Las Vegas Domestic Violence Lawyer Explains Nevada Laws and Penalties
Domestic violence includes violent confrontations between family members. It does not have to involve the use of weapons like knives or guns and does not have to cause permanent physical injuries to any person. In fact, many types of domestic violence involve abuse which does not necessarily show on the body of the victim, like sexual, emotional, and financial abuses. In some situations, abuse which does not result in an obvious physical injury to the victim can result in higher penalties, like domestic violence battery with strangulation because it can be lethal and also hidden from view.
What happens in a Nevada domestic violence case?
Domestic violence charges in Nevada usually start when someone calls the police. If the police come to the scene and believe a crime has occurred, they are required to make a police report.
The police must also arrest the person they decide is the “primary aggressor” (the person who is mainlyresponsible for the domestic violence) within 24 hours if possible.A warrant may not be necessary. Once arrested, the person must spend a minimum of 12 hours in jail before he or she can be released.
What happens next depends on whether a weapon was involved or if there were serious injuries. In Nevada domestic violence cases, “serious injuries” means:
- Bodily injury which creates substantial risk of death or
- Serious, permanent disfigurement or
- Protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or
- Prolonged physical pain.
Pain suffered during the act of violence is not enough to meet the serious injuries requirement.
Las Vegas domestic violence crimes are usually misdemeanors if they do not involve weapons or serious injuries, and as long as there has not been more than one prior conviction in the last seven years.
The case can turn more serious if there is a history or pattern of abusive behavior that does not necessarily result in physical injury. This can include sexual abuse (even by a spouse, unwanted sexual conduct can be a crime), emotional, and financial abuse. These commonly take place in spousal relationships.
How does a Nevada domestic violence court case work?
The first step is Arraignment, where after consulting with LV Criminal Defense – a team of experienced Las Vegas criminal lawyers, the person accused of a domestic violence crime pleads guilty, not guilty, or “no contest.” Nicholas Wooldridge can explain what each of these options mean for you and your case, including the consequences for you now and in the future. This is one reason why having an experienced Las Vegas domestic violence defense attorney is critical to your case.
The Pretrial Conference is next. If you pled guilty or “no contest,” the prosecutor will recommend a sentence to the judge. The recommendation is based on three things:
- The seriousness of the crime
- The testimony of the victim and
- The defendant’s criminal history of all crimes.
It is very important to understand that Nevada does not allow a reduced sentence for domestic violence crimes if the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest. This makes it different from other crimes and what you may have seen portrayed in the media. That is why hiring the best Las Vegas defense lawyer is critical to your domestic violence defense.
If the defendant refuses the prosecution’s offer at the pretrial conference (or pled not guilty at the arraignment), the case is set for trial.
If you pled not guilty at the arraignment, your case is also set for trial.
During the pre-trial phase, your lawyer and the prosecutor will exchange documents, hire experts to testify if necessary, and prepare for the presentation of your defenses during the trial.
At trial, the prosecutor will present evidence to the court that shows that the defendant committed the crime of domestic violence. The evidence may include:
- Testimony of the victim
- Testimony of the police officers and other witnesses
- Medical records and/or
- 911 tapes.
Trial is the defendant’s chance to show that the state’s case is weak and that he or she did not commit the crime. LV Criminal Defense will put on your evidence to show that the prosecutor cannot prove his or her case of domestic violence against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Defenses to Nevada Domestic Violence Charges
Defenses to domestic violence charges in Nevada include self-defense, false claims and self-inflicted injuries, and accidents. In cases involving non-obvious injuries, such as emotional or financial abuse committed over time, experts in domestic violence cases like psychologists may be called to testify. Experts for the defense will likely testify that the activities the victim complains of are not abusive, while experts for the prosecution will try to show that those same activities are. This is an uncommon situation, because often these cases do not get to trial. Also, most domestic violence cases involve a physical injury that we more commonly understand to be domestic violence, and which have evidence of injuries, like bruises and black eyes.
Importantly, the defense attorney will also ask the court to throw out bad evidence such as evidence which was illegally obtained by the police. This can weaken the prosecution’s case and work to the defendant’s advantage. Remember, as with any Nevada crime, domestic violence must be proven without a reasonable doubt.
What if the victim does not want to testify?
Sometimes, the victim will refuse to tell his or her story at trial or will say the original story was a lie to help the accused person. This may or may not work to get the charges dismissed depending on the other evidence available and should be discussed with your defense lawyer first. Your lawyer will be able to tell you whether the court will view the victim’s refusal to testify as another act of controlling abuse by the person on trial.
If the judge or jury finds the defendant guilty, the next phase is sentencing. Sentences for domestic violence crimes in Nevada have maximums which are published in Nevada laws called the Nevada Revised Statutes. The sentence can include any combination of the following:
- Community service,
- Jail time,
- Fines, or
First or second time charges for domestic violence do not usually carry harsh sentences, but the sentences do increase drastically after two convictions. It is important to understand that, for this reason, a seemingly “minor” domestic violence case can be the basis for a much more serious claim later. A lawyer can help you understand how to avoid sacrificing your future by simply pleading guilty now to get it over with.
Can a Nevada domestic violence conviction be removed from your record?
If the case is dismissed or you are acquitted (found not guilty) at trial, the record can be sealed immediately after the case closes.
If you are convicted of a first or second domestic violence offense, you must wait 7 years from the date the case is closed to request that your record be sealed. This includes completing all of the required sentence, such as community service, first.
If the conviction was for a felony domestic violence charge in Nevada, you must wait 15 years from the date the case is closed to request that your record be sealed.
How will Nevada domestic violence charges impact custody of children?
Courts around the country use a “best interests of the child” standard when deciding custody issues. A judge may not find it in the best interest of the child to give custody to someone with a battery domestic violence conviction. This is yet another reason why it is so important to hire the best Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer as soon as charges are brought. A criminal defense lawyer is your best defense against a Nevada domestic violence conviction.
What happens to a domestic violence victim during the case? Can the accuser drop the charges in Nevada?
The victim does not have to attend the arraignment or pretrial conference, but can if he or she wants to. Also, the victim can speak to the judge before a defendant is sentenced if there is no trial. If there is a trial, the victim will probably be sent a subpoena to testify at trial.
A commonly asked question is whether a domestic violence victim can “drop” the charges against the accused. They cannot. The reason is that in reality, the state of Nevada or the City of Las Vegas is bringing the charges against the accused, not the accuser.
Read more about what is required to prove domestic battery , domestic violence battery with strangulation, spousal abuse, and child abuse and neglect, as well as defenses to these crimes in Nevada and the possible sentences.
Learn more about temporary protective orders (also known as restraining orders), including how long they last and what happens if they are violated.