Nevada's Stand Your Ground Law: What Are The Rules?


RENO, NV - Seventy -three-yearOold Wayne Burgarello took two guns with him one February night as he investigated a report that squatters had broken into an empty duplex he owned on H Street in Sparks.

There he encountered 34-year-old Cody Devine and 29-year-old Janai Wilson.

Burgarello says as Devine was getting up off the floor, he made a motion as if he had a gun. Several shots were fired. Devine was killed; Janai Wilson was wounded.

Nevada case law on deadly self defense dates back to the 1870's, but in 2011, the legislature put it in the books, making a crucial change.

"Before you could use deadly force in self defense you had to back up as far as you could go, as far as you could safely go," says attorney John Ohlson, who has defended cases under the law. "Now the new law says you don't have to back up."

But the law still imposes three conditions:

That you have a right to be there.

That you're not doing anything illegal yourself.

And that you're not the original aggressor.

"You can't create the situation and then in turn expect to benefit by the statute," says attorney David Houston. "You can't create the problem to the point that you say 'Now I'm going to shoot you because you represent a threat."

Houston says it's not a clear-cut case, but he believes it is defensible.

"We look at the man's age. His physical condition. His health. His ability to perceive, of course. And I think we have to boil it down to the final analysis and that is the individuals would not have been shot had they not broken into the home."

But both attorneys say there are serious issues here and as more of us feel the need to arm ourselves with guns, we should also be well informed.

"When you take that gun out and you exert four pounds of pressure on that trigger and unleash deadly and irretrievable force on another human being, you better be right," says Ohlson.

"If you have the money to buy the gun, budget the money to sit down with a lawyer," adds Houston. "Talk with a lawyer about what you can and cannot do."


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