A new Nevada court sends a reminder that judges have most of the power in criminal cases. How can you fight back?
If you watch popular television shows and movies, you might believe that a jury of your peers decides your guilt and innocence and makes a decision about what punishment to impose. In reality, few Nevada criminal defendants ever see a jury. Even for those who do, they are still stuck with the sentence the judge decides on.
You may not know that sentencing is a separate phase of your criminal case in the Nevada criminal process. First, you are arrested and charged. Next, you may agree to a plea bargain or the case will go to trial. Either way, the judge has the final say on the punishment. Nevada crimes can be punished with a combination of jail time, fines, restitution, community service, and other programs like counseling and rehab
Judges are elected in Nevada, and the voters want to see judges be “tough on crime.” This means that judges have an incentive to give strong penalties. Who watches over judges to make sure they don’t go too far?
Nevada law provides minimum and maximum sentences for different crimes. This is a good start. But Nevada has a new court called the Intermediate Appellate Division, and this month, in one of its first cases to decide, it upheld consecutive sentences for an accused sex offender.
Consecutive sentences are served one after another.This is different from concurrent sentences, where sentences for multiple crimes are served at the same time.
Why did the court agree with the sentencing judge’s decision to require consecutive sentences? Because Nevada law allows him to do that, plain and simple. The judge gets the final say on sentencing. The decision sends a strong message about how much power Nevada judges have in criminal cases.
Getting a punishment that fits the crime means you have to start early, and that means at the time you are arrested.
At the plea bargaining stage, there is important work to do as well.
Many people do not realize that a plea bargain is about more than just the sentence you receive. It is also about which crime you are charged with. A lesser crime means a lesser max sentence under Nevada law. It gives a judge less to work with at the sentencing stage.
An experience defense lawyer can negotiate lower crimes and sentencing with the prosecutor so you can move on with your life and keep the sentencing decision as much out of the hands of the judge as possible.
Nick Wooldridge is a recognized and successful criminal defense attorney who understands how critical the sentencing phase is. He is always available to speak with new clients who need his advice. Call today to give yourself the best protection from an over-reaching judge.