Use of Deadly Force and Self-Defense in Nevada

Use of Deadly Force and Self-Defense in Nevada

Self-defense laws in Nevada allow individuals to use force, including deadly force in certain situations, to protect themselves or others from harm. However, there are important limitations and conditions around lawful self-defense that citizens should understand. This article provides an overview of when use of force and deadly force may be justified in Nevada.

When is Use of Force Justified in Nevada?

In general, Nevada law permits the use of force in self-defense or defense of others when:[1]

  • The person reasonably believes that themselves or someone else is facing an imminent threat of bodily harm.
  • The person uses no more force than necessary to stop the threat.

The threat does not need to be deadly, but it does need to be imminent. A mere verbal threat that seems unlikely to turn into real violence in the moment may not justify use of force in response. However, if the aggressor takes a concrete action showing intent to cause harm, such as pulling out a weapon, then use of force may be warranted.

Nevada is a “stand your ground” state, meaning there is no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense if the conditions above are met.[2] However, use of force is still only allowed if the person is not the original aggressor and did not provoke the confrontation.

When is Deadly Force Justified in Nevada?

Nevada law sets a higher bar for when deadly force can be used in self-defense or defense of others. Some key requirements for lawful use of deadly force include:[3]

  • The non-aggressor reasonably believed they or someone else faced imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm.
  • A reasonable person in the same situation would also fear death or serious bodily injury.
  • The danger was sufficiently urgent and pressing that deadly force was immediately necessary.
  • The person was not acting solely based on revenge.

Additionally, the person using deadly force generally cannot be the original aggressor or instigator of the conflict. They also must have a lawful right to be in the location where the deadly force occurred.

Unlike non-deadly force, deadly force cannot be used solely in defense of property in Nevada except in limited circumstances under the “Castle Doctrine” (see below).

Nevada’s “Castle Doctrine” and Defense of Property

Nevada’s “Castle Doctrine” law provides some exceptions where deadly force may be justified against intruders into a home or occupied vehicle:[4]

  • If an intruder has entered or is attempting to enter a home or occupied vehicle through force, deadly force may be justified even if the intruder does not pose an imminent threat of violence.
  • If an intruder is committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault, or other violent felony, use of deadly force may also be warranted.

In these home and vehicle intrusion situations, the law assumes the occupant has a reasonable fear of death or serious harm, removing the duty to retreat. However, deadly force is still only permitted if the occupant is not themselves engaged in criminal activity.

Outside of the Castle Doctrine exceptions, deadly force generally cannot be used solely to defend property in Nevada. Non-deadly force is allowed to stop a trespasser or protect property from damage, but should be proportional to the threat.[5]

Imperfect Self-Defense in Nevada

If a person has an honest but unreasonable belief that they or others are in imminent danger, they may be able to claim “imperfect self-defense” in Nevada. This occurs when deadly force is used based on a genuine fear, even if a reasonable person would not have shared that fear under the circumstances.

Imperfect self-defense does not lead to full acquittal of criminal charges, but it may provide a partial defense resulting in reduced charges or sentencing.[2]

Burden of Proof in Self-Defense Cases

Self-defense is an “affirmative defense” in Nevada, meaning the defendant bears the burden of presenting evidence to support a self-defense claim.[6] Prosecutors still must prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and disprove self-defense.

Key evidence in self-defense cases often includes eyewitness testimony, surveillance video, medical reports about injuries, and expert testimony about reasonable use of force. Documenting the scene with photos or videos can help defendants show they acted reasonably under the circumstances.

Consulting an Attorney About Self-Defense

Cases involving self-defense and use of deadly force can be complex. Nuances in the specific circumstances and Nevada law may support or defeat a self-defense claim. Anyone facing criminal charges for defending themselves should consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can carefully assess the situation and build the strongest defense.


Nevada provides legal protection for use of force and deadly force in self-defense or defense of others when facing an imminent threat. However, specific conditions must be met based on the level of force used and circumstances of each case. Understanding Nevada’s self-defense laws and consulting an attorney is critical for anyone claiming justifiable use of force as a defense.