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Defending out of state clients accused of crimes in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, sometimes called "The Entertainment Capital of the World," is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with 40 million visitors vacationing here every year. Las Vegas is also one of the top cities in the world for conventions and business meetings, with 5 million convention attendees visiting each year to attend one of the 20 thousand annual conventions. Whether they come for business, pleasure, or both, most Las Vegas guests enjoy their visit and go home. However, some Vegas tourists are not as lucky, and end their Vegas trip with criminal charges hanging over their heads.

As a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Las Vegas, many of my clients are out of town visitors who come from across the United States and foreign nations all over the world. I have defended countless Las Vegas vacationers, convention attendees, wedding guests, and temporary workers who reside in other states and abroad, from Hawaii to California to Florida to New York to Canada and Europe. As such, I understand the concerns and the needs of clients who are forced to defend criminal accusations from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

If you have received a citation for a criminal offense in Las Vegas or you were arrested for a felony or misdemeanor crime while visiting Las Vegas or Clark County, Nevada, please read this article, which provides advice for criminal defendants who live in other states and countries and explains how hiring a criminal defense attorney who lives and practices in Las Vegas can benefit you.

"What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"

Why do some Las Vegas tourists, many times without any prior record, end up getting arrested or cited for felony or misdemeanor crimes? Does Las Vegas marketing encourage behavior that leads to criminal charges?

Las Vegas is marketed to potential visitors as a grand adult amusement park. To Las Vegas tourists throughout the United States and abroad, this can cause some confusion about what sorts of adult activities are legal, illegal, or illegal but condoned. Of course, illegal activity is not condoned by local police or prosecutors, but advertisements produced by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCA) seem to suggest a lax attitude toward otherwise socially unacceptable behavior.

The familiar slogan of the LVCA's television ads, "What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas," has been broadcast to potential Las Vegas tourists for over 10 years. In one such advertisement, a landscaper impliedly blackmails a family man after suggesting that he happened to see the family man in Las Vegas participating in some unspecified illicit activity. Another LVCA advertisement shows a devil on a Vegas tourist's shoulder encouraging him to engage in morally questionable behavior in Las Vegas clubs and casinos, but in a twist on the common trope, the angel on the other shoulder, rather than suggesting a more virtuous path, advises the tourist to listen to the devil. Finally, in another ad, a woman visiting Las Vegas is shunned by her group of friends, then an entire Vegas club, and finally everyone walking on the Las Vegas Strip, because she broke the supposed "code" of Vegas by posting to social media sites about whatever illicit activities she and her friends were engaged in.

None of these advertisements actually say that Las Vegas guests are welcome to commit crimes. But the ads insinuate that Las Vegas is a place for vacationers to do morally questionably things that they don't want others to know about. What could these things be? Some people are certainly going to interpret these commercials as implying a lax attitude toward certain crimes, like drugs or prostitution. Other people interpret Vegas marketing as encouraging excessive drinking, which can lead to DUI, domestic violence, trespassing, or destruction of property charges. In this context, it is not difficult to understand why many Las Vegas visitors find themselves arrested or cited for various crimes.

How a Defense Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with a crime in Las Vegas but live hundreds or thousands of miles away, I can help you with your case. What can I do to help you with your criminal case? Here are some answers to common questions I hear from people who have been charged with crimes during trips to Las Vegas. Read these frequently asked questions and the answers that follow and then give me a call or send me a text message or email to start a dialogue about your criminal case.

(1) "Can you tell me information about my criminal charges in Las Vegas?"

Yes I can. An experienced criminal defense attorney like me can give you information and advice about your criminal charges and provide you with other valuable information related to your case. I can give you information about how serious your charges are, tell you what needs to be done to get the best result possible in your case, and give you an educated opinion about what the final outcome could be.

Every criminal charge, whether felony or misdemeanor, has associated criminal penalties, which may include fines, jail time, mandatory counseling, community service, and the completion of other difficult, time consuming, or expensive court orders. A defense attorney can inform you about the specific criminal penalties you are facing and explain the possible outcomes, including best case scenario, worst case scenario, and the likely outcome, given all the specific facts of your case. So if you tell me a little bit of information about the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest or citation in Las Vegas, I can tell you what result we can ultimately achieve if I take your case.

A defense attorney can also help you understand the criminal justice system and court procedure, both generally and specifically with respect to the court that has jurisdiction over your case. Understanding the court system and court procedure can be confusing to people who don't have experience with the criminal justice system. You probably have questions about the various court hearings, such as the arraignment, pretrial conference, preliminary hearing, or trial. You may wonder how long it will take for your case to be over and behind you once and for all. You probably wonder if you'll have to go to trial. I can explain all of this to you. All you have to do is contact me.

(2) "Do I have to come back to Las Vegas for my court date?"

One of the most common questions I get from out of town clients is, "Do I have to show up for my court date in Las Vegas?" In most instances, the answer is "No" provided you have hired a criminal defense attorney like me to represent you in your case. If you were arrested and bailed out of Clark County Detention Center or City of Las Vegas Jail, your bail bondsman probably told you that you needed to show up for every court date to avoid a bench warrant, incarceration, and fees to the bondsman. That's true—you can't just no-show your court hearings—but what your bondsman usually forgets to tell you is that a criminal defense lawyer can appear for you for most court hearings.

So yes, a defense lawyer like me can save you a trip back to Vegas—at least for the first scheduled court hearing. That initial court appearance, called the initial arraignment or initial appearance, is when a defendant in a criminal case pleads "not guilty" and sets another court hearing, either a status check on negotiations or a pretrial conference, or a trial date or preliminary hearing if the parties can't reach a plea deal.

It doesn't make much sense for a criminal defendant to travel across the country or farther to make a personal appearance at the initial arraignment. The initial appearance is very brief and does not reach the "merits" of the case. It is not the time to "argue the case" to the judge. Over the years, I have seen many poorly informed criminal defendants show up in Las Vegas courts and try to argue to the judge for the dismissal of their charges at the initial appearance. This never turns out well for the defendant, who is often cut off before very long by the judge, who is usually annoyed.

Additionally, you should know that initial appearances, especially in Las Vegas Justice Court, are often rescheduled by the court or continued by the prosecutor, so if you plan to personally appear at your initial arraignment, you may travel all the way to Las Vegas only to find that your case isn't even on calendar. So for all of the above reasons, for the out of state defendant facing criminal charges in Las Vegas, the smartest thing you can do is hire a criminal defense attorney to appear for you at your initial appearance. This allows you to stay home and save money and time.

As stated above, a defense attorney can help you avoid wasting time and money traveling to Las Vegas for your first court appearance, but if you hire a good criminal defense attorney, you may not have to come back to Las Vegas at all, for any subsequent court hearing. Whether you can avoid a return trip to Vegas to resolve your criminal case depends on several factors, including the seriousness of your charges and the procedural posture of your case. For common tourist misdemeanor charges like DUI, simple battery, trespassing, or destruction of property, you will probably not need to come back to Las Vegas at all—as long as you hire a criminal defense attorney to show up to court for you and resolve your case with the prosecutor. Many of my out of state clients never have to come back to Las Vegas to favorably resolve their criminal charges, including certain felony charges like possession of a controlled substance or bad check cases.

The bottom line is, if you were arrested in Las Vegas but live somewhere else out of state or in another country, you probably don't want to come back if you can avoid it. Traveling to Las Vegas is expensive and time consuming, and appearing in court can be stressful and embarrassing. So you should hire a criminal defense attorney. I have helped countless out of state clients avoid returning to Las Vegas to personally appear in court. Can I guarantee that you will never have to come back to court? No, I can't make that guarantee. I can't guarantee results in a case. That's an ethical rule. But if you call me up and tell me a little bit about your charges, I can make an accurate prediction about the likelihood of avoiding a trip back to Las Vegas. And generally speaking, my out of state clients don't have to personally appear for their first court appearance, and many of them never have to come back at all to set foot in a Las Vegas courtroom. Call me for a free consultation and I can talk to you about your specific case, and whether you will, at any point, need to come back to Las Vegas.

(3) "Can you get my criminal charges reduced or dismissed?"

That depends on the facts of the case, but frequently, yes, I can help you get your charges reduced or dismissed, or otherwise avoid the harshest criminal penalties associated with your specific criminal charges in Las Vegas. While a defense attorney can't guarantee a dismissal of all charges or guarantee any particular favorable result for your case, a good criminal defense attorney can frequently negotiate a plea deal to reduce criminal charges, keep a criminal conviction off your record, or even get a charge dismissed entirely.

Many of my clients who picked up charges while visiting Las Vegas have no prior criminal record. For these individuals it is very important that they keep their records clean. Additionally, many of my international clients are particularly concerned that criminal convictions may hinder in the future their travel to the United States or abroad. For this reason, I will do everything I can to have the criminal charges of my out of state or international clients reduced or dismissed. Furthermore, I can help with record sealing if we are able to get charges dismissed.

(4) "Can you help me get my case over with quickly?"

Yes, I can often get a criminal case resolved quickly for an out of state client—although certain uncontrollable circumstances can slow down the process. If you were arrested and bailed out or got released on your own recognizance, you will often get an "out of custody" court date that may be several months away. Some people don't want to wait that long to get their criminal charges behind them and move on with their lives. If you contact me immediately after your arrest, the prosecutor may not have filed formal charges yet, and we will have to wait. But as soon as the criminal complaint is filed, your case can be placed on calendar early for an initial appearance. In other words, you won't have to wait for your court date several months down the line. And once your case is in court, I can work quickly to enter into a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor to get your case closed. If you call me on a Monday for a case in Las Vegas Justice Court, it is not impossible to have your case on calendar for Wednesday and charges dismissed by Friday. That result can't be achieved in every case, but it is possible.

Just like I understand that my out of state criminal clients want to keep their records clean, I also understand that they want their cases closed as soon as possible. No one wants a criminal charge hanging over his head indefinitely. So while achieving a favorable plea negotiation in a criminal case sometimes takes a little longer and a case shouldn't be rushed if that means a less favorable result for the defendant, ending a case quickly is something I strive for as a criminal defense attorney representing clients who live in other states or countries.

(5) "Can you help me with bail issues?"

Yes. If you or someone you care about had to post cash bail or a bond to secure someone's release from jail in Las Vegas, you may have questions about bail generally. A criminal defense attorney like me can help you get your money back as soon as possible if you posted cash bail or get the bond exonerated if you went to a bail bondsman who posted a bond. Also, if you are concerned about a person who was arrested and is still in jail in Las Vegas, a criminal defense attorney can help get the defendant's bail reduced. I have helped many out of state clients with various issues related to bail. Contact me for specific information related to your specific case.

(6) "Can you help me if I waited until the last minute to find a defense lawyer?"

Yes. Even if you've waited until the day before your scheduled hearing in a Las Vegas court, even if you're calling me the night before or even the morning of your scheduled court appearance, I can still represent you if we can come to an agreement for payment. So don't assume that you have waited too long to hire a defense lawyer. Contact me now.

(7) "Do you offer free consultations?"

Yes. If you live in another state and were charged with a crime while on a trip to Las Vegas, contact me now for a free consultation. I can provide you with valuable information about your charges and give you an honest assessment about the outcome we can obtain if I end up representing you. Don't hesitate. Call, text, or email me now, even on nights or weekends. You will reach me directly and we'll begin talking about your case immediately.

By Michael Pandullo

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