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Misdemeanor Battery Domestic Violence Cases and Jury Trials

In Anderson v. Eighth Judicial District Court, one of the most significant cases in the state, the Nevada Supreme Court decided that a person charged with a misdemeanor battery domestic violence offense has the right to a trial by jury. Before this ruling, these types of matters were afforded only bench trials.

The decision came after a defendant, charged with first-offense battery domestic violence, appealed his conviction. During the trial, he argued that a jury should hear his case, but the court denied his request, citing a Nevada law that states misdemeanor cases are not entitled to a jury trial.

He appealed the decision, and the matter ended up in the Nevada Supreme Court, which said that any misdemeanor battery domestic violence case should be tried before a jury. The Justices’ decision rested on the fact that, although this type of offense is not classified as a felony, the consequences are severe.

The impacts of the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision, allowing battery domestic violence cases tried in municipal courts to be heard by a jury, are profound and would require changes in the ways that these matters are handled.

Jury Trial Regardless of Type of Act

In Nevada, battery domestic violence is defined as intentionally using unlawful force or violence against someone a person has a familial, intimate, or domestic partnership with.

The law identifies the following as domestic relationships:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Dating partners
  • Blood relatives
  • People who have a child together
  • Parents and their minor children
  • Custodians or legal guardians of minor children

Because “battery” is broadly defined, nearly any unwanted contact between people in a relationship could lead to a criminal charge. That means a person’s case could be heard by a jury regardless of whether the act they were accused of involved shoving someone or punching them in the face. If the individual is found guilty, they face harsh penalties.

A person convicted of first-time battery domestic violence could be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail and face up to $1,000 in fines. Additionally, they could be deported if they are not a lawful citizen, and, under state and federal law, can have their gun rights revoked for the rest of their life. If they are convicted of a third offense in 7 years, they could be sentenced to prison for up to 5 years, without the possibility of probation.

Cases Decided by More than a Single Person

During trials for this offense, physical evidence is not always presented, and the decision often rests on the credibility of the accused and the alleged victim. By having jury trials, more than just a judge will hear the case. The verdict will be based on a panel’s consensus, which could lend greater weight to the outcome.

Greater Resources Required for Jury Trials

Having a case tried by a jury is a time-consuming and costly affair: Jurors must be selected and instructed, and the court has to have room for the panel. Not all municipal courts in Nevada are equipped to handle the demands of a jury trial, which means some would have to dip into their already tight budgets to accommodate the needs.

Potential for Plea Bargaining

The strain on resources might allow for another shift in the legal landscape. Currently, a plea deal cannot be made in a battery domestic violence case. However, to relieve some of the burdens a jury trial might bring, laws may need to change to allow prosecutors to negotiate a bargain with the defendant.

Schedule a Free Consultation with the Law Office of David R. Fischer

Interpretation of the law is ever-evolving and understanding the changes and their implications for citizens requires an in-depth knowledge of the legal system. Our attorney has extensive experience practicing law and will work to ensure you are afforded your due process rights.

If you were charged with battery domestic violence, reach out to our team as soon as possible. We will take the time to learn about your circumstances and develop a legal strategy to challenge the accusations.

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