LAS VEGAS CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Criminal Law Overview

The criminal process can be overwhelming and confusing. A typical criminal case is handled this way:

MISDEMEANORS
A misdemeanor is a crime which is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1000.00 fine. The judge can also add other sentencing requirements, such as community service, classes, and restitution. Sometimes, the minimum sentence is set by statute, and the judge cannot change those requirements.

ARREST OR CITATION
If the police personally see you commit a crime, they can issue you a citation, give you a date to attend court (think of a traffic ticket), and release you. For more serious crimes, the police will arrest you.

GETTING OUT OF JAIL
If you are arrested, you are entitled to bail so long as you are not being held on a capital offense. You can post your bail in cash. Generally, you get your money back when your case is completed. If you do not have the money to post cash bail, you can go through a bail bondsman. In Nevada, a bondsman will charge you 15% of the total amount of the bail. For example, if your bail is $10,000.00, the bondsman will charge you $1500.00. You do not get this money back. This is the bondsman’s fee. You will get the date to appear in court when you are released from jail.

GROSS MISDEMEANOR/FELONY
A gross misdemeanor is a crime which is punishable by up to one year in jail. A felony is punishable by more than 1 year in prison.

ARREST
Generally, the police can arrest you if they observed you commit the crime. If they did not see you commit a crime, but have probable cause to believe a crime was committed, they can obtain a warrant for your arrest. This is done by submitting an affidavit to a judge stating why the officer believes you committed a crime and asking for a warrant. If the judge issues a warrant for your arrest, you will usually not find out about the warrant until you are arrested.

GETTING OUT OF JAIL
If you are arrested, you are entitled to bail so long as you are not being held on a capital offense. You can post your bail in cash. Generally, you get your money back when your case is completed. If you do not have the money to post cash bail, you can go through a bail bondsman. In Nevada, a bondsman will charge you 15% of the total amount of the bail. For example, if your bail is $10,000.00, the bondsman will charge you $1500.00. You do not get this money back. This is the bondsman’s fee. You will get the date to appear in court when you are released from jail.

COURT APPEARANCES
The first court appearance is called the “initial arraignment.”  The purpose of this hearing is to enter of plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest). If you hire us, you do not need to attend the first appearance. We go to court on your behalf and enter a plea of not guilty. We then have time to review your discovery. Discovery is the complete packet of information the government will use to prosecute you. At a minimum this usually includes the police report and any witness statements.

The second court appearance is either a date to attempt negotiations or a preliminary hearing. You must be present at the preliminary hearing. The technical purpose of this hearing is for the judge to determine by slight or marginal evidence that a crime was committed and that you committed it.   However, a defense counsel, we use it for different reasons. It gives us the opportunity to judge the credibility of witnesses, pin down their testimony, and explore potential defenses.

Sometimes, a case negotiates during this process. If the case is negotiated to a gross misdemeanor or felony, or if the judge finds there is enough evidence to hold you on the charges, you will have a third appearance in the District Court. There you will enter plea of not guilty if the matter is not negotiated, or a plea of guilty if the matter is negotiated.

If the matter is negotiated, you will receive a sentencing date. If the matter is unresolved, you will receive a date for calendar call and trial. The calendar call date is held just before the trial. The purpose is to determine is the case is ready to proceed to trial. At the trial, the government will need to show: (1) that a crime was committed; and (2) that you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You are entitled to a trial by jury. The government calls its witnesses first. The witnesses will testify about what they saw you do or perhaps what you said to them. We have the opportunity to question each witness. When the government is finished, it is our turn to present your defense.

We can call our own witnesses. We may present photographs, recordings, videos, or any other information that assists your defense. The government has the right to question each of our witnesses. You also have the right to testify or not testify on your own behalf. This is a very case specific and personal decision that requires careful consideration. If you testify, the government can question you.

When both sides are finished, the jury will deliberate about the charges. The jury’s verdict must be unanimous to convict you. If you are convicted, you will have a final court appearance for sentencing. You have the right to file an appeal if you are convicted. The Nevada Supreme Court hears appeals from the District Court.

As a side note, some cases start immediately in the District Court. This occurs, not if the government filed charges, but if the government submitted the case to the Grand Jury who returned an indictment. An indictment is document that charges a defendant with a crime or crimes. If you receive a notice that the District Attorney intends to seek an indictment, you should contact us immediately. You have the right to present evidence of your innocence. By submitting your own evidence, you may avoid having charges filed against you.

Speak to one of our Las Vegas criminal attorneys 24 hours a day 7 days a week. 

Call us now at (702) 940-1234 or toll free at 1 (800) 899-1737.







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