In legal terms, self-defense is using force to protect yourself against someone who poses a threat. It may be simple enough to understand as a concept, but numerous unforeseen variables can arise when individuals defend themselves in real-life scenarios. To address these variables, states have enacted specific laws that help identify permissible instances of self-defense and appropriate levels of force. Let’s take a look at Nevada’s self-defense laws to give you a clearer view of your rights in this state.
What Counts as Self-Defense in Nevada?
According to Nevada law, self-defense is using appropriate force to protect yourself against an urgent threat. Though this law may seem straightforward, it comprises several key elements to consider. The first is that Nevada is a “stand your ground” state, meaning that an individual can use force to defend themselves if:
- They are not the initial aggressor.
- They are not perpetrating a crime while applying force.
- They have the right to be where the incident occurs.
It also means that individuals have no duty to retreat in threatening situations. “Duty to retreat” refers to the responsibility of the non-aggressor to withdraw from the impending danger as much as possible. With that in mind, “stand your ground” allows you to respond immediately with force if you feel in danger. This law applies if you witness others’ lives in danger as well. Should you witness a physical assault against your spouse, your child, your friend, or a stranger in your vicinity, you’re within your rights to apply force to preserve the well-being of the threatened individual.
Another key consideration is the idea of urgency. The scenario must involve an imminent or ongoing threat to count as self-defense. For example, imagine two individuals, Jerri and Jordan, arguing in Jerri’s home. Jerri physically forces Jordan outside and tells them to leave. Then, as Jerri walks away, Jordan hits Jerri to the ground. In this case, there was no imminent danger against Jordan, as Jerri had released them and retreated from the conflict. Self-defense would not apply.
The last key element is the matter of appropriate force, a key caveat to the state’s self-defense laws. Essentially, it states that the non-aggressor must use no greater force than is necessary to de-escalate a threat. Again, imagine Jerri and Jordan in an argument. Jerri initiates physical conflict by punching Jordan, who then counters by stabbing Jerri with a knife. In this case, Jordan would have difficulty proving self-defense since their reaction was excessive.
An example of a legitimate self-defense case would be as follows. Jerri insults Jordan, who responds physically by shoving Jerri. Jerri then charges at Jordan with a raised fist. Jordan kicks Jerri in the belly, causing Jerri to collapse. Here, Jordan, though the initiator, has a self-defense claim. The threat to Jordan’s person was imminent, and their response was proportional to that threat.
What Is Deadly vs. Non-Deadly Force?
Deadly and non-deadly force both refer to the extent of a non-aggressor’s response to a physical threat. Deadly force refers to any action that an individual knows is capable of causing death or severe injuries, such as using a firearm or blade. The use of deadly force in self-defense is applicable when the scenario meets these conditions:
- The non-aggressor is in urgent or imminent danger.
- The danger is capable of causing death or serious injury.
- A reasonable person in the same situation would also fear death or serious injury.
Non-deadly force is any physical action that wouldn’t typically result in death or severe injury. Usually, this means hitting or striking, but it could also extend to using a weapon in a non-deadly manner. As long as your response is proportional to the situation, you may use non-deadly force in any situation where you reasonably believe that you or someone else is in danger of physical harm.
What Is Imperfect Self-Defense?
Imperfect self-defense is an instance in which an individual perceives a threat is unreasonable. That is, an individual may honestly feel threatened, but their feeling had no sound basis. For example, a resident may see someone in their neighborhood who “looks suspicious.” The threat here is an invention of the observing resident unless the subject threatens them or another resident. Because there’s no imminent danger, physical action against the subject would be pure assault and battery, not self-defense.
The concept of imperfect self-defense also applies in instances of verbal threats. Even if the above subject suggested bodily harm against the resident, there’d be no grounds for self-defense unless they were in apparent physical jeopardy.
When Can You Claim Self-Defense?
In Nevada, an individual can claim self-defense in any case of violent crime in which they face an imminent physical threat, such as:
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery occur when one person threatens and harms another. The non-aggressor may physically fight back against the aggressor with reasonable force. However, should the non-aggressor respond with excessive force, they may see a challenge to their claim of self-defense.
Attempted murder is the initiation of an act intended to kill another person. Under Nevada law, any instance of attempted murder would justify the use of deadly force, as the danger would be imminent, and the non-aggressor’s life would be at stake.
Domestic battery is an act of menacing physical action between family members, romantic partners, or housemates. An example of domestic battery might involve one individual attacking another, who responds by pushing the aggressor to the floor. Even if the aggressor sustains more damage — such as bruises and scratches — the non-aggressor’s response would be within rights.
A home invasion is an aggressor’s unlawful and non-permitted entry into a person’s home. Nevada has a “castle doctrine,” which allows for deadly force against home invaders and carjackers.
The above information is a useful guideline for understanding self-defense laws in Nevada, but there may be nuances to a case that can complicate matters. If you need help understanding your rights and an advocate in court, we can help. Feel free to reach out to us via our contact page. Just provide your name, contact information, and the details of your case, and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible.
Alternatively, give us a call at our downtown Las Vegas office at 702-479-7359. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Let our criminal defense lawyers help you get the justice you deserve.