes and rules that apply to situations where self-defense may be a viable defense to a criminal charge. The specific circumstances of a case determine which state laws apply.

When self-defense is an issue in a case involving use of force, a prosecutor may decide not to bring charges if the facts are extremely clear. Often, however, the facts are not totally certain. In such cases, the prosecutor files the charges, leaving it up to the judge or jury to determine whether the facts constitute self-defense — and up to the defendant to establish that the act was done in self-defense.

In any case where self-defense is a possibility, the skill of an experienced criminal defense attorney is necessary in asserting and proving the elements of self-defense required under Nevada. If you find yourself in a situation involving circumstances raising issues of self-defense, you should contact an attorney at the earliest possible time to fully protect your rights. You should never assume that the prosecutor will conclude that charges do not need to be filed.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney

If you face state or federal criminal charges in Las Vegas, Henderson, or elsewhere in Clark County, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney who understands the Nevada laws on self-defense and knows local courts and practices. Criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten evaluates your case based on his extensive Las Vegas criminal defense experience and uses his investigative background to develop a strategy that puts forward the strongest defense possible.

Your initial consultation is always free-of-charge. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.