Criminal Justice Process
Court Process for Criminal Cases
Simple criminal cases, such as misdemeanors in Las Vegas, Nevada are handled in Las Vegas Justice Court (e.g., shoplifting, possession of marijuana, and traffic tickets). More serious cases, such as felonies (e.g., narcotics / drug trafficking, weapon charges, grand larceny) are tried in Nevada’s 8th Judicial District Court. The District Courts also hears appeals from the justice court.
Arrest/Citation - Beginning the Criminal Process
The criminal process in Nevada can start in two ways: (1) With the arrest of person who broke the law at the scene of a crime, or, (2) in some cases with a citation (also known a summons or a court order) to appear in court.
When the person is arrested at the scene of a crime, the police take that person into custody, interview available witnesses and ask the accused to give a statement. The information in the statement given by the accused can be used later to acquit or convict the person. In addition, the police report may also contain the results of the investigation, forensic results, and lab test results.
Once arrested, a police officer must inform the person that he or she has the right to remain silent, contact an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning (Miranda Rights). The police must also inform you that the court may appoint a lawyer (public defender) to defend you if you can’t afford one. Not everyone is qualified for a public defender. In order to qualify, your income must fall below a certain threshold. If you have a pending charge against you in Las Vegas, Nevada or you know that you will be charged with a crime, it is in your best interests to speak with an attorney. We encourage to you call the office of Heshmati & Associates at 702-432-1000 to discuss your case.
Indictment or Filing Charges?
Not all police reports result in filed charges. The district attorney in Nevada reviews the police reports and decides what is relevant and if there is enough sufficient evidence to official charge the arrestee of the crime. If so, the district attorney will officially file a criminal complaint form (also known as indictment) with the court. By filing this official document the state sets out the claim that a person has committed a crime.
The statute of limitations for misdemeanor charges in Nevada is one (1) year and a one (1) day. There is no limit to file criminal charges in felony cases.
Arraignment - First Court Appearance
Arraignment is the defendant’s first court appearance. At the arraignment the judge reads the charges against the defendant, and asks how the defendant would like to plea.
Most defendants say, "Not guilty." Saying "not guilty" doesn’t prevent the defendant later from changing their plea to "guilty" or "no contest / nolo contendere". Nolo means the defendant is not contesting the charges, but does not admit guilt.
Keep in mind, the judge doesn’t have to accept a deal. The deal is only a recommendation to the judge made by the prosecuting attorney and the defense. The judge has the power to overrule that recommendation.
To learn more about pleas and plea bargain in Las Vegas, Nevada, read our article “Plea Bargain in Las Vegas Court.”
After the Arraignment
The attorney for the defendant asks the prosecuting attorney for a copy of your "discovery" - police reports, forensic test results, witnesses’ statements, and/or any other proof that the arrested committed a crime. At the same time, the attorney for the defendant will try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. In about 90 percent of all criminal cases in the U.S defendants enter into plea deals rather than go to trial.
If the prosecutor will not agree to a fair plea deal, then the only other option is to go to trial.
Getting Released on Bail
The bail is set within the court’s discretion and on a case-by-case basis. In most cases bond is set on the day of the arraignment or sometimes before the arraignment.
The judge may place certain conditions on the defendant to make sure that he or she will return to court if released from custody. As a rule, individuals have the right to be released on bail if they can provide sufficient collateral. The defendant can contact a bail bonding agency or pay bond in cash. If the defendant fails to appear for a court date, the court will keep all of the money and a bench warrant will be issued.
In some cases the court can also release a defendant without bail, this is called an “O/R release”.
In felony cases the defendant is entitled to a jury trial. In misdemeanor cases there is no jury, only a judge. A bench trial involves only a judge who determines guilt and the sentence.
During the trial the state’s attorney must prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and by a unanimous verdict of 12 jurors.
When a person feels that the trial was unfair and the verdict was wrong or too harsh, he or she may request the higher court (appellate court) review the conviction. This is called an appeal.
There are strict time limits for the filing of a notice of appeal.
If you have any questions regarding appeals in Las Vegas, Nevada, or you are planning to file an appeal, call a criminal defense attorney at Heshmati & Associates at 702-432-1000 to discuss your case.
Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
The information in this article is not a substitution for a legal advice. If you are facing criminal charges in Las Vegas, Nevada you heed to retain a good criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. The office of Heshmati & Associates handles hundreds of criminal defense cases, from domestic violence to complex drug charges and everything in between.
Initial consultation is always free. To schedule an appointment call 702-432-1000 or fill an online form.
Payment plans are available.
Walk-ins are welcome.
The attorneys at Heshmati & Associates represent clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Summerlin South, Boulder City, Clark County and throughout the surrounding areas of Nevada.
Resources: Criminal Justice Process in Las Vegas, Nevada
Criminal Process & Las Vegas Justice Court. The Nevada District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction.
8th Judicial District Court. In the District Courts criminal matters are generally resolved through arbitration, mediation, and bench or jury trials. The District Courts also hear appeals.
Criminal Process and Getting Released on Bail. Learn about the bail bond process; different type of bonds; what is a bond co-signing and what any co-signer needs to know.