What is Capital Murder: Definition, Differences & Implications

Like most states, Nevada law differentiates between various circumstances involving killing a human being. The most serious of all homicide offenses is capital murder. If you have been charged with capital murder it is crucial that you understand how capital murder differs from other homicide offenses, the elements required to convict you, and the legal implications if you are convicted. So what is capital murder?

What is capital murder - balanced scale

What Is Capital Murder in Nevada?

Capital murder is the most egregious of all offenses that involve a killing and is the only criminal offense for which you can receive the death penalty in Nevada. Capital murder is first-degree murder plus at least one aggravating circumstance that outweighs the mitigating circumstances.

How Does Nevada Define First-Degree Murder?

For a killing to be eligible to be charged as capital murder it must first meet the definition of first-degree murder. A killing meets the definition of first-degree murder under Nevada law if the killing was:

  1. Accomplished by means of poison, lying in wait or torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing (commonly known as “premeditated” murder).
  2. Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, invasion of the home, sexual abuse of a child, sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years, child abuse or abuse of an older person or vulnerable person (commonly referred to as “felony” murder).
  3. Committed to avoid or prevent the lawful arrest of any person by a peace officer or to effect the escape of any person from legal.
  4. Committed on the property of a public or private school, at an activity sponsored by a public or private school, or on a school bus while the bus was engaged in its official duties by a person who intended to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person by means of a weapon, device or course of action that would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.
  5. Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an act of terrorism.

What Makes a First-Degree Murder a Capital Murder in Nevada?

For a murder to be considered as a capital murder, the murder must qualify as first-degree murder plus one or more aggravating circumstances must be found and any mitigating circumstance or circumstances which are found cannot outweigh the aggravating circumstance or circumstances.

That does not mean that all first-degree murder cases that potentially qualify as capital murder are charged as such. The prosecuting attorney decides whether to charge a case as capital murder.

What Is the Potential Sentence?

The reason the term “capital” murder is used to describe the most serious homicide crimes is that a defendant can be sentenced to death (capital punishment) if convicted of capital murder. When a defendant is convicted of capital murder at trial, the jury makes a separate decision on whether to impose the death penalty during the trial’s sentencing phase.

Just as the jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict a defendant of first-degree murder, the jury must also unanimously vote to impose the death penalty for a defendant to be sentenced to death. If the death penalty is not imposed, the sentence for first-degree murder ranges from 50 years to life in prison without parole.

What Should I Do If I Was Charged?

If you’ve been charged with capital murder in Las Vegas, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Vegas Lawyers right away to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case by calling 702-707-7000 or contacting us online.