Below I have written a series of questions that I commonly receive regarding domestic violence cases. Please read the answers to these questions if you wish to learn more about domestic violence charges in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, Nevada. Keep in mind, however, that reading general questions and answers is no substitute for speaking with an attorney about the specific facts of your case. So read these questions and answers and give me a call.
Yes. Most domestic violence charges are misdemeanors (not felonies), but even misdemeanor domestic violence charges are serious. A conviction for domestic violence carries mandatory jail time and disqualifies a person from owning firearms under federal law, among other serious consequences. Click here for a full list of domestic violence consequences.
Yes. Any use of force—even a slight use of force—can be considered violence (i.e., a battery) for the purposes of domestic violence statutes. Many people don't think that minor force, like a push or an open-handed slap, should be considered a battery domestic violence, but that's simply not the law. Because many people don't think such minor use of force is or should be a battery, they unfortunately admit this conduct to police. Such admissions can be very damaging to a criminal case.
"Pressing charges" doesn't mean what you think it does. When the police get involved, it doesn't matter if the alleged victim wants to drop the charges. To read more about this situation, click here.
If you went to court and heard the district attorney ask for sixty days, and then you were given a new date to return to court, then this means the district attorney has not yet filed a criminal complaint against you. The State has one year (on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge) from the date of the alleged incident to file a criminal complaint for battery domestic violence. If you hire me to represent you for your domestic violence case, then I can go to court on the return date and you need not appear personally. At that time, the district attorney may choose to either file a complaint or to "deny" the charges.
If you appeared in court and your case was called, and the district attorney said that your charges were "denied," then this means that the district attorney has decided not to file charges in your case. Even if you were arrested for domestic violence, the district attorney still has discretion to either file criminal charges or not. However, even if the charges are denied, the district attorney can still, by law, file charges within one year of the alleged incident.
If you have a domestic violence case pending, or if you plead guilty or no contest to domestic violence offense, then the court may issue, at the request of the district attorney and the alleged victim, a "no contact order" (also called a "stay away order") until the case is closed. Pursuant to this order, you may not contact the alleged victim, whether by phone, email, text message, or otherwise, until the case is closed or the order is otherwise lifted by the judge. Failure to comply with this order can result in the imposition of jail time for contempt or the imposition of a suspended sentence.
A TPO is a temporary protective order, issued by a hearing master in Family Court. A TPO will preclude the adverse party from contacting the applicant or coming within a certain distance of the applicant and their home and place of work. A person who violates a TPO's orders is subject to contempt time and may be separately prosecuted for violation of a TPO, which is a distinct criminal offense.
It is important to remember that sometimes a no contact order issued pursuant to an open domestic violence case may be in effect at the same time as a no contact order issued pursuant to a TPO. They are distinct orders issued by different judges, so the lifting of one no contact order has no effect on the other. A person may close his domestic violence case and have the no contact order lifted, and still be restricted from contacting the alleged victim if that alleged victim has also applied for and received a TPO.
A TRO is a temporary restraining order, and is issued in Justice Court rather than Family Court, and is issued between parties who are not involved in a romantic relationship.
You must keep in mind that the standard for filing charges is different than the standard of proof required to obtain a conviction. Police have to have "probable cause" to charge you with a crime, which is a relatively low standard. To convict you, the prosecutor must prove the offense "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is a much higher standard. And so in many cases, where it truly is "your word against hers," the prosecutor may not be able to prove the charges. Of course, the judge (or jury in a felony case) will evaluate the credibility of the witnesses' testimony and the other evidence, so a true "he said/she said" situation is somewhat rare, since there will often be substantial differences between the quality of each side's evidence.
Misdemeanor domestic violence cases are typically simple matters, relatively speaking, and it is rare that a misdemeanor domestic violence trial would last more than a few hours. Jury trials (for felony charges) take longer—usually several days. However, keep in mind, most domestic violence cases don't actually go to trial. Instead, in the vast majority of cases, the charges might be dismissed completely, or the parties (i.e. the prosecution and the defense) will come to some negotiated plea agreement.
You have a constitutional right not to testify at trial, and the court cannot hold your silence against you. However, in a typical domestic violence case, where the state's only witness may be the alleged victim, it is sometimes necessary for the defendant to testify to give him the best chance of acquittal. If I am your attorney, I will work with you on your testimony and only call you as a witness if it will help our case. But again, keep in mind that most domestic violence cases do not go to trial. So most likely you will not have to testify. In fact, the total time you actually spend in court may be only a matter of minutes. Sometimes, trial and substantial time in court cannot be avoided, but the less time my client has to spend in court, the more successful the representation, in my opinion.
No, not if you are charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. You are entitled to a trial by jury only when you are charged with a felony or gross misdemeanor. If you are not charged with third offense felony domestic violence, or felony battery domestic violence with strangulation, or any other felony domestic violence charge, then your domestic violence case is a simple misdemeanor, and will be heard by the judge, not a jury. Therefore, the judge alone will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty (if you go to trial).
No, probably not. The victim showing up to trial and claiming amnesia is not going to be a successful tactic, because once an alleged victim claims to lack testamentary capacity (i.e. remember the events of the case), then the state can bring in hearsay statements (e.g. from a police report) as substantive evidence of what occurred. Falsely proffering such a defense would be a crime. This will not be a successful strategy. Don't do it. Leave the defense strategy to your defense lawyer.
If the victim no-shows the trial, many different things can happen, based upon very specific facts of your case. The charges may be dismissed, or the prosecutor may continue the trial and obtain a material witness warrant to arrest the alleged victim to force that person to testify. Keep in mind that dissuading a witness from appearing at a court hearing is a serious crime, so don't tell the victim not to show up at trial. Again, leave the defense strategy up to your criminal defense lawyer.
Yes. NRS 33.018 defines a "domestic" relationship very broadly. The definition includes far more than just "romantic" relationships.
Yes. Under NRS 33.018, a person can be charged with domestic violence if they commit a battery against a person they live with or even a person they lived with in the past. For a more detailed explanation of this situation, read our blog entry on this topic located here.
I have handled several hundred domestic violence cases, in Las Vegas Justice Court and all other Clark County Justice Courts, and in Las Vegas Municipal Court and all other Clark County Municipal Courts. I have handled many misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases. I have taken many domestic violence cases—both misdemeanor and felony—to trial, and won.
Ethically, I cannot guarantee outcomes, but within minutes of speaking to me over the phone, I will give you a straight and simple answer about what kind of result we can reasonably expect. Call me now for a free consultation regarding your domestic violence case.