"Suspended Sentences" in Nevada criminal cases (NRS 176A)
(Explained by Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys)



A suspended sentence in Nevada is when defendants can avoid serving their jail or prison sentence as long as they abide by the terms of probation, such as paying a fine. But if defendants violate their probation, the judge will "un-suspend" their sentence and order them to serve their original jail or prison term.

In many cases, defendants can negotiate for a suspended sentence as part of a Nevada plea bargain with prosecutors. But suspended sentences are off-limits to defendants convicted of the most serious crimes, such as the Nevada offense of murder and the Nevada offense of sexual assault. Meanwhile, people convicted of category E felonies in Nevada -- the least serious class of felonies -- are usually legally entitled to a suspended sentence.

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss how suspended sentences work in Nevada criminal law. Click on a topic below to jump directly to that section:

dictionary definition
Nevada judges that suspend defendants' jail or prison sentences may impose the original jail or prison term if the defendants violate other sentencing terms.

1. Definition of suspended sentences in Nevada

A suspended sentence is a jail or prison term that convicted criminal defendants do not have to serve as long as they abide by all the other terms of their Nevada criminal sentence.

Therefore, suspended sentences keep defendants out of jail while providing them with an incentive not to re-offend. Then if defendants do violate the terms of their sentence, the judge may impose the original jail or prison sentence.

Prosecutors sometimes offer defendants a suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain in return for not going to trial. If the judge agrees, he/she will order the suspended sentence during the case's sentencing hearing in Nevada.

One of the most common Nevada plea deals where judges suspend sentences is for a first-time conviction of misdemeanor DUI. As a misdemeanor, DUI carries a maximum possible jail sentence of six months. But in the vast majority of cases, judges will agree to suspend this six-month sentence as long as the defendant does all of the following:

  • pay a fine
  • attend DUI School (an online course)
  • attend a Victim Impact Panel
  • avoid any further arrests or citations (other than minor traffic tickets) during the duration of the DUI case
  • keep an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for a certain period of time

If the defendant successfully completes the above requirements, the judge will not order him/her to the six-month sentence. But if the defendant falls short of any of the requirements, the judge has the discretion to "un-suspend" the sentence and send the defendant to jail for the full six months.

Note that in some criminal cases, judges can also order a suspension of a fine payment. This means the defendant will not have to pay unless he/she violates the other terms of his/her sentence.

2. Eligibility for suspended sentences in Nevada

Nevada law gives judges the discretion to grant or deny suspended sentences in the vast majority of criminal cases. Predictably, some of the factors judges consider when making their decision include:

gavel
Judges have great discretion in deciding whether or not to suspend sentences.
  • the defendant's criminal history (if any)
  • the seriousness of the defendant's criminal charges
  • whether the defendant is a flight-risk or safety-risk to the community
  • the defendant's show of remorse

But there are some cases where judges cannot grant a suspended sentence and some where they must:

2.1. When suspended sentences are prohibited

Nevada judges must not grant a suspended sentence to defendants convicted of either of the six most serious Nevada crimes. These include:

  1. first- or second-degree murder
  2. the Nevada offense of kidnapping (first-degree only)
  3. sexual assault (a.k.a. rape)
  4. attempted sexual assault of a child less than 16-years-old
  5. the Nevada offense of lewdness with a child under 16
  6. being a Nevada habitual criminal, fraudulent felon, or habitual felon

Additionally, Nevada judges must not grant a suspended sentence to defendants convicted of any offense where its statute specifically prohibits a sentence suspension. Common examples of these crimes include:

Finally, Nevada judges must not grant a suspended sentence to defendants convicted of the following crimes unless a required psycho-sexual evaluation shows they do not have a high risk of re-offending:

2.2. Where suspended sentences are required

Nevada judges generally must grant a suspended sentence to defendants convicted of a category E felony, but there are exceptions. Judges may refuse to suspend a defendant's sentence for a category E felony if the defendant either:

sign
Most defendants convicted of category E felonies in Nevada will have their sentence suspended.
  1. was on felony parole or probation when the category E felony was committed;
  2. had previously had his/her parole or probation revoked;
  3. had previously been assigned to rehab (pursuant to NRS 453.580) and failed to complete it; or
  4. has two prior felony-level convictions

The sentencing range for category E felonies includes:

3. Length of suspended sentences in Nevada

The maximum length of a suspended sentence depends on whether the crime is a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor:

3.1. Felonies

Suspended sentences for Nevada felony convictions may last a maximum of five (5) years.

Note that certain convicted felons face only a three (3)-year suspended sentence if they complete a treatment program. These usually include defendants who are either:

  • mentally-ill,
  • veterans, or
  • convicted of minor drug crimes

3.2. Gross misdemeanors

Suspended sentences for Nevada gross misdemeanor convictions may last a maximum of three (3) years2

3.3. Misdemeanors

Suspended sentences for Nevada misdemeanor convictions may last a maximum of six (6) months

4. Sentencing violations in Nevada

stamp
One slip can cause a judge to revoke a sentence that has been suspended.

Judges are not required to automatically revoke a suspended sentence and impose incarceration when defendants allegedly violate a sentencing term:

Instead, defendants get a probation revocation hearing where they can ask the judge for a second chance or explain that they were falsely accused of violating a sentencing term. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the judge may elect to keep the sentence suspended or remand the defendant to custody. 

Note that once a judge officially closes a criminal case, any suspended sentence disappears, and the defendant will no longer be at risk of being incarcerated for that case. For example:

Example: Dominique is given a six-month suspended sentence for simple battery. The terms of her probation included avoiding further arrests for one year. After a year passes with no incident, the judge closes her battery case. Then the next day, Dominique gets arrested for battery again. Since her first battery case is already closed, this new arrest will not trigger the six-month suspended sentence from that first case.

Had Dominique in the above example gotten arrested prior the first battery case getting closed, then the judge may have ordered her to jail for six months on the first case. And that is separate from any jail Dominique may have to do if she gets convicted on battery for the second case.

Male receptionist waiting for your call.
Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation today.

Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Arrested in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a FREE consultation at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We will do everything to try to keep you out of jail and to get your charges dismissed or reduced. As a last resort, we can also take your case to trial in zealous pursuit of a full acquittal.

Also refer to our articles on alternative sentencing in Nevada and electronic monitoring in Nevada.


Legal References

  1. NRS 176A.100  Authority and discretion of court to suspend sentence and grant probation; persons eligible; factors considered; intensive supervision; submission of report of presentence investigation.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in this section and NRS 176A.110 and 176A.120, if a person is found guilty in a district court upon verdict or plea of:

          (a) Murder of the first or second degree, kidnapping in the first degree, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault of a child who is less than 16 years of age, lewdness with a child pursuant to NRS 201.230, an offense for which the suspension of sentence or the granting of probation is expressly forbidden, or if the person is found to be a habitual criminal pursuant to NRS 207.010, a habitually fraudulent felon pursuant to NRS 207.014 or a habitual felon pursuant to NRS 207.012, the court shall not suspend the execution of the sentence imposed or grant probation to the person.

          (b) A category E felony, except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the court shall suspend the execution of the sentence imposed and grant probation to the person. The court may, as it deems advisable, decide not to suspend the execution of the sentence imposed and grant probation to the person if, at the time of sentencing, it is established that the person:

                 (1) Was serving a term of probation or was on parole at the time the crime was committed, whether in this State or elsewhere, for a felony conviction;

                 (2) Had previously had the person's probation or parole revoked, whether in this State or elsewhere, for a felony conviction;

                 (3) Had previously been assigned to a program of treatment and rehabilitation pursuant to NRS 453.580 and failed to successfully complete that program; or

                 (4) Had previously been two times convicted, whether in this State or elsewhere, of a crime that under the laws of the situs of the crime or of this State would amount to a felony.

    --> If the person denies the existence of a previous conviction, the court shall determine the issue of the previous conviction after hearing all relevant evidence presented on the issue by the prosecution and the person. At such a hearing, the person may not challenge the validity of a previous conviction. For the purposes of this paragraph, a certified copy of a felony conviction is prima facie evidence of conviction of a prior felony.

          (c) Another felony, a gross misdemeanor or a misdemeanor, the court may suspend the execution of the sentence imposed and grant probation as the court deems advisable.

          2.  In determining whether to grant probation to a person, the court shall not consider whether the person has the financial ability to participate in a program of probation secured by a surety bond established pursuant to NRS 176A.300 to 176A.370, inclusive.

          3.  The court shall consider the standards adopted pursuant to NRS 213.10988 and the recommendation of the Chief Parole and Probation Officer, if any, in determining whether to grant probation to a person.

          4.  If the court determines that a person is otherwise eligible for probation but requires more supervision than would normally be provided to a person granted probation, the court may, in lieu of sentencing the person to a term of imprisonment, grant probation pursuant to the Program of Intensive Supervision established pursuant to NRS 176A.440.

          5.  Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, if a person is convicted of a felony and the Division is required to make a presentence investigation and report to the court pursuant to NRS 176.135, the court shall not grant probation to the person until the court receives the report of the presentence investigation from the Chief Parole and Probation Officer. The Chief Parole and Probation Officer shall submit the report of the presentence investigation to the court not later than 45 days after receiving a request for a presentence investigation from the county clerk. If the report of the presentence investigation is not submitted by the Chief Parole and Probation Officer within 45 days, the court may grant probation without the report.

          6.  If the court determines that a person is otherwise eligible for probation, the court shall, when determining the conditions of that probation, consider the imposition of such conditions as would facilitate timely payments by the person of an obligation, if any, for the support of a child and the payment of any such obligation which is in arrears.

    NRS 176A.110  Persons convicted of certain offenses required to be certified as not representing high risk to reoffend before court suspends sentence or grants probation; immunity.

          1.  The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted of an offense listed in subsection 3 unless:

          (a) If a psychosexual evaluation of the person is required pursuant to NRS 176.139, the person who conducts the psychosexual evaluation certifies in the report prepared pursuant to NRS 176.139 that the person convicted of the offense does not represent a high risk to reoffend based upon a currently accepted standard of assessment; or

          (b) If a psychosexual evaluation of the person is not required pursuant to NRS 176.139, a psychologist licensed to practice in this State who is trained to conduct psychosexual evaluations or a psychiatrist licensed to practice medicine in this State who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., and is trained to conduct psychosexual evaluations certifies in a written report to the court that the person convicted of the offense does not represent a high risk to reoffend based upon a currently accepted standard of assessment.

          2.  This section does not create a right in any person to be certified or to continue to be certified. No person may bring a cause of action against the State, its political subdivisions, or the agencies, boards, commissions, departments, officers or employees of the State or its political subdivisions for not certifying a person pursuant to this section or for refusing to consider a person for certification pursuant to this section.

          3.  The provisions of this section apply to a person convicted of any of the following offenses:

          (a) Attempted sexual assault of a person who is 16 years of age or older pursuant to NRS 200.366.

          (b) Statutory sexual seduction pursuant to NRS 200.368.

          (c) Battery with intent to commit sexual assault pursuant to NRS 200.400.

          (d) Abuse or neglect of a child pursuant to NRS 200.508.

          (e) An offense involving pornography and a minor pursuant to NRS 200.710 to 200.730, inclusive.

          (f) Incest pursuant to NRS 201.180.

          (g) Open or gross lewdness pursuant to NRS 201.210.

          (h) Indecent or obscene exposure pursuant to NRS 201.220.

          (i) Sexual penetration of a dead human body pursuant to NRS 201.450.

          (j) Sexual conduct between certain employees of a school or volunteers at a school and a pupil pursuant to NRS 201.540.

          (k) Sexual conduct between certain employees of a college or university and a student pursuant to NRS 201.550.

          (l) Luring a child or a person with mental illness pursuant to NRS 201.560, if punished as a felony.

          (m) A violation of NRS 207.180.

          (n) An attempt to commit an offense listed in paragraphs (b) to (m), inclusive.

          (o) Coercion or attempted coercion that is determined to be sexually motivated pursuant to NRS 207.193.

    NRS 176A.260  Conditions and limitations on assignment of defendant to program; effect of violation of terms and conditions; discharge of defendant upon fulfillment of terms and conditions; effect of discharge.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, if a defendant who suffers from mental illness or is intellectually disabled tenders a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill or nolo contendere to, or is found guilty or guilty but mentally ill of, any offense for which the suspension of sentence or the granting of probation is not prohibited by statute, the court may, without entering a judgment of conviction and with the consent of the defendant, suspend further proceedings and place the defendant on probation upon terms and conditions that must include attendance and successful completion of a program established pursuant to NRS 176A.250.

          2.  If the offense committed by the defendant involved the use or threatened use of force or violence or if the defendant was previously convicted in this State or in any other jurisdiction of a felony that involved the use or threatened use of force or violence, the court may not assign the defendant to the program unless the prosecuting attorney stipulates to the assignment.

          3.  Upon violation of a term or condition:

          (a) The court may enter a judgment of conviction and proceed as provided in the section pursuant to which the defendant was charged.

          (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (e) of subsection 2 of NRS 193.130, the court may order the defendant to the custody of the Department of Corrections if the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.

          4.  Upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the court shall discharge the defendant and dismiss the proceedings. Discharge and dismissal pursuant to this section is without adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for purposes of this section or for purposes of employment, civil rights or any statute or regulation or license or questionnaire or for any other public or private purpose, but is a conviction for the purpose of additional penalties imposed for second or subsequent convictions or the setting of bail. Discharge and dismissal restores the defendant, in the contemplation of the law, to the status occupied before the arrest, indictment or information. The defendant may not be held thereafter under any law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by reason of failure to recite or acknowledge that arrest, indictment, information or trial in response to an inquiry made of the defendant for any purpose.

    NRS 176A.290  Conditions and limitations on assignment of defendant to program; sanctions and effect of violation of terms and conditions; discharge of defendant upon fulfillment of terms and conditions; effect of discharge; conditional dismissal.

          1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2 and NRS 176A.287, if a defendant described in NRS 176A.280 tenders a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill or nolo contendere to, or is found guilty or guilty but mentally ill of, any offense for which the suspension of sentence or the granting of probation is not prohibited by statute, the district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, may, without entering a judgment of conviction and with the consent of the defendant, suspend further proceedings and place the defendant on probation upon terms and conditions that must include attendance and successful completion of a program established pursuant to NRS 176A.280.

          2.  If the offense committed by the defendant involved the use or threatened use of force or violence or if the defendant was previously convicted in this State or in any other jurisdiction of a felony that involved the use or threatened use of force or violence, the district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, may not assign the defendant to the program unless the prosecuting attorney stipulates to the assignment. For the purposes of this subsection, in determining whether an offense involved the use or threatened use of force or violence, the district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, shall consider the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, including, without limitation, whether the defendant intended to place another person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

          3.  Upon violation of a term or condition:

          (a) The district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, may impose sanctions against the defendant for the violation, but allow the defendant to remain in the program. Before imposing a sanction, the court shall notify the defendant of the violation and provide the defendant an opportunity to respond. Any sanction imposed pursuant to this paragraph:

                 (1) Must be in accordance with any applicable guidelines for sanctions established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals or any successor organization; and

                 (2) May include, without limitation, imprisonment in a county or city jail or detention facility for a term set by the court, which must not exceed 25 days.

          (b) The district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, may enter a judgment of conviction and proceed as provided in the section pursuant to which the defendant was charged.

          (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (e) of subsection 2 of NRS 193.130, the district court may order the defendant to the custody of the Department of Corrections if the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.

          4.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, shall discharge the defendant and dismiss the proceedings. Discharge and dismissal pursuant to this section is without adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for purposes of this section or for purposes of employment, civil rights or any statute or regulation or license or questionnaire or for any other public or private purpose, but is a conviction for the purpose of additional penalties imposed for second or subsequent convictions or the setting of bail. Discharge and dismissal restores the defendant, in the contemplation of the law, to the status occupied before the arrest, complaint, indictment or information. The defendant may not be held thereafter under any law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by reason of failure to recite or acknowledge that arrest, complaint, indictment, information or trial in response to an inquiry made of the defendant for any purpose.

          5.  If the defendant was charged with a violation of NRS 200.485, 484C.110 or 484C.120, upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the district court, justice court or municipal court, as applicable, may conditionally dismiss the charges. If a court conditionally dismisses the charges, the court shall notify the defendant that the conditionally dismissed charges are a conviction for the purpose of additional penalties imposed for second or subsequent convictions or the setting of bail in a future case, but are not a conviction for purposes of employment, civil rights or any statute or regulation or license or questionnaire or for any other public or private purpose. Conditional dismissal restores the defendant, in the contemplation of the law, to the status occupied before the arrest, complaint, indictment or information. The defendant may not be held thereafter under any law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by reason of failure to recite or acknowledge that arrest, complaint, indictment, information or trial in response to an inquiry made of the defendant for any purpose.

    NRS 176A.400  Imposition by court; alternative programs or treatment; prohibition on suspending term of imprisonment; placement under supervision of Chief Parole and Probation Officer.

          1.  In issuing an order granting probation, the court may fix the terms and conditions thereof, including, without limitation:

          (a) A requirement for restitution;

          (b) An order that the probationer dispose of all the weapons the probationer possesses; or

          (c) Any reasonable conditions to protect the health, safety or welfare of the community or to ensure that the probationer will appear at all times and places ordered by the court, including, without limitation:

                 (1) Requiring the probationer to remain in this State or a certain county within this State;

                 (2) Prohibiting the probationer from contacting or attempting to contact a specific person or from causing or attempting to cause another person to contact that person on the probationer's behalf;

                 (3) Prohibiting the probationer from entering a certain geographic area; or

                 (4) Prohibiting the probationer from engaging in specific conduct that may be harmful to the probationer's own health, safety or welfare, or the health, safety or welfare of another person.

          2.  In issuing an order granting probation to a person who is found guilty of a category C, D or E felony, the court may require the person as a condition of probation to participate in and complete to the satisfaction of the court any alternative program, treatment or activity deemed appropriate by the court.

          3.  The court shall not suspend the execution of a sentence of imprisonment after the defendant has begun to serve it.

          4.  In placing any defendant on probation or in granting a defendant a suspended sentence, the court shall direct that the defendant be placed under the supervision of the Chief Parole and Probation Officer.

  2. NRS 176A.500  Authority of court to fix duration; limitations; arrest for alleged violation; powers and duties of peace officers; deduction of days.

          1.  The period of probation or suspension of sentence may be indeterminate or may be fixed by the court and may at any time be extended or terminated by the court, but the period, including any extensions thereof, must not be more than:

          (a) Three years for a:

                 (1) Gross misdemeanor; or

                 (2) Suspension of sentence pursuant to NRS 176A.260, 176A.290 or 453.3363; or

          (b) Five years for a felony.

          2.  At any time during probation or suspension of sentence, the court may issue a warrant for violating any of the conditions of probation or suspension of sentence and cause the defendant to be arrested. Except for the purpose of giving a dishonorable discharge from probation, and except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the time during which a warrant for violating any of the conditions of probation is in effect is not part of the period of probation. If the warrant is cancelled or probation is reinstated, the court may include any amount of that time as part of the period of probation.

          3.  Any parole and probation officer or any peace officer with power to arrest may arrest a probationer without a warrant, or may deputize any other officer with power to arrest to do so by giving the probationer a written statement setting forth that the probationer has, in the judgment of the parole and probation officer, violated the conditions of probation. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 4, the parole and probation officer or the peace officer, after making an arrest, shall present to the detaining authorities, if any, a statement of the charges against the probationer. The parole and probation officer shall at once notify the court which granted probation of the arrest and detention or residential confinement of the probationer and shall submit a report in writing showing in what manner the probationer has violated the conditions of probation.

          4.  A parole and probation officer or a peace officer may immediately release from custody without any further proceedings any person the officer arrests without a warrant for violating a condition of probation if the parole and probation officer or peace officer determines that there is no probable cause to believe that the person violated the condition of probation.

          5.  A person who is sentenced to serve a period of probation for a felony or a gross misdemeanor must be allowed for the period of the probation a deduction of:

          (a) Ten days from that period for each month the person serves and is current with any fee to defray the costs of his or her supervision charged by the Division of Parole and Probation of the Department of Public Safety pursuant to NRS 213.1076 and with any payment of restitution ordered by the court, including, without limitation, any payment of restitution required pursuant to NRS 176A.430. A person shall be deemed to be current with any such fee and payment of restitution for any given month if, during that month, the person makes at least the minimum monthly payment established by the court or, if the court does not establish a minimum monthly payment, by the Division.

          (b) Except as otherwise provided in subsection 7, 10 days from that period for each month the person serves and is actively involved in employment or enrolled in a program of education, rehabilitation or any other program approved by the Division.

          6.  A person must be allowed a deduction pursuant to paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection 5 regardless of whether the person has satisfied the requirements of the other paragraph and must be allowed a deduction pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection 5 if the person has satisfied the requirements of both paragraphs of that subsection.

          7.  A person who is sentenced to serve a period of probation for a felony or a gross misdemeanor and who is a participant in a specialty court program must be allowed a deduction from the period of probation for being actively involved in employment or enrolled in a program of education, rehabilitation or any other program approved by the Division only if the person successfully completes the specialty court program. Such a deduction must not exceed the length of time remaining on the person's period of probation.

          8.  As used in this section, “specialty court program” means a program established by a court to facilitate testing, treatment and oversight of certain persons over whom the court has jurisdiction and who the court has determined suffer from mental illnesses or abuse alcohol or drugs. Such a program includes, without limitation, a program established pursuant to NRS 176A.250, 176A.280 or 453.580.

  3. Coming soon

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370