Nevada Criminal Process
Being arrested is a confusing and terrifying event. Once the initial confusion clears, concern for what happens next often sets in. Most people have little understanding of the criminal trial process in Nevada, or the potential pitfalls that await them.
Las Vegas Criminal Lawyer
Fortunately, no one has to go through this process alone. Everyone has a right to a criminal defense attorney to advise and represent them along the way.
It is never too early in the process to enlist the representation of counsel. Experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joel Mann can fight for your rights if you are being investigated for a crime or if you’ve been arrested. Joel Mann can represent you at every point in the criminal process. Call Joel Mann at (702) 474-6266 for a free consultation to discuss your Las Vegas charges.
Information or Indictment in Nevada Process
The police will investigate reported crimes, collect evidence and submit their findings to the District Attorney. The DA may then choose to press charges if he or she finds there is sufficient evidence against a suspect. The DA may then either sign a sworn statement, called a criminal complaint, or present the evidence to a grand jury, which is a secret proceeding.
When a criminal complaint is filed by the prosecution, it is after a prosecutor has reviewed the evidence presented to them from the arresting agency. If the prosecution believes there is probable cause and that a conviction is possible, they will file a criminal complaint. In Nevada when a criminal complaint is filed the case is then set for a preliminary hearing in Justice Court. A preliminary hearing will determine if the State has probable cause, slight or marginal evidence that a crime occurred and the Defendant might be the person that committed the crime. If the Justice of the Peace determines that there is probable cause, the Justice of the Peace will bind the case up to District Court for the District Court arraignment and setting of a Jury Trial.
The grand jury is a one-sided proceeding, consisting of a panel of citizens who hear evidence from only the prosecution. The prosecution has a legal and ethical obligation to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, however, what the prosecution deems as exculpatory is often very subjective. After hearing the prosecution’s presentation, if the grand jury believes there is sufficient evidence to press charges, they will return a true bill, and the DA will then file an indictment. An indictment is the charging document that is presented from the result of the grand jury returning a true bill. Once the indictment has been filed, the Defendant will be arraigned (informed of the charges and enters a plea) on the charges and a trial date will be scheduled.
Once either the information or indictment is issued, the judge may sign a warrant for the person’s arrest. A warrant authorizes police to arrest a person whenever and wherever they find that person.
Arrest or Citation in Las Vegas
In most criminal prosecutions, however, the above step either does not occur or occurs in a very abbreviated manner. Most criminal prosecutions begin with an arrest or citation. A law enforcement officer may arrest a person in Nevada if she or he has probable cause to believe that person committed a crime.
Usually, this happens during the initial police involvement. For instance, if an officer pulls you over and suspects you have been drinking, he or she does not have to go back to the DA to seek an information or indictment and then have a judge sign a warrant. He or she can arrest you right there.
When arresting a person, police must read the suspect his or her Miranda rights, or “Mirandize” him or her. Miranda rights are named after the Supreme Court case that required police to read them, Miranda v. Arizona. The Miranda warning includes:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can and may be used against you;
- You have the right to have an attorney present before and during questioning; and
- If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to have one appointed.
Often, for minor offenses, like traffic violations, the police will simply issue a citation. The citation will state a time and date for the person to appear in court or instructions for how to handle the matter. These are still criminal charges, however, and the state must meet the same burden of proof for the case.
Hearings Before Trial in Clark County Courts
The first District Court appearance a defendant usually has is the arraignment. In the arraignment, the defendant is presented with the information or indictment, and the defendant enters his or her plea. The plea may be guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty, the criminal proceeding moves on to sentencing. If the defendant pleads guilty, the matter proceeds to trial.
Prior to a trial, there are one or more pretrial conferences where the prosecution and the defense attorneys argue over what evidence may or may not be presented at trial. The defense attorney may argue that the prosecution’s evidence was illegally obtained through a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights or otherwise should not be presented in court, and should be thrown out. If critical evidence is not admissible, the charges may be dropped.
Trial in Nevada
Before trial, there is voire dire of the jury, where the prosecutors and defense lawyers have the opportunity to question potential jurors to determine whether they are fit to serve. If the juror has a certain bias, cannot fulfill their legal duties, or has some kind of personal connection to the matter or the parties involved, he or she may be struck so that he or she may not serve.
The prosecution and defense each get a certain number of peremptory challenges, which they may use to strike a juror without giving a reason. If the charge carries the potential for life imprisonment or death, each side has eight, otherwise, each side has four. The prosecution may not, however, strike a juror to form a racial bias against the defendant.
At the trial, the prosecution will present evidence, and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime he or she is charged with. The defense will refute the evidence and show why it is insufficient. The defense is not required to present any evidence at all or present witnesses but often will refute the prosecution’s claims. The defendant is not required to testify, and, in most cases, the defendant’s attorney will recommend against him or her testifying.
At the end of the trial, the jury will give its verdict. “Guilty” means the prosecution met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution did not, the verdict is “not guilty,” and the defendant is free to go.
Sentencing in Las Vegas Criminal Matters
If the jury finds the defendant guilty or the defendant pleads guilty, sentencing will follow, often several weeks afterward. At sentencing, the judge will determine how much prison or jail time, fines, community service, probation, or other punishment the defendant will have to serve. There are limits to how much or little the judge may give the defendant under statute. The defense attorney may present arguments as to why the defendant should receive a lighter sentence.
Nevada Criminal Process Resources
- Las Vegas Warrant Check: This site, provided by the City of Las Vegas, has information for people with warrants on how to check on the status of warrants.
- Clark County Warrant Check: This site has information on how to check the status of warrants in Clark County.
- Clark County Criminal Justice Flowchart: This chart, provided by Clark County government, shows the criminal process in a graphic form.
Nevada’s Criminal Process from Arrest to Sentencing
Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer Joel Mann can be on your side during the difficult times surrounding a criminal investigation or arrest. He will help you understand each phase, what is happening and what may occur. He will vigorously fight for your rights and defend your interests. If you’ve been arrested or are being investigated for a crime in Las Vegas, call the Law Office of Joel M. Mann today at (702) 474-6266 to schedule a free consultation.