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Domestic Violence

Las Vegas, NV Domestic Violence Attorney Explains Nevada Laws and Penalties

domestic violence attorney in las vegas explains the laws and chargesDomestic violence includes a variety of individual crimes such as:

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 Las Vegas 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 mainly responsible 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 common is domestic violence in Nevada? Here is what the stats says

Domestic violence accusations are very common in the state of Nevada. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a total of 1,791 contacts were documented to the hotline from Victims in the Nevada area. Nevada had the 23rd highest number of contacts to the domestic violence hotline of any state. Click on the image for full Infographic.

Click here for a full version of the infographic “Domestic Violence in Nevada – Statistics”

The majority of victims who contacted the domestic violence hotline where between the ages of 25 and 36. A total of 41.9 percent of callers were within this age group. Those 37 to 46 were the second most likely to report being victimized, as 19.9% of callers were within this age group. A total of 15.9% of callers were between the ages of 19 and 24, and another 11.3 percent were between the ages of 46 to 54. Those under 18 were the least likely to be victimized, and those over 56 were the second least likely group to contact the domestic violence hotline.

The majority of the reports of domestic violence made by Nevada residents to the National Domestic Violence hotline came from Las Vegas. A full 69% of all contacts to the hotline were made by people in the Las Vegas area. Reno had the second highest number of calls at 13%.

Of those who contacted the hotline to report domestic violence, 95% were experiencing emotional or verbal abuse while 71% were experiencing physical abuse. Economic and financial abuse was a problem for 16% of those reporting domestic violence, and sexual abuse was reported by eight percent of those who contacted the domestic abuse hotline for help.

While a single act of emotional or verbal abuse is typical not criminal, a pattern of behavior can definitely result in a variety of criminal charges, including for stalking or harassing. If the verbal or emotional abuse takes the form of a threat to the victim’s safety, then it may be possible for a defendant to be arrested on the basis of that single threat even without a pattern of menacing behavior or actual physical action. Whether the defendant broke the law could hinge upon whether his conduct was viewed as a reasonable threat of causing imminent harm.

Physical abuse, including hitting, biting, choking, or other acts of aggression is always considered criminal behavior and even a single instance could lead to the arrest of the alleged abuser.

How does a Las Vegas domestic violence court case work?

Domestic violence case work - N.R.S.Arraignment

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.

Pretrial Conference

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.

Beware!

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 criminal 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.

Pre-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.

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;
  • Photographs;
  • 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 Las Vegas 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.

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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?

SPenalties for DV in Clark County, NevadaSometimes, 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 domestic violence attorney 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.

Sentencing

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
  • Counseling

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.

Contact a domestic violence attorney in Las Vegas NV who 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 Las Vegas 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 domestic violence lawyer as soon as charges are brought. A criminal defense lawyer is your best defense against a 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.

Doemstic Violence Resources and Support Groups in Las Vegas

Domestic violence victims in Nevada can take advantage of support programs aimed at helping them to escape the violence they are experiencing and recover from the trauma of the violence.

SafeNest operates a 24 hour hotline at 702-646-4981. SafeNest offers:

  • Shelters for domestic violence victims: Shelters are located at undisclosed locations and are open to abuse victims and their children.
  • Advocacy: SafeNest advocates for strong legal protections for victims of domestic violence.
  • Domestic violence prevention: SafeNest provides education and support with the goal of preventing acts of abuse.
  • Counseling: Adult victims and children from abusive homes can get help and support from trained counselors with experience helping those who have been affected by domestic violence.

Victims can also obtain help from local law enforcement. In addition to calling 911, other first responders and peace officers can be contacted at the following telephone numbers:

  • Ambulance Dispatch Center 702-384-3400
  • Las Vegas Metropolitan Police 702-229-3111
  • North Las Vegas Police 702-633-9111
  • Nevada Highway Patrol 702-486-4100

Peace officers can respond when domestic violence complaints are made and can provide guidance to victims on how to secure a temporary protective order in an emergency situation. There are also specialized, dedicated Clark County officials who can assist with emergency temporary protective orders as well as long-term orders of protection. Resources for those seeking a protective order include:

  • Clark County Emergency TPO 646-4981 400 W. Van Buren, Las Vegas, NV
  • Clark County Court TPO Office 455-3400 480 W. Bonanza Road, Las Vegas, NV

There are also a number of homeless and emergency center who can provide housing and other crisis services. Here is the contact information for shelters and services that could be helpful for victims interested in escaping a shared living space where an abuser is located:

  • National Crisis Hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE
  • Nevada Crisis Hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-486-7282
  • SAFE House, which can be reached at 451-4203
  • Safe Nest Crisis, which can be reached at 646-4981
  • St. Vincent’s Annex, which can be reached at 384-0409 1526 and which can be visited at North Main St., Las Vegas, NV
  • The Interfaith Hospitality Network, which can be reached at 638-8806
  • The Las Vegas Rescue Mission, which can be reached at 382-1766
  • The Salvation Army Shelter , which can be reached at 639-1876 and which is located at 35 West Owens, North Las Vegas, NV
  • The Shade Tree, which can be reached at 385-4596 and which is located at 1 W. Owens, Las Vegas, NV
  • WestCare Youth Shelter , which can be reached at 385-3332 and which is located at 300 E. Charleston, Las Vegas, NV

Finally, because it can take time to establish a new residence after leaving an abusive situation, there are a number of resources available for transitional housing including:

  • Ashley House , which can be reached at 647-2010
  • Golden Rule, Inc., which can be reached at 383-0847 and which is located at 624 E. Stewart, Las Vegas, NV
  • Project Home, which can be reached at 647-3307 and which is located at 330 W. Washington, Ste. 7, Las Vegas
  • Women’s Development Center, , which can be reached at 796-7770 953 and which is located at E. Sahara. Ste. 201, Las Vegas, NV

More Information

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.

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