• By Albert Depew

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and Definitions

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Can I Drop the Charges Against the Defendant?

No. The crime has been committed against the state, and you are either the victim or witness. The decision to whether to proceed on the charges is given to the prosecutor, not the victim. Although you may be reluctant to proceed to court, keep in mind that it is important that a defendant accepts responsibility for their criminal conduct, and they should be discouraged from committing crimes against other people in the future. You cannot fail to appear for court, or you will face contempt of court charges (punishable by up to 25 days in jail and a fine of $500). Of course, you do have the right to request that charges not be pursued, and you should express any concerns you have to your prosecutor. If the prosecutor does agree with your request to drop charges, you may be asked to put your request in writing. In some kinds of cases, particularly D.U.I. and domestic battery cases, Nevada law expressly prohibits dropping or reducing the charge unless the prosecutor "knows or it is obvious that the charge is not based upon probable cause, or cannot be proved at trial."

What is the Difference Between Probation and Parole?

Probation is where a convicted defendant is not sentenced to jail or prison, but is given a suspended sentence. Probation can be revoked if the defendant does not comply with the terms of probation. If that happens, the suspended sentence is imposed and the defendant is generally sent to jail or prison.

Parole is where a defendant has been sentenced to prison for a felony conviction, and has served a certain amount of time that makes him eligible for parole (early release from prison, upon terms of parole). Even though a prisoner may achieve parole, they are still under the jurisdiction of the Department of Prisons until their term of sentence has expired. Violation of parole terms can result in return to prison to complete the remainder of the sentence.

What If the Defendant or Someone Else Threatens Me?

Contact 911 immediately and report it. Fill out a statement about what occurred. After the law enforcement officer has taken your report, notify your prosecutor. It is against the law to threaten, harass or intimidate any witness, with the purpose of affecting the court proceedings.

Do I Have to Talk With the Defense Attorney Prior to Testifying?

No. As a matter of fact, you do not have to talk to anyone prior to testifying in court. This includes police investigators, prosecutors and the defendant and his representatives. This decision is entirely yours. Therefore, if the defendant, defense attorney or private investigator contacts you prior to trial and wishes to discuss the case, you are under no obligation to discuss it with them. However, refusing a reasonable request to discuss the facts of the case may be used in court to show your bias or prejudice. You always have the option of telling them that you want the prosecutor to be present for any such discussions. It is suggested that you contact the prosecutor and tell them about any such contacts. If you do discuss the case without the prosecutor present, you should take note of what you said and the questions that were asked. Anything you say during such interviews can be used in the trial, so it is important to be careful and accurate about the information you provide.

What If I Need an Interpreter?

Contact your prosecutor's office and notify them that you need an interpreter. They will arrange to have one available, at no charge, for your court appearance.
What is the Difference between Criminal and Civil Courts?

In a criminal case, a crime has been committed and the State of Nevada or a city is the plaintiff. The purpose of a criminal case is to hold the defendant accountable for his illegal actions. A crime is an offense against society in general, not just a particular victimized person. Criminal courts are concerned with punishing and rehabilitating the defendant. A defendant in a criminal case who faces incarceration upon conviction is entitled to an attorney at public expense if he or she cannot afford to hire one. The standard burden of proof, which must be shown before a defendant can be found guilty of a crime, is "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is the highest standard of proof required in courts of law.

In a civil case, the plaintiff is a private party, such as yourself, who files a civil lawsuit against someone who has injured you in some fashion. A defendant in a civil case is not entitled to legal representation at public expense if he cannot afford an attorney. The standard of proof which must be shown before a defendant can be held liable is a preponderance of the evidence (a "more probable than not" standard), which is a lower burden of proof than that required for criminal cases. Some civil actions, such as cases involving fraudulent conduct, require that the plaintiff prove his case by "clear and convincing evidence."

Do I Need to Hire My Own Attorney?

It depends. In a criminal case, the public prosecutor is given the sole responsibility for handling the case. A private attorney cannot prosecute a criminal case. The prosecutor represents the state or city against which a crime has been committed.

If the case is a simple misdemeanor and the damages are minimal, you probably do not need to hire a private attorney to advise you. However, if you suffered extensive losses, you may want to consult with a private attorney regarding the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against the defendant.

Are There Any Special Rules for Children Who Testify?

Yes. NRS 174.571 provides that when the victim or witness is younger than 16, the prosecutor shall request that the court, in its discretion, consider the effect a delay in the beginning of a trial would have on the child in setting the trial date.

NRS 178.571 provides that if the victim or witness is a minor, or if the crime involves sexual assault, then an attendant may be present during the preliminary hearing and trial. The attendant may sit next to the minor, or may stand in a strategic location, to provide support for the child. The attendant is not allowed to participate on the child's behalf, only to provide emotional support to aid the child in testifying fully.

Can I Testify Without the Defendant Being Present?

No. The defendant has an absolute right guaranteed by the United States Constitution to "face his accusers." However, the defendant does not have the right to attempt to intimidate you while you are testifying. Notify your prosecutor if the defendant is trying to intimidate you while testifying.

Am I Entitled to a Witness Fee for Testifying?

Yes. Nevada law (NRS 178.5696) provides that the prosecutor must inform each witness of the fee to which they are entitled for testifying and how to obtain that fee. The allowed fees in criminal cases are established by the Legislature in Chapter 50 of NRS. Presently, a witness subpoenaed to court is entitled to $25 for attending court, plus mileage expenses to and from court.

As a Victim of Domestic Violence, Is There Any Additional Protection for Me?

Yes. A court may order a temporary or extended order for protection for a victim of domestic violence, stalking or harassment. Contact your prosecutor and/or court for more information on how to obtain such an order.

Can I Fire My Prosecutor and Get Someone Else to Prosecute the Defendant?

No. Remember that the prosecutor represents the State of Nevada or the city, and is either elected or appointed to fulfill that function. If you have concerns about your prosecutor, contact the district or city attorney and notify them of the problem you are experiencing.