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The Legal Risks of Intervening in a Crime

Intervening to stop a crime can involve a significant degree of personal risk. This can be especially true if the criminal is armed or behaving in an unpredictable way, whether due to mental illness, drug use, or other causes. When the intervening person uses force and causes injuries to others or to property, it’s possible that the intervention could lead to civil or even criminal liability. Understanding these issues is important for anyone who thinks they might step in to stop a crime.

“Good Samaritan” laws may not apply in self defense cases

A common misconception is that someone who intervenes in a crime falls under the concept of the “Good Samaritan.” The Good Samaritan idea is that someone who intervenes in an emergency situation to help other people should not be held responsible for injuries that they cause in the course of helping someone else. The textbook example of a Good Samaritan is someone who pulls over to assist people who have been injured in a car accident. In the course of helping someone who has been injured it’s very easy for an untrained person to aggravate the injured person’s injuries. Nevada law shields ordinary people from liability for such incidents. NRS 41.500. A crime, even a violent one or one that involves the threat of violence (for example, an armed robbery) may not qualify as an “emergency” under Nevada’s Good Samaritan law. The Good Samaritan law therefore may not protect the intervening person from liability if in the course of the intervention the person causes personal injury or property damage. Even though there may be a good argument that such damage arose only as a consequence of the criminal behavior, that might not be enough to prevent liability.

Using a weapon in self defense

Advocates for concealed carry permits often argue that having responsible, armed gun owners in public enhances public safety. For those who exercise their right to carry a gun in public, encountering an opportunity to prevent a crime presents an important decision point. Should a carried weapon be used to intervene in the crime? The answer to this question can be complicated, and depends on a range of considerations, including:
  • How clear is it that a crime is being committed at all? Threatening someone who was not doing anything criminal is itself a crime.
  • What sort of danger does the apparent criminal pose? Is he or she armed?
  • What is the nature of the crime? A violent crime may justify a different level of response from a property crime like shoplifting.
  • Is immediate intervention absolutely necessary to protect others from harm, or can the problem be safely left to the police?
  • Is the intervening person adequately trained to handle a firearm in an emergency context?
  • What else is going on? Are there lots of people around?
Firing a weapon in public is likely to draw scrutiny from law enforcement, regardless of how justified the shooting may have seemed at the time. Someone who intervenes in a situation with a weapon risks a number of consequences, the most significant being civil and even criminal liability for injuries to bystanders and even the criminal. At a minimum, be prepared to comply with police instructions, and also be prepared for the possibility that other armed citizens may arrive on the scene and mistake you for a criminal. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. If you are in need of legal representation after intervening in a crime, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Home Defense Rights in Nevada

Home Defense in Nevada
When a criminal breaks into your home, the last thing you’re likely to think about is the potential legal liability that could come with taking aggressive steps to defend yourself, your family, and your property. From time to time stories appear about a homeowner being charged with murder or sued for civil damages after shooting a trespasser. Nevadans can benefit from understanding how state law defines the rights of a person to use deadly force to defend their home from intruders.

Elements of “justified homicide” in Nevada

Nevada law provides that it is not a crime to use deadly force against persons who “manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied vehicle, of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.” NRS 200.120. The clear intention of this rule is that the use of firearms to protect one’s home is permitted, though other forms of deadly force, such as knives, will also be protected. It has two key elements that are worth noting.
  1. The behavior of the person being defended against must be “violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious.” The statute does not provide blanket authority for homeowners to shoot at someone who peacefully comes to the front door.
  2. The purpose of the trespass is a relevant fact. For example, if someone trespasses onto another person’s property to retrieve a mishandled ball or fetch a stray dog, the statute may not protect the homeowner who uses deadly force in the mistaken belief that they are under attack. On the other hand, a jury may conclude that the homeowner behaved reasonably under the circumstances—for example, if the person was behaving “surreptitiously” rather than announcing their presence in a responsible way.
Nevada’s “stand your ground” law, codified in NRS 200.120(2), applies to the home defense scenario insofar as a person is entitled to use deadly force in self defense provided that he or she is not the original aggressor. Going back to the example of the person coming to the front door in a peaceable way: a homeowner who initiates an aggressive exchange by threatening the visitor with a gun is not entitled to use deadly force if the visitor then draws a concealed weapon that she is lawfully carrying for self-defense purposes.

A home defender’s fear must be “reasonable”

To lawfully use deadly force a person must show “that the circumstances were sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person and that the person killing really acted under the influence of those fears.” NRS 200.130. The law provides two specific circumstances where home defenders have the benefit of a rebuttable presumption that their fear was reasonable:
  • The defender knew or reasonably believed that the person who was killed was entering unlawfully and with force, or attempting to do so; the defender knew or reasonably believed that the person who was killed was committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence; and the defender did not provoke the person who was killed. NRS 200.130(2).
  • While lawfully in his or her own residence or place of lodging, such as a hotel room, the defender uses deadly force against a person who is committing burglary or home invasion, or threatens use of a deadly weapon, and the defender knew or had reason to believe that such a crime was being committed. NRS 41.095.
Home defenders are immune from civil liability for injuries they cause to invaders unless the invader (or the invader’s estate) can overcome this presumption. NRS 41.095(1). In cases where a burglary was in progress and a homeowner used deadly force against the intruder, the legal picture is quite clear. The picture can be less clear in other situations.

Consult with a Las Vegas attorney after any self-defense situation

Anyone who uses force in self defense should be sure to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the event to ensure that relevant facts are recorded properly and to avoid costly mistakes. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served the Las Vegas community for over 45 years. If you would like to know more about Nevada’s home defense laws, call us for a free attorney consultation. We’re reachable at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Self Defense and Nevada Law

Self Defense and Nevada Law
Injuring or killing someone in an act of self-defense can lead to concerns about civil and criminal liability. Nevada law provides protections for people who act in self-defense, but Nevadans should take a moment to understand what those protections are and how they work.

Justifiable homicide under Nevada law

Nevada’s “justifiable homicide” laws provide that it is not a crime to kill someone while acting in self-defense in certain situations. The killing must have been for one’s own self-defense, or in defense of an occupied home or vehicle. The person who was killed must have been “manifestly” intending or endeavoring to commit a crime of violence, or to enter the home or vehicle for the purpose of assaulting someone inside. NRS 200.120(1). Justifiable homicide extends to acts in defense of other people who are in imminent danger, or in cases where the homicide occurs while resisting an attempted felony. NRS 200.160, NRS 200.190. Under the state’s “stand your ground” law, a person is not required to retreat before using deadly force provided that the following things are true:
  1. The person is not the original aggressor;
  2. The person has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used (i.e., the person is not trespassing); and
  3. The person is not actively engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used.
These limitations can pose problems for people in some situations. For example, someone who starts a fight cannot claim self-defense if the brawl escalates beyond a simple shoving match, even if the person who ends up slain was responsible for raising the degree of violence.

Nevada limits civil liability for injuries caused in the course of self-defense

Nevada law expressly provides that someone who hurts or kills someone in an act of self-defense cannot be held civilly liable for the personal injuries or wrongful death of the attacker. NRS 41.095 shelters acts of self-defense described above, and also protects people who act in self-defense under the following circumstances:
  1. The person used force to defend the person’s residence or other place of transient lodging, or vehicle;
  2. The person had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily injury to himself or herself, or another person;
  3. The person who is injured or killed is committing burglary, home invasion, or grand larceny of the vehicle using a deadly weapon; and
  4. The person who used force knew or had reason to believe that burglary, home invasion, or auto theft was being committed.

Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury attorney about self-defense

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured in an altercation that potentially involves self-defense questions and you’re wondering about your legal options, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.