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Part 1 – Overhauls to the Nevada Criminal Laws

Nevada’s state prison population is currently 13,800 inmates.  This is up 7% since 2009.  At current growth rates, the prison population in the Silver State is expected to hit 15,000 within the next 10 years.  State budgets to pay for prisons are expected to increase $770 million as a result.  While these statistics may not be shocking, compared to the national prison population, it is the exact opposite.  National prison populations have gone down 7% since 2009.  Perhaps the most alarming statistic finds that in 2017, 66% of those entering the Nevada prison population were convicted of non-violent crimes.

Because of these findings, one of the most sweeping changes to come out of the Nevada legislature in 2019, is an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.  Assembly Bill 236 (AB236) was forwarded to the governor and signed into law.  Most of the provisions of the act, having to do with adjusted punishments take effect July 1, 2020.  The portion of the bill addressing appropriations to fund the prison system take effect July 1, 2019.

AB236 is perhaps the most complex bill to come out of the legislature in 2019, it is 160 pages long, and changes the focus of Nevada’s criminal justice system for non-violent offenders.  This changing focus includes more emphasis on mental health treatments and diversion programs with the objective of dealing with the causes of non-violent crime and rehabilitation of offenders, rather than imprisonment.  The new law also focuses Increased attention on probation and parole.  The financial goal of the legislation is to save nearly $650 million in prison expense during the next decade.

Main Provisions of the new Law

Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Treatments revisions.

Eligibility requirements for admission to Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Treatments programs have been revised and expanded.  Provisions of law relating to Alcohol and Drug Treatment have been repealed and new programs have been established under the new law.

Probation and Parole Changes

Courts are authorized under the new law to set aside, dismiss, or defer judgement of conviction and place on probation defendants suffering from mental illness or substance abuse based on defendant’s successful completion the terms and conditions of probation which includes a court supervised treatment program for their condition.

Probation Terms have been revised under the new law.  The maximum terms of probation currently in effect are: 3 years for Gross Misdemeanors, and 5 years for felonies.  Under the new law, the maximum probation term is 12 months for Gross Misdemeanors or certain Suspensions of Sentence; 18 months for a Category E Felony; 24 months for a Category C or D felony; 36 months for a Category B felony; or 60 months for a violent or sexual offense.  Courts may add up to 12 months to a term to allow a probationer to complete a specialty court program for substance abuse or mental health.

Under existing law, if a court finds that a probationer committed one or more technical violations of the conditions of probation, the court may temporarily revoke probation and impose terms of imprisonment.  If a probationer is arrested for a technical violation, he must be brought before the court within 15 days for a hearing or be released back to probation.

A system of graduated sanctions must be provided by the State Board of Parole Commissioners, for parole officers to use when responding to technical violations of parole.

Category E Felonies

Current law requires courts to suspend sentences and offer probation to defendants found guilty of Category E felonies.  Courts had the choice not to provide probation if the person was: (1.) already serving a term or probation or was on parole for felony convictions at the time of the new crime, (2.) previously had his or her probation or parole revoked for a felony conviction, or (3.)had previously failed to complete a drug or alcohol treatment program.  The new law removes these exceptions and requires mandatory probation for all Category E felonies.

Redefinition of Burglary

Burglary has been redefined under the new law, based on what type of structure is being burglarized.  The structures recognized are Dwelling, Business Structure, Structure, and Motor Vehicle.  Punishments have been revised based on the type of structure burglarized: for a Motor Vehicle – 1st offense is a Category E felony, 2nd and subsequent offenses are a Category D felony; a Structure is a Category D felony; a Business Structure is a Category C felony; and a Dwelling is a Category B felony.

Theft Thresholds

Current law recognizes theft as a Category C felony, if the value stolen is more than $650 or a misdemeanor if below that amount.  Under the new law, a graduated scale is being implemented with amounts below $1,200 as a misdemeanor; $1,200 to $5,000 a Category D felony; $5,000 to $25,000 a Category C felony; $25,000 to $100,000 a Category B felony with prison term of 1-10 years and fines up to $10,000; and over $100,000 a Category B felony with prison term of 1-20 years and fines up to $15,000.

Grand Larceny follows this same schedule, with amounts less than $1,200 considered Petit Larceny.

Car Theft is considered Grand Larceny with a 1st offense a Category C felony and second or subsequent offenses within 5 years, a Category B felony with prison term of 1-6 years and up to $5,000 fine.

The Defenders knows the Law

The criminal law overhaul passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed into law by the governor will make big changes to outcomes in criminal cases.  Most of the provisions of this overhaul won’t take effect until July 2020.  The purpose of the changes is to focus attention on getting violence offenders into custody but reducing prison population of non-violent criminals.  Our lawyers know the law and are up to date on the upcoming changes.  Call us today to discuss your potential case at (702) 333-3333.


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