If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Nevada it is important to understand the basics of the legal process and how your case will proceed.
Investigation and Charging Decision
You may have been picked up on a warrant or summoned into court. How did that happen? Before a warrant or a summons goes out law enforcement will perform an investigation of some sort. The investigation will include speaking with witnesses, photographing the scene, and generally gathering evidence. If the crime is a misdemeanor law enforcement may arrest at the time if the crime was committed in their presence or if not or the crime was a gross misdemeanor or felony will submit the request for charges the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney will then if probable cause exists file a complaint. A complaint is just a formal way charging a person with a crime.
Justice Court or Municipal Court
Once formal charges have been filed. The defendant will be either brought to court if a warrant was issued or show up to court on the specified day on the summons or ticket. The judge will arraign a person or tell them officially what they have ben charged with and usually appoint an attorney to represent the defendant or allow the defendant to retain an attorney. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the defendant has a right to have a trial within 60 days of the arraignment. If the charge is a gross misdemeanor or felony the defendant has the right to a preliminary hearing within 15 days of the date of arraignment.
A person that has been charged with a misdemeanor charge has the right to be represented by counsel at the trial. A misdemeanor trial is done without a jury in what is called a bench trial. That is the trail takes place in front of a judge who will find guilt or innocence. It is the State of Nevada's burden to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is to be any negotiation regarding the charges and sentence then it will take place before the trial.
If the charge is a gross misdemeanor or felony a preliminary hearing will be held. This is done in front of the judge. It is up to the State of Nevada to prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant probably committed it. The burden is lower than that of beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically cases proceed forward at this point as the burden of proof is so low. This is called "bound over". The case then id bound over to district court for a jury trial.
District Court Arriangment
If the case was bound over the district court will have an arraignment where the court will inform the person what they have been formally charged with and contained within a document called the "information". From this point the defendant will have the right to have a trial within 60 days according to the court's calendar.
It is the State of Nevada's burden to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed the crime alleged.
At sentencing if a jury found the defendant guilty or if the defendant plead guilty to a crime the State of Nevada will have an opportunity to recommend a sentence. The defendant's attorney then will be able to present argument why the sentence should be different than what the State is recommending. Ultimately the judge has discretion as to sentencing.
Speak to a Lawyer
As always speak to a competent attorney about specific concerns and how the process varies throughout the jurisdictions. Remember this is just a guide that demonstrates the criminal law process in a simple fashion without diving into every possibility and variation that could and will occur.
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