Nevada and Its Criminal Process

Criminal defendants are essentially treated the same in all states, but some legal procedures do vary. If you're faced with criminal charges in Nevada, there are a few things you should know.

Your Rights

Law enforcement officials can arrest anyone they observe committing a crime if the crime is a misdemeanor. They can also make arrests based on warrants showing probable cause or if they believe they have probable cause that an individual has committed an offense. When you're arrested, the officer must Mirandize you, telling you about your right to remain silent and informing you that if you don't remain silent, what you say can be used against you in court. The officer must also tell you that you have the right to have an attorney present during questioning and that if you're indigent, the court will appoint a lawyer for you. You should not give any statements without a lawyer being present. At a booking and holding facility, defendants are fingerprinted, photographed, and their personal effects taken and inventoried.

Bail Procedures

In Nevada's justice court, bail may be posted in cash, by credit card, bond, money order, or a cashier’s check. In district court, the bail amount for a particular offense can be found at pre-trial services. Bail is set according to the seriousness of the offense and the threat -- if any -- the defendant poses to the community. It's also based on the likelihood that the defendant will appear in court at a later date.

The Arraignment and Plea Process

Less serious cases are heard in municipal or justice courts. Defendants are arraigned within 48 hours following arrest if they're still in custody. A judge reviews the charges, determines whether the accused is represented by an attorney or -- if the offense involves jail time -- if he qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer. The judge ask that the defendant enter a plea. A plea can be guilty, which is an admission to the charges, or not guilty, which is a denial of the charges. Pleading nolo contendre means that you're not disputing any of the charges. It's considered a guilty plea except that it can't be used against you as evidence in a civil suit trial. A trial date is set or a pre-trial hearing scheduled.

Negotiations or Plea Bargaining

At any time before trial, negotiations can take place between your lawyer and the prosecutor. In exchange for foregoing trial, a defendant can plead guilty to a lesser charge or agree to a reduced sentence, or even have some charges dropped. Most criminal cases are settled before trial.

Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury

Only felony and gross misdemeanor defendants are entitled to a preliminary hearing to determine probable cause. These should occur within two weeks of the arraignment, although most are held later. In rare cases, a grand jury will return an indictment. If so, no preliminary hearing is scheduled.

Trials and Sentencing

Only defendants who face more than six months in jail if convicted are entitled to jury trials in Nevada. All other trials are held before a single judge. Cases in justice court use six-person juries while those in district court use 12-person juries. An unanimous verdict is necessary to convict a defendant. Except for some crimes that have mandatory minimum sentences, judges decide sentencing and they rely on pre-sentence reports that outline the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, his employment and family situation, and -- in some cases -- input from the victim.

A Nevada Criminal Attorney Can Help

Criminal procedures differ in each state; you should contact a criminal defense attorney if you face a criminal charge.

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