Alternative Sentencing in Las Vegas Criminal Cases
Any criminal charge is a serious matter in Las Vegas. Whether you are a visitor or resident, a guilty plea or conviction potentially carries a significant fine and jail time. That conviction stays on your record and can cause serious problems in your employment, housing, and other parts of your life.
In Nevada, as everywhere else, criminal charges rarely go to trial. Most cases are resolved by a plea agreement negotiated between the prosecutor and defendant, subject to approval by the court. In Las Vegas, a negotiated plea may include what is commonly referred to as alternative sentencing, a type of sentence that does not include a fine or prison time. Depending on the circumstances, an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can sometimes negotiate this type of sentencing to lessen the impact of a criminal charge.
What Is Alternative Sentencing in Nevada?
Alternative sentencing is authorized by a Nevada statute. In many misdemeanor cases, Municipal and Justice Court judges are permitted by statute to impose suspended sentences conditioned on the completion of programs and agreement of the defendant to specific terms relating to conduct. Each individual local government jurisdiction determines whether and how to make alternative sentencing available.
In Las Vegas, both the Municipal Court and Justice Court utilize alternative sentencing in appropriate and limited cases. Alternative sentencing may take the form of requiring:
- Educational classes
- Professional counseling
- Rehabilitation programs
- Community service
- Periodic drug or alcohol testing
A plea agreement involving alternative sentencing can involve one or more of these elements. For alternative sentencing to apply in a particular case, it must be agreed to by the prosecutor and defendant and approved by the court. The goal of alternative sentencing is to help those charged with criminal offenses to learn how to make better choices and avoid repeating mistakes.
If a plea agreement involving alternative sentence is approved by a judge, the defendant must complete all the terms of the agreement in order to fulfill the requirements of the sentence. The court maintains supervision of the defendant until all terms are completed.
If you complete the terms of an alternative sentencing agreement, you have served the sentence. Within a specific period of time after completing the sentence, you will be eligible to have your criminal record sealed by the court. For misdemeanors, the waiting period for requesting sealing your record is one (1) or two (2) years, depending on the specific offense.
Am I Eligible for Alternative Sentencing?
Typically, alternative sentencing is only available only for certain misdemeanors, including:
- Drug possession
- Simple battery
- Battery domestic violence without major injuries
- DUI with no major injuries, in some cases
In cases involving alcohol or drugs, defendants are usually required to undergo evaluation before a plea involving alternative sentencing will be approved by the court. In battery domestic violence cases, a pre-sentence investigation is generally required before an alternative sentencing plea agreement will be accepted.
What Types of Programs Are Available in Las Vegas?
Educational programs are a common component of many alternative sentencing agreements. At present, Las Vegas Municipal Court has a number of different courses that may be available for inclusion in an agreement, including:
- Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving
- Domestic Violence Program
- Driving Under the Influence
- Drinking Driver Awareness
- Impulse Control / Extended Impulse Control
- Petit Larceny
- Prostitution Prevention Class
- Repeat Offender Class (traffic offenses)
- Substance Abuse
- Basic Traffic School
Courses available for the Las Vegas Justice Court include both DUI and traffic courses. Some alternative sentencing courses are attended in person, and some are given online. In both cases, there are fees associated with the courses. Paying those fees is the responsibility of the defendant if an educational class is included as part of an alternative sentencing plea agreement.
In addition to the possibility of alternative sentencing in some Las Vegas criminal cases, Clark County has Specialty Court programs that target non-violent offenders with substance abuse or mental health issues. Each program has independent criteria for admission. The programs include:
- Adult Drug Court
- Felony DUI
- Mental Health Court
- Juvenile Drug Court
- Veterans Court
- Family Treatment Court
- Dependency Mother's Drug Court
- Child Support Treatment Court
- OPEN (Opportunity for Probation with Enforcement in Nevada) Court
Whether a Specialty Court program is appropriate in an individual case will depend on the charges and circumstances. An experienced criminal defense attorney will explore a Specialty Court program as an option in situations where one of the programs may be suitable.
How Can I Get Alternative Sentencing as Part of My Plea Agreement?
Attempting to negotiate for alternative sentencing on your own — or attempting to negotiate any plea agreement on your own — would be a serious mistake. Being represented by a seasoned criminal defense attorney is essential to negotiating with the prosecutor to achieve a plea agreement that best suits the offense and circumstances. Trusted and respected Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten has the kind of experience that is critical in negotiating a plea on a criminal charge, including a plea agreement with alternative sentencing terms. That background includes:
- Ability to weigh the evidence and determine whether negotiating a plea is in the best interest of the defendant;
- Familiarity with the practices and policies of Las Vegas courts and judges;
- Experience negotiating with Las Vegas prosecutors;
- Awareness of specific programs that are available and suitable to the offenses charged;
- Understanding the specifics of the offense charged and other related charges, including lesser offenses.
Attorney Gersten has the skill to navigate the many complicated issues that are involved in negotiating a plea agreement in a criminal case. His credentials include a Master of Forensic Sciences Degree and experience as an investigator with the United States Secret Service, Intelligence Division, and the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as substantial trial experience. He uses all his knowledge and background in representing Las Vegas residents and visitors on criminal charges, including negotiating alternative sentencing as part of a plea agreement in appropriate cases.
Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten has extensive experience defending Las Vegas visitors and residents facing federal and state criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested in Las Vegas or anywhere else in Clark County, contact Attorney Gersten to schedule a free consultation.