Criminal Law Definitions Las Vegas, Nevada
Arraignment – A hearing at the initial stage of a case when the defendant is ‘held to answer” for the charges against him. Here, the criminal complaint or indictment outlining the charges and factual allegations against him is provided so that he can enter his plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No-Contest.
Calendar Call – A hearing in District Court where the Judge tries to determine which cases are actually proceeding to trial and in what order. Although this is generally a ‘housekeeping’ matter, the Defendant is required to be present.
Criminal Complaint – A document filed in Justice or Municipal Court outlining the charges against the Defendant.
Discovery – The process by which each side obtains evidence in the case held by the other side. For instance, police reports, expert reports and the results of scientific testing are required to be turned over to the Defense upon request. This process also encompasses the obtaining of information held by other parties, such as a surveillance video taken at a casino.
Felony – Any offense which is punishable by over one year in a State penitentiary.
Grand Jury – A group of citizens who hear evidence presented by a prosecutor, in secret, to determine whether criminal charges should be brought. This process is done in lieu of a Preliminary Hearing and results in an Indictment which is filed directly with the District Court. In this scenario, a felony or Gross Misdemeanor could begin in District Court rather than starting out in Justice Court. In Clark County, this devise is used often when, for one reason or another, the State is concerned about allowing its witnesses to be cross examined at a Preliminary Hearing.
Gross Misdemeanor – Any crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a two thousand dollar fine. While not a felony, it is handled procedurally the same way as a felony.
Indictment– The form in which criminal charges are presented after a Grand Jury proceeding. It is filed in District Court.
Information – The document used to file criminal charges in District Court after a Justice Court Preliminary Hearing. This is the charging document for offenses that are “bound over” from Justice Court.
Litigation – A general term for the process by which a case moves through the court system.
Misdemeanor – Any offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a one thousand dollar fine.
Motion – Hearings before the court to address specific legal issues, such as, reduction of bail, suppression of illegally obtained evidence, or to compel the release of Discovery.
Preliminary Hearing – A hearing held in Justice Court in Felony and Gross Misdemeanor Cases where the State must present sufficient evidence for the Judge to conclude that probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed and that the defendant is one who committed said crime.
Pretrial Conference – A hearing where the attorneys from both sides meet and the court is informed whether the case will resolve by way of a plea agreement or if the case must be set for trial.
Probable Cause – A very low standard of proof used in Preliminary Hearings often described by courts as “a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true.”