Post-conviction relief in Nevada are measures that convicted defendants can pursue to try to get their convictions reversed, sentences lifted, and/or rights restored. There may be strict time limits to attempt these measures, so defendants should consult with legal counsel right away about all their options.
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the following types of post-conviction relief:
- 1. Motions to withdraw a plea
- 2. Motions for a new trial
- 3. Appeals
- 4. Writs of Habeas Corpus
- 5. Early Termination of Probation
- 6. Commutations
- 7. Pardons
- 8. Record Seals
Many defendants are scared and hastily agree to a plea bargain without understanding the consequences. Or perhaps their attorney did not fully explain their options to them (ineffective assistance of counsel). In such situations, defendants may be able to file a motion to withdraw a plea. If the judge agrees, the defendant will be free to go to trial or negotiate another plea bargain – perhaps in attempt to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor.
Mistakes occur in every trial. Some are harmless, but some are serious enough to deprive the defendant of their due process and cast doubt on their guilt. In these cases, defendants can file a motion for a new trial. If the judge agrees, the guilty verdict will be thrown out. Then the defendant is free to have a do-over trial as if the first one never happened.
Nevada defendants may appeal their guilty verdicts and/or sentences to a higher court. For instance, cases tried in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas may be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court (or the Nevada Court of Appeals, depending on the case).
An appeal is not a new trial. Instead, the justices review the trial for errors, such as prosecutorial misconduct or misinterpretation of the law. Then depending on their findings, the justices can either affirm the verdict or overturn it.
Defendants typically resort to habeas corpus petitions if they lose on appeal. In these writs, defendants argue that they are being incarcerated unlawfully. Common arguments are that their attorneys were ineffective or that there is new evidence that shows the defendant is innocent. If the court agrees, the defendant can go free.
Note that it is very rare for courts to grant writs of habeas corpus. So defendants are advised to hire experienced attorneys to maximize their chances of success.
Defendants who have successfully completed most or all of the terms of their probation may be able to ask the judge to close the case early and grant early termination of probation. Judges usually prefer for defendants to serve out their entire probationary period. But they may be willing to end probation early if it would not harm anyone and the defendant appears rehabilitated.
Certain defendants unable to get their convictions overturned may be able to get their prison sentences or parole sentences commuted (reduced). This requires applying to the Pardons Board. A majority of the nine-person board must vote to commute a defendant’s sentence. Commutation also goes by the term “executive clemency.”
Also read our related article about modifying criminal sentences in Nevada.
A Governor’s Pardon is like an official forgiveness of a crime. The Pardons Board grants pardons rarely, and usually only when:
- Several years have passed since the case,
- The crime was not very serious, and
- The applicant is rehabilitated and remorseful.
Pardons are the only way to get gun rights restored in Nevada. Note that pardons are entirely separate from record sealing (discussed below). Pardons do not prevent past crimes from showing up on background checks. Only record sealing does that.
Getting a record seal in Nevada stops past criminal cases from showing up in future background checks (with rare exceptions). Therefore, record seals greatly increase people’s job prospects. And people with record seals can legally deny ever having had a criminal record under oath or during a job interview (with rare exceptions).
Record sealing does not restore gun rights. Only pardons (discussed above) can do that.
Also see our article on post-conviction relief for immigrants.