A person accused and charged with committing a crime becomes a criminal defendant. They are presumed innocent until the government demonstrates that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, a defense that excuses or justifies their criminal behavior may prevent a criminal conviction or lessen a criminal charge.
Hiring a Las Vegas Criminal Lawyer
How Does Criminal Law Procedure Work?
Only two bodies can bring a criminal case against someone, the federal government or a state government. This is why you see cases stylized as US v. Someone or State v. Someone.
Whether the accused is charged in federal court or a state court depends on what crime they are being charged with and where the alleged offense occurred. Nevada has its own set of criminal laws, but certain Constitutional rights apply to every defendant, no matter what that crime is or where it happened.
- Right to a speedy trial: The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial to prevent an accused person from being kept in jail for extended periods without adjudication;
- Right to a jury: The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to a trial by jury. Many jurisdictions allow the defendant to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial, where a judge determines guilt, but this is the defendant’s choice only. This right is universal with criminal prosecution only, as civil trials have their own rules regarding jury rights;
- Miranda rights: Stemming from a famous Supreme Court case, Miranda rights give the criminal defendant access to an attorney whether or not they can afford one to aid in their defense; and
- Protection against self-incrimination: Also known as “pleading the fifth,” this Constitutional protection says that a defendant cannot be forced to testify against their interest.
If you think your rights have been violated due to police misconduct, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
What Kinds of Crimes Can Someone Be Convicted Of?
Criminal acts are classified from less serious petty offenses like simple theft to the most severe crimes like drug trafficking and murder. Every jurisdiction and the federal courts have different ways to classify these crimes, from misdemeanors and disorderly conduct charges to felonies.
The term misdemeanor may include an extensive range of criminal offenses and violations, including:
- Traffic offenses, especially those involving drunk driving DUI/DWI;
- Assault and battery and other relatively minor offenses involving bodily harm;
- Theft, larceny, and other similar crimes involving property;
- Possession of a controlled substance and various drug crimes;
- Perjury crimes;
- Obscenity and other related crimes; and
- Gun possession violations.
The following is a general list of felony crimes:
- Property crimes: Grand theft, arson, and vandalism;
- Drug crimes: distributing, selling, or trafficking drugs;
- Sex crimes: sexual assault, some cases of sexual abuse, and human trafficking;
- Violent offenses: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, homicides, manslaughter,
- robbery, rape, child abuse, and kidnapping;
- White-collar crimes: embezzlement, securities fraud, forgery, and tax evasion
It is also essential to mention that certain offenses may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. These may include:
Some of these offenses may be qualified for expungement or removal from your criminal record. The requirements and processes for expungement vary, so it may be helpful to consult with an attorney for advice regarding how to have a conviction expunged.
Certain offenses, such as speeding and moving violations, are considered infractions. These violations only affect your driving record, not your criminal record.
There is also a separate category for juvenile crimes, which are crimes committed by minors. These crimes are adjudicated in a separate system, the juvenile justice system.
What Do Criminal Lawyers Do?
Criminal attorneys represent clients who may be facing criminal charges. They provide criminal defense representation for property crimes, assault/battery, drug/alcohol crimes, and other matters. They can assist clients by researching criminal laws and examining the evidence that may be presented during trial.
Common Criminal Charges Handled by Las Vegas Criminal Lawyers
Every state and county has different statistics and profiles regarding crime rates and incidents.
Las Vegas criminal lawyers may handle cases such as:
- Assault/battery crimes
- Various drug crimes and prescription drug crimes
- Theft and property crimes
- Various gambling crimes, such as using a cheating device or counterfeit chips
- Solicitation and prostitution crimes
- Alcohol-related crimes
Las Vegas and Nevada lawyers may also handle various other issues, such as immigration crimes, white-collar crimes, and tax fraud. Criminal issues can also overlap with other areas of law, such as family law or bankruptcy law.
What Are Some Criminal Defenses?
Criminal defenses can often hinge on the facts of each case, as well as state and local statutes. Ordinary criminal defenses may include coercion, fraud, intoxication, self-defense, and duress. For example, intoxication is a common defense in assault/battery crimes, particularly where the defendant was not the initial aggressor in the confrontation.
The law typically allows a self-defense justification where the defendant was not the aggressor. Their reaction was a reasonable response to a threat. They actually and reasonably thought they were in danger of imminent serious bodily injury or death. That may be challenging to establish, especially where witness testimony conflicts. However, if fully proven, self-defense will completely absolve the defendant of the crime they committed.
Duress and necessity are defenses to crimes committed under the threat of death or serious bodily injury. For instance, if someone forces someone to steal a car by threatening them with a gun to the head, duress could be pleaded to a charge of auto theft. Necessity, also known as the lesser harm defense, might be a useful defense where the defendant broke into a mountain cabin to prevent from freezing to death in a blizzard. These defenses are highly unusual. Nevertheless, a criminal defendant has a complete defense where duress or necessity is established.
A mental disease or defect is usually not a defense. Still, if the defendant suffered from a severe mental illness or defect at the time of the commission of the offense, the insanity defense may stop them from serving time in prison. The theory behind the insanity defense is that a person should not be penalized because they cannot form the willful intent necessary to commit an offense.
Insanity is a complex defense to establish, nonetheless. It requires precise and skilled expert testimony. Also, it is essential to keep in mind that those who successfully plead insanity are not set free. They are sent to medical facilities to be treated and are not released until they regain sanity. Treatment may take longer than the prison sentence they received if convicted.
A defendant may plead “diminished capacity” as a defense. The principle of diminished capacity is that some mental diseases and defects do not sufficiently affect individuals to make them insane, but the law nonetheless recognizes them. The net effect of a successful diminished capacity defense is typically a lesser punishment or a charge reduction (murder to manslaughter, e.g.).
Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer?
You may wish to hire a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer if you need help with criminal charges or legal matters. A qualified criminal attorney can provide legal defense arguments and representation during trial. If you need to attend any mediation or alternative dispute meetings, your attorney can also represent you during those times.
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