From Arrest to Sentencing: An Overview of Criminal Procedures in Nevada

While every case is different, there are certain laws and procedures that govern how the criminal justice system in Nevada works. Criminal defense attorney Michael Gowdey will be there to guide you through every step of the process to help you understand what is happening and what may occur. In the interim, here is a general overview of the procedures for a criminal case in Nevada

The Arrest

The criminal process begins when law enforcement has probable cause to believe you committed a crime. This conclusion is reached by witnessing the crime firsthand or after a search warrant has been issued. As a result, you will be arrested or given a citation (common with traffic violations).

Following an arrest, you will most likely be taken to the Clark County Detention Center (330 South Casino Center Drive) for booking where you will be fingerprinted, have your mugshot taken, and placed in holding cell (we can assist you at any jail in the area including Henderson Jail, the Reno Washoe County Jail, the Mesquite Jail, the Laughlin Jail or the North Las Vegas Jail).

During this time, it may be tempting to want to deny any involvement in the alleged crime, but the smartest thing you can do is to exercise your right to remain silent until you have an attorney present. Remember, anything you say to the police can be used against you as evidence in court.

The police officer will submit the arrest report to the district attorney for review. The D.A. will review the police report and determine whether sufficient evidence exists to press charges. If so, they will either sign a sworn statement or criminal complaint or present the evidence to a grand jury.


Depending on the type of offense, you may either be released on your own recognizance or required to post bail. Bail serves as an assurance to the court that you will appear for all court appearances in the future. Nevada courts have bail schedules where each crime is matched with a bail amount. The most serious offenses require higher bail. For an allegation of murder, bail will be rejected outright, and you will need to remain in custody.

Bail can be paid for with a money order, cashier’s check, or cash. If the amount is at or below $3,000, Visa and MasterCard are accepted. Attorney Gowdey can represent you at a bail hearing and argue for a bail reduction or modification if necessary. If you can still not afford bail, you or your loved ones can use a bail bondsman who will post bail on your behalf and charge you a small fee of about 10% of the bail amount. When the criminal case is completed, bail will be reimbursed.


Within 72 hours of your arrest, you will have your first court appearance in front of a magistrate judge, also known as an arraignment, held at one of the Justice Courts at the downtown Regional Justice Center.

At the arraignment, you will receive a copy of the criminal complaint, be advised of your rights and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you are accused of a misdemeanor, the court will ask you to come back for a second court appearance or trial. For a gross misdemeanor or felony, the court will set a date for a preliminary hearing.

During this time, Mr. Gowdey will request that the prosecution provide a packet of discovery which includes the police report, witness statements, forensic test results and other information relevant to your case.

Pre-Trial Hearings/Plea Negotiations

Once the arraignment is over, the case enters the pre-trial phase. During this time, Mr. Gowdey and the D.A. may trade discovery, file motions, and attempt to negotiate a resolution to the case without having to go to trial. This may include plea bargaining which may result in a plea deal that requires you to plead guilty but to a lesser charge with a reduced sentence. For example, if you are charged with a DUI, it could be downgraded to reckless driving.

Preliminary Hearing (Felony Case)

When charged with a felony offense in Nevada, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. This hearing acts as a “trial before a trial” and is not meant to prove your guilt beyond reasonable doubt but rather to determine if enough evidence or probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed and that you committed it.

At this hearing, the prosecutor can introduce physical evidence and call witnesses to testify. This is an attempt to convince the judge that the case should go to trial. Attorney Gowdey also has the opportunity to present counter arguments and cross-examine the witnesses to try and prove that the prosecutor’s case is not strong enough.

If the judge believes the case lacks probable cause, the charges are dropped or dismissed. On the other hand, if the judge reaches the conclusion that probable cause does exist, you will be “held to answer.” This means the case is sent to District Court to defend against the charges.


If you face misdemeanor charges, you do not have the right to a jury. Instead, your case will be decided by a judge (bench trial). For felony charges, you may elect a bench trial or jury trial. During the trial, criminal defense attorney Michael Gowdey will work tirelessly to expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and also to create reasonable doubt.


    Schedule a free Instant case analysis to discuss your case.


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