Attempted murder, or "attempt murder," as it is denoted in government pleadings and court documents, is a serious criminal offense that is prosecuted aggressively by the Clark County District Attorney in Las Vegas. Often charged along with a "deadly weapon" enhancement, a conviction for attempt murder can result in a serious prison sentence. Read on to learn about this criminal charge.
ATTEMPT MURDER DEFINED
There is no single statute in Nevada that defines "attempted murder." Instead, criminal complaints charging attempt murder in Las Vegas refer to two Nevada statutes collectively: NRS 200.010 (the statute that defines the crime of murder) and NRS 193.330 (the statute that sets out the legal range of punishment for "attempts" to commit other crimes). So these two statutes together provide the legal basis for charging individuals with the crime of attempt murder. However, to fully understand the legal definition of attempt murder in Nevada, you have to understand the Nevada Supreme Court case law on this topic.
The Nevada Supreme Court has held that the crime of attempt murder has, as an essential element, the specific intent to commit murder. This means that, in the context of an attempt murder case in Las Vegas, it's not enough for the prosecution to prove "implied malice" through your conduct. That's not enough. The prosecution must instead go beyond that and prove "express malice." This means that the District Attorney must present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually intended to kill the alleged victim in the case. It's not enough for the prosecution to present evidence that your conduct implies that you may have wanted to kill the alleged victim. The Nevada Supreme Court takes this requirement of specific intent to kill, or expressed malice, very seriously in attempt murder cases.
I realize that the above discussion may seem confusing, so let me give you an example from a real case I worked on several years ago. We went to trial on an attempt murder case in which the named victim was, according to evidence presented at trial, beaten and stomped into a coma by the defendant. The jury found the defendant guilty of attempt murder. However, on appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict because although the beating and extent of the alleged victim's injuries may have showed
implied malice, there was no evidence of
express malice of a
specific intent to kill the victim.
DEADLY WEAPON ENHANCEMENT
Attempt murder is frequently charged with a "deadly weapon" enhancement—as attempt murder with use of a deadly weapon. If you think about it, this makes sense. If you use a "deadly" weapon against another person, it seems to follow logically that you might have intended to kill the alleged victim. In other words, the use of a deadly weapon may justify the District Attorney's inference (assumption) that the accused person intended to kill the alleged victim.
So what is a deadly weapon? Some "deadly weapons" are obvious, like guns and knives. As a general rule, if you shoot a person with a gun, you will be charged with attempt murder with use of deadly weapon. Even if you fire the gun in the air, you might find yourself charged with this criminal offense.
A deadly weapon can also be some object or machine used in a way that might tend to cause death. A common example of this type of "deadly weapon" is a car. The District Attorney often charges people with attempt murder with a deadly weapon for attempts to run over a person with a car (although if the evidence for specific intent to kill is lacking the prosecutor may only charge assault with a deadly weapon).
Discussion of deadly weapon enhancement in the context of attempt murder charges is important because of the increased exposure to serious prison time for a conviction. Essentially, the deadly weapon enhancement doubles the potential prison sentence. Read below about the potential punishment for attempt murder and attempt murder with use of a deadly weapon.
PUNISHMENT FOR ATTEMPT MURDER
Attempt murder and attempt murder with deadly weapon carry stiff punishments.
Under Nevada law, NRS 193.330(1)(a)(1), an attempt to murder is punishable by 2 to 20 years in a Nevada prison. Under Nevada's sentencing laws, the judge doesn't impose one single number (e.g., 2 years, 5 years, 20 years) for any prison sentence. Instead, the judge must sentence the convicted defendant to a range of years. The bottom number is the amount of time the defendant must serve before becoming eligible for release on parole, and the top number is the maximum sentence the defendant can possibly serve if he "expires" his sentence (i.e., if he doesn't ever get paroled). Under Nevada sentencing laws, the bottom number (for minimum parole eligibility) can never exceed 40% of the top number. So the minimum possible sentence if you are convicted of attempt murder is 2 to 5 years, and the maximum is 8 to 20 years. Sentences where the bottom number is less than 40% of the top number (such as 2 to 10 years or 2 to 20 years) are also possible.
NRS 193.165 provides for enhanced punishment for the use of a deadly weapon. Specifically, this statute states that the court must impose an additional and consecutive sentence of 1 to 20 years imprisonment. This can double a person's sentence if he is convicted of attempt murder with use of a deadly weapon. So for attempt murder with use of a deadly weapon, the maximum sentence is 8 to 20 years plus a consecutive term of 8 to 20 years, for a total of 16 to 40 years imprisonment. Notably, as with any consecutive sentence, a person must be paroled or expire the first sentence before beginning to serve the second consecutive sentence. So for example, if someone is convicted of attempt murder with use of a deadly weapon, he could receive a sentence of 4 to 10 years plus a consecutive term of 2 to 5 years. The defendant would have to serve at least 4 years before getting paroled to begin serving the consecutive 2 to 5 year term of imprisonment. But parole is not guaranteed. So it is not out of the question that a prisoner might have to serve more than the minimum sentence (or even expire the sentence) before even beginning the consecutive sentence for the weapon enhancement.
Attempt murder and attempt murder with deadly weapon are probationable offenses. This means that the judge can exercise discretion and decide to suspend the prison sentence and place the defendant on a period of probation for up to five years. However, in most cases where a person is convicted of either crime, there is a strong likelihood that he will serve prison time, unless the crime is plead down to a lesser offense or other favorable negotiations are reached. Read more below about how a criminal defense lawyer can help you.
HOW A DEFENSE LAWYER CAN HELP
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer can make a big difference if you are charged with attempt murder. If you are charged with attempt murder, but there was no injury to the alleged victim or the prosecutor has evidence problems (most frequently problems with witnesses), then it is possible to avoid prison time or perhaps even get your charges dismissed. On the other hand, if the alleged victim sustained serious injury and the state has strong evidence against you, there is a substantial chance you may be looking at a prison sentence. Getting a favorable plea deal might allow you to avoid prison time, or, at the very least, limit potential prison time.
If you have been charged with attempt murder in Las Vegas, I can help you. I have helped many individuals charged with this crime. Sometimes I have been able to get charges dismissed entirely, and other times I have been able to limit the defendant's exposure to prison time. In a recent case for attempt murder with a deadly weapon (in which the defendant was charged with shooting the alleged victim multiple times) I negotiated a stipulated sentence, meaning the prosecution agreed to jointly recommend a reduced sentence to the judge. In imposing the stipulated sentence, the judge remarked that he would have given the defendant several more years in prison if not for the stipulated sentence.
I can't guarantee any particular outcome in your case, but if you call, text, or email me today, we can discuss the particular facts of your case and I'll bluntly tell you what I think we can expect to achieve if I take your case. Consultations are free, so don't hesitate to contact me today.
By Michael Pandullo