Battery Domestic Violence - First Offense

BATTERY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE  -  FIRST OFFENSE

Battery Domestic Violence is the most commonly charged criminal offense in the State of Nevada.  Because it is such a commonly charged offense it touches people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.  Many times people arrested or charged with Domestic Violence are experiencing the criminal justice system for the very first time.  This can be stressful and unsettling at best and to many people facing the proposition of being in jail or walking into a Courtroom is downright terrifying.  Because this scenario is so frightening and can have such drastic consequences, it is beyond important that the person facing a First Offense Battery Domestic Violence Charge in Las Vegas not face it alone.  The single best decision a person in this situation can make is finding an experienced Criminal law attorney who has significant experience in handling these types of charges. 

Battery Domestic Violence First Offense – What to Expect:

Most people facing a first offense battery domestic violence charge in Las Vegas do so after being arrested and taken to jail.  The stress of a trip to the County or City Detention center is only comparable to the stress of facing a prosecutor and judge in a Courtroom.  So what should you expect?  IF you went to jail you will receive release paperwork that has a Court return date.  If you were not arrested the day or night of the incident, first of all, you are lucky, at least for the time being.  You probably then received a legal document, called a “summons,” which let you know a Criminal Complaint has been filed against you and telling you to be in a certain Court on a certain date at a certain time.  So what does this mean?  Whether you received a summons in the mail or were given a date to appear in Court at the detention center, the end effect is the same.  You either must personally appear in Court on that date or time, or, if you have the means, you can retain an experienced Las Vegas Domestic Violence Attorney to make that appearance for you.  The option to retain a lawyer who can explain the process and make the initial court appearances is valuable for more than one reason.  First, it is often a great relief of stress and fear related to that first Court appearance.  Secondly, and more importantly, the statistical fact is that the earlier a knowledgeable and effective Domestic Violence Defense Attorney gets involved the better the results in the case tend to be.

Court Process:

The first appearance in a Nevada Court on a Battery Domestic Violence charge (where a charging document, called a Criminal Complaint, has already been filed) is called an “Arraignment.”  At that hearing, a person charged (called a Defendant) has a right to receive the Criminal Complaint and hear the charges against them.  They will then enter a plea.  It is almost always in the best interest of the person charged to enter a plea of Not Guilty and set the case for another Court date.  The next Court date can be one of several different options, depending on the Court, the status of the “discovery” and the desire of the person being charged.  If you have your own attorney retained, you are entitled to the counsel of your choice and that individual may advise you to set the next hearing for a status check, a pre-trial conference or for Trial, depending on the factors above and others.  In a typical State prosecution, carried out by the District Attorney for a County within Nevada, the next Court date on a first offense will generally be a Trial date.  Because of this, the prosecutor will often provide the discovery in a case, which is the legal term for police reports, witness statements, recordings of phone calls, photographs, forensic reports and the like, at the arraignment date.  It those items are not available at your arraignment your attorney will request them before your trial.  In a typical City prosecution, the Deputy City Attorney for the municipality (City of Las Vegas, City of Henderson, City of North Las Vegas to name a few) will provide a copy of the criminal complaint to the Defendant or his or her attorney.  The case will generally be the set for a second Court date called a “pre-trial conference.”  This is essentially a formal meeting, which occurs in Court, between the prosecutor and your attorney to attempt to argue points of fact or law in order to potentially reach a resolution short of proceeding all the way to Trial.  It is important to remember that most cases involving a charge of Battery Domestic Violence in Las Vegas and surrounding communities do not proceed to trial.  A pretrial conference gives your lawyer an opportunity to see the prosecutors theory and their belief of the strength or weakness of their case.  If the case cannot be resolved at the pretrial conference stage it is then set for Trial.

Between the first Court date and the time set for Trial your attorney should take every opportunity to fully investigate and review the discovery in your case and look to develop themes and ideas of defense to fight your case.  There are numerous defenses to a charge of Battery Domestic Violence and the best defense is dependent on the unique circumstances of each individual case. 

In many circumstances the prosecutor is not prepared to offer a resolution and the case must proceed all the way to the day of Trial.  While this may be your first interaction with the Court system and this can cause great anxiety in the average person, most prosecutors and experienced Criminal Defense attorneys are accustomed to last minute negotiations and 11th hour resolutions of even the most serious charges.  This is a critical example of why it is important to choose a Criminal Attorney who you trust and who has thoroughly explained that this is part of the process and in many cases forcing the prosecutor to the point of Trial can have a great impact in your favor in your case.  The best Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will prepare you for the uncertainty of a court date and are prepared to proceed no matter what happens on the day of Trial.

What Happens at a Battery Domestic Violence Trial in Nevada?

If your case is not one that can be resolved, to a reduced charge or a dismissal short of going to Trial, it may be that you have to proceed to Trial on your Trial date.  When this happens, it is important to know that you, as the person accused, do not have to prove anything - - The State of City prosecutor alone has the burden of proof to show a judge beyond a reasonable doubt you are guilty of the crime charged.  The prosecutor may or may not give an opening statement, and then they will call witnesses.  This usually includes the named victim in the case, which, in most Battery Domestic Violence cases is someone very close to the Defendant.  This can be very emotional and impactful testimony.  A Lawyer who has handled a large number of such cases will be prepared to cross examine each of the State or City witnesses, removing the emotion and developing a theme for your best defense.  After the State presents all of their witnesses and introduces all their exhibits, such as recordings of 911 phone calls and photographs for example, the State will then “rest” their case.   After the prosecutor rests their case, the defendant has a right to present evidence, including testifying themselves.  This is a heavy decision and although the choice to testify is the Defendant’s alone, you should listen to the advice of your attorney in making such an important decision.  After the conclusion of all the evidence the attorneys present closing arguments to the Court.  In a first offense Battery Domestic Violence case in Nevada, there is no right to a jury Trial.  As such, the Trial Judge will decide if the Defendant is guilty or not guilty. 

What am I facing on a First Offense Battery Domestic Violence Charge in Las Vegas?

On a first offense Battery Domestic conviction (hopefully something you don’t have to worry about because you have received a good resolution or prevailed at Trial) there are mandatory minimum sentences the Court must impose.  The range of punishments is as follows:

Jail time: 

A minimum of 2 days, up to 6 months in County or City jail.  If you are convicted, there is a mandatory minimum of two (2) days in jail.  The Court can sentence you to any period up to the maximum of six (6) months in jail. 

Community Service:

A minimum of 48 hours, up to 120 hours of community service. If you are convicted of battery constituting domestic violence as a fist time offender, the Court will require you to complete at least forty-eight (48) hours of community service and as many as one hundred twenty (120) hours.  This can be performed at many different nonprofit agencies or churches based on a referral from the Court. 

A fine:

A minimum fine of at least $200.00 up to a maximum fine of $1,000.00.  If convicted by the Court you will have to pay a fine, as well as court costs and administrative fees.  With these required fees, the minimum fine under the law becomes essentially $345.00.  If money is tight, most Courts will allow you to convert your fine balance to community service and perform that in lieu of paying fines. 

Mandatory Counseling:

At least six (6) months and up to twelve (12) months of domestic violence counseling.  If convicted, you will be required to attend domestic violence counseling.  These sessions are weekly, for 1 ½ hours per session per week.  The shortest allowable program is for six (6) months, or twenty-six (26) weeks.  These classes can be ordered for a full year.  There is a fee associated with this counseling that you must pay as well.

In addition to the punishments and penalties outlined above, there are numerous “collateral consequences of being convicted for Battery Domestic Violence.  These include potential deportation consequences for non US citizens, the inability to legally own or possess a firearm under Federal law, the potential impact on processional license, challenges in family law and child custody cases and employment ramifications.  

What Should I Do?

In short, you should find a knowledgeable and experienced Criminal Defense Attorney who specializes in Battery Domestic Violence law in Nevada.  This is crucial in assisting you through this scary and intimidating process.  One of the most common mistakes that individuals charged with a first offense Battery Domestic Violence charge make is trying to “rush” and “get this case behind them.”  You should almost never plead guilty or enter a negotiation at a first Court appearance.  You should listen to the advice and counsel of someone who has been there before.  You should locate and listen to a good attorney who will discuss with you your best options.

Out Las Vegas Battery Domestic Violence Lawyer, Josh Tomsheck, is a nationally Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate who has been recognized as a specialist in Criminal Trial Law by the State bar of Nevada.  He has handled the representation of countless individuals facing a criminal charge for the very first time in a Battery domestic violence case.  Call us today and let us get to work fighting your case and helping you through this trying time.