SETTING SPRING GUN OR OTHER DEADLY WEAPON
Setting a trap that consists of a spring-loaded gun or other type of deadly weapon that can and/or will cause injury automatically after the trap is sprung is a crime. Convictions for setting a spring gun or other deadly weapon are severe and include jail time and harsh fines.
What is the legal definition of setting a spring gun or other deadly weapon?
The laws relating to setting a spring gun are governed by NRS 202.253, and 202.255.
NRS 202.253 – Definitions.
As used in NRS 202.253 to 202.369, inclusive:
- “Explosive of incendiary device” means any explosive or incendiary device material or substance that has been constructed, altered, packaged or arranged in such a manner that its ordinary use would cause destruction or injury to life or property.
- “Firearm” means any device designed to be used as a weapon from which a projectile may be expelled through the barrel by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion.
- “Firearm capable of being concealed upon the person” applies to and includes all firearms having a barrel less than 12 inches in length.
- “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled.
NRS 202.255 – Setting spring gun or other deadly weapon: Unlawful and permitted uses; penalties.
- A person who sets a so-called trap, spring pistol, rifle, or other deadly weapon shall be punished:
- If no injury results therefrom to any human being, for a gross misdemeanor.
- If injuries not fatal result therefrom to any human being, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
- If death of a human being results therefrom:
- Under circumstances not rendering the act murder, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000; or
- Otherwise, for murder which is a category A felony as provided in NRS 200.030.
- Subsection 1 does not prevent the use of any loaded spring gun, set gun or other device for the destruction of gophers, moles, coyotes or other burrowing rodents or predatory animals by agents or employees of governmental agencies engaged in cooperative predatory animal and rodent control work, but:
- A loaded spring gun, set gun or other device must not be set within 15 miles of the boundaries of any incorporated town; and
- Before setting any such loaded spring gun, set gun or other device on any real property permission must first be obtained from the owner, lessee or administrator thereof.
What the heck is a “spring gun”?
A spring gun is a trap whereby the gun is arranged to go off whenever someone triggers the trap. Anyone who has seen the movie “Home Alone” might recognize this idea from the blowtorch scene when one of the burglars, played by Joe Pesci, enters through the back door, which triggers a blow torch that burns the top of his head.
While the blowtorch is not a gun, it would still be considered a “spring gun” under the definition in NRS 202.255. That is because NRS 202.255 includes any similar sort of trap where the trap causes, or would cause, the victim to be injured by any weapon that can cause grievous bodily injury or death.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalties for a conviction for setting or using a spring gun or other weapon depend entirely on whether someone was injured by the weapon and if so, how badly the person was injured.
If no one was injured by the spring gun, because the weapon either did not work properly or because it was discovered before it was triggered, then you will be charged with a misdemeanor which carries with it:
- Up to 6 months in jail; and/or
- Possibly fines up to $1,000.
If the weapon injured someone, but did not kill the victim, then the use of the spring gun or other weapon will be charged as a category B felony, and will carry with it:
- Between 1 and 6 years in a Nevada State Prison; and/or
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
Obviously, the more grievous the injuries, the harsher the penalties will be.
If the victim died because of the spring gun or other weapon, then the penalties will depend on the circumstances of the “trap.” If the circumstances of the trap cannot be considered murder because the trap was not set with the intent to kill someone, then the crime will be charged as a category B felony and carry with it:
- Between 1 and 10 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $10,000.
If, on the other hand, the trap was set with the intent of killing someone, and therefore rises to the level of murder, then the crime will be charged as a category A felony, and will carry with it:
- The Death Penalty; or
- Life in prison without the possibility of parole; or
- Life in prison with the possibility for parole.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. Some of the possible defenses include:
- Legal Authority – Subsection 2 provides that an employee of a government agency working the population of rodents or predatory animals can use a spring gun to do so, so long as it is done within the course and scope of their duties (in other words, they are not allowed to be out using spring guns to kill rodents or predatory animals in their spare time). However, there are 2 conditions that must be met, even when acting under this legal authority:
- The spring gun must be placed at least 15 miles outside the boundaries of any incorporated town. In other words, this applies only when it is used well outside any town or city; and
- The government employee must obtain the permission of whoever is in charge of the land, either the owner, the person leasing it, or the administrator if the land is owned by a trust or company.
- No Trap Set – The laws against spring guns require there to have been a weapon set to “go off” when triggered by the trap or spring. Consequently, if there was no such trap or spring set, then any such charges should be dropped or dismissed.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Using or Setting a Spring Gun?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.