Your Las Vegas Criminal Case: The Basics

That deadbeat husband of yours has a major gambling, booze, and theft problem. He can't seem to stay off of Fremont Street. He plays the penny slots for hours on end. It's fine if that's what he chooses to do with this life, but since he's cleaned out our savings, he's found creative ways to fund his little "habit." He basically steals anything not bolted down. This time, he got caught. Big time. If you or someone you loved has been arrested in Las Vegas for a misdemeanor or felony, you likely have questions about what is going to happen.

Here's a general sense of what to expect in a Las Vegas criminal case.

Can you tell me a little about getting arrested?

If you're arrested in Sin City, it's likely by the Las Vegas Police. There are several rules that the LVPD must follow. If they neglect to follow these rules, it could jeopardize the Clark County prosecutor's case against you.

The cops should read you your Miranda rights. You've heard the words. "You have the right to remain silent." Then, the cops had two options: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date. If you're trying to find him an inmate, an online search of all Clark County inmates is available.

What should I know about bail?

If you want to come home, you'll either be released on your own recognizance or have to post bail. Bail is money that you he has to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. You'll likely have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

Getting a Lawyer

Whether this is your first time at the Las Vegas courthouse or your seventh, you will probably want to consider speaking to a defense lawyer. You can hire a Las Vegas criminal attorney or request the services of a Clark County public defender.

 What happens next depends on if you're charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

What is considered a misdemeanor charge?

A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to 6 months or less in jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000. They're less serious than felonies, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and his freedom. If your a non-citizen, a misdemeanor conviction can impact your immigration status.

A Las Vegas misdemeanor can be as simple as a stealing or as serious as committing domestic violence. Some misdemeanors have mandatory jail time, while other carry only a fine. Some crimes carry additional penalties such mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes. In some instances you won't be able to own a gun.

If your case can't be settled out of court, you'll have to trial. In Nevada, a judge, not a jury, hears misdemeanor trials. If convicted, the judge will impose a sentence.

What is a "Gross Misdemeanors?"

Things get a little trickier for you if you're accused of a gross misdemeanor. That means the crime is one step below a felony. Sometimes several convictions for the same misdemeanor can elevate the offense to a gross misdemeanor. Examples of gross misdemeanors include stalking, false imprisonment, indecent exposure or lewdness.

The penalties are pretty steep. You can go to county jail for up to a year and/or be fined. At least you'll get a jury if he goes to trial for a gross misdemeanor.

What is considered a felony charge?

Felonies are the real deal. They carry huge penalties including years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. Examples of Las Vegas felonies include murder, robbery, sexual assault, fraud, drugs sales and some theft crimes.

In Nevada, there are several different categories of felonies that range from Category "A" to Category "E".

Category A contains the felonies that carry a sentence of death or life imprisonment -- the highest penalty for committing a crime in Nevada. Category "E" felonies contain the least severe felony punishment with a potential sentence of 1 to 4 years in prison.

Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury

If your felony case doesn't resolve early, you'll have either a preliminary hearing or a grand jury hearing. If your case goes to a preliminary hearing, a judge will hear the evidence and determine if there's probable cause to believe he committed the offense. If the judge holds you to answer" for the charges, she'll set a trial date and he'll be arraigned again. If it's a grand jury, a majority of the panel must believe sufficient evidence is present to return an indictment (formal charge) to the court.

Trial

If you're a gamblin' man or woman and want to go to trial, the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You have the right to a jury trial where twelve randomly selected members of the Las Vegas community decide whether you're innocent or guilty. Both the prosecutor and defense will present evidence. Remember, you can't be compelled to testify. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will sentence you.

Round up

Criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. Anyone charged with an offense should at least consider consulting a skilled attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.