Jury Trials in Nevada: Everything You Need to Know

Many of us have received a jury summons in the mail before. It can be unpleasant to have to take time off work in an attempt to avoid jury duty.

In some cases, you even show up and just sit there for the entire time of your jury service and never actually get called to be questioned to serve on a jury.

And for the next 18 months, you are not required to serve again.

In some cases, you show up at the courthouse after trying unsuccessfully to get out of jury service only to be given a questionnaire to fill out and return on another day.

A lot of people deal with this once in a while and try and get out of jury service since it may seem like an inconvenience.

But remember if you were ever in the seat of the defendant in a case, you would want a jury of your actual peers to serve on your case and not just what the court can get to serve that week.

What Is a Jury in Nevada

A petit jury as it is formally called, is a group of local citizens that are randomly picked and vetted through the court to serve and sit through a trial and deliver a verdict of guilt or innocence after hearing all the evidence presented by both sides.

In some cases, the jury will also determine the sentence of the defendant if the defendant is convicted of the charges against them.

Does Everyone Have the Right to a Jury Trial

No, not everyone had the right to a jury trial in Nevada.

A misdemeanor charge carrying a sentence of under 6 months in jail will result in a judge giving the verdict in what is called a bench trial, instead of a jury trial, despite the constitutional right to a jury trial for anyone facing criminal charges.

The Supreme Court ruled that jury trials only extend to those facing more than 6 months in jail.

In some states, a jury trial is still an option for anyone.

In Nevada, a jury trial is an option when facing more than 6 months in jail or are charged with misdemeanor battery domestic violence.

People with mental illness or a below-average I.Q. may not stand trial.

Jury Trial Rights for a Misdemeanor Charge

A person charged with a misdemeanor will be given a bench trial or a trial heard by a judge and not a jury because the charge carries a penalty of less than 6 months in jail.

The one exception is if you are charged with misdemeanor domestic battery.

If you are charged with two or more misdemeanors, you can request a trial by jury because your maximum sentence would be more than six months in jail if you were convicted of both crimes.

Jury Trial for Felonies and Gross Misdemeanors

People facing more than six months in jail automatically have the right to a jury trial. So people charged with felonies and gross misdemeanors will have the option of a jury trial.

How Many People Serve on a Jury in Nevada

A jury in Nevada can be anywhere from 6 to 12 people.

Both the defense and the prosecution must agree on the size of the jury.

The size doesn’t matter in any court.

Do the Jury Verdicts Have to Be Unanimous

A jury must decide unanimously whether a person is guilty or not guilty.

If a jury can’t come to a unanimous decision then it is considered a hung jury.

A hung jury is never the outcome that either side wants because the options are to:

  1. Begin again with a second trial for the same charges
  2. Both sides agree to a plea bargain to avoid another trial, usually for a lesser charge
  3. Drop the case completely

The prosecution may drop a case after a mistrial but may seek charges again at a later time when more evidence is available.

There are also a certain number of alternate jurors that are selected to listen to the same evidence but don’t deliberate the verdict.

Alternate jurors are selected in case a jury needs to be dismissed for cause or discharged from the case.

Once a juror is dismissed, an alternate will be placed in their seat and have the right to deliberate.

How Is a Jury Selected

Everyone may think that the jury selection process is random and at the beginning of the process it is.

If you have a driver’s license or are registered to vote, you may be randomly selected for jury duty.

Once the random people come to court as a group called the jury pool.

Both the defense and the prosecution will question each potential juror called “venire” about their suitability to serve on this particular jury.

The questioning process is known as “voir dire”

There are several voir dire questions that are typically asked of a potential juror:

  • Do you know or have dealings with anyone in this case including the attorneys?
  • Do you know anything about this case?
  • Do you have a belief that would prevent you from making a fair and impartial judgment?

Prospective jurors are also asked to provide information such as their

  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Job History
  • Any prior involvement with the courts

Both sides get to excuse a certain number of potential jurors.

This is also a potential jurors’ time to make a case for the hardship that serving on jury duty will cause, like not being paid if you miss work to serve.

In most cases, both the defense and the prosecution will dismiss people who claim hardship.

What Is a Jury Trial Like in Nevada

Believe it or not, most cases never reach a jury trial.

A majority of criminal cases are resolved without going to trial.

The cases sometimes are dismissed or reduced based on evidence. In other cases, both sides reach an agreement for a plea bargain.

If either of the outcomes can’t be reached, then the court will be asked for a trial date.

Even though a speedy trial is your right, a trial date is usually at least months from the beginning from the start of the case.

Once a trial date is set, the steps of the jury trial process are as follows:

  • Jury Selection or voir dire
  • Opening arguments both sides get to present opening statements
  • Presentation of evidence- called “case in chief” this includes the examination of witnesses who may have been subpoenaed to testify in court
  • Closing arguments by both sides
  • Jury deliberations
  • Verdict
  • If a guilty verdict then sentencing

What Happens During Jury Deliberations

Once the case “goes to the jury,” a judge will give the jury instructions. This is information about the elements of the crime.

At this time, the jury will choose a leader or foreperson to lead deliberations.

Jury deliberations happen behind closed doors in the jury room.

Only the jurors that are deliberating can be present in the jury room. Alternate jurors are not seated in the jury room. The jury can ask questions to the judge about clarifying information or jury instructions.

They can’t hear testimony, or review evidence.

All parties must be present in the courtroom when jurors ask questions during deliberations.

In cases that are high profile, some juries can be sequestered from the general public throughout the trial and deliberations.

Facing Criminal Charges? The Defenders Can Help

If you have been charged with a crime in Nevada, we are the law firm that can help.

The Defenders is a criminal defense law firm whose lawyers defend clients who have been charged with a variety of crimes including misdemeanors, felonies, drug possession, white collar crimes and many other crimes.

The Defenders will represent you every step of the way and in most cases we can avoid a jury trial altogether with many other outcomes available to you.

Once you are charged with a crime, time is of the essence, you need help immediately before the problems get worse.

The choice of the law firm you choose can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

Work with a Nevada based law firm , ones that know the ins and outs of the local and state court system and laws.

The Defenders have proven results for our clients, call our office today.

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