Nevada felony charges can get reduced to misdemeanors or possibly dismissed as part of a plea deal. Whereas felonies carry prison and divest gun rights, misdemeanors are usually probationable and typically do not affect civil liberties. And employers are less likely to pass over job applicants convicted of misdemeanors than applicants with felonies on their record.
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
1. What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Nevada?
All crimes in Nevada are categorized as either misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies.
The least serious Nevada crime is a misdemeanor. Examples of common misdemeanors include:
- shoplifting (if the merchandise is less than $1,200)
- breaching the peace
- drunk driving (as long as it is not the third DUI conviction within a seven-year time-span, or that no one got seriously hurt or killed)
- violations of traffic law (traffic tickets)
The maximum jail sentence for a misdemeanor conviction is six months, and the maximum fine is $1,000. A Las Vegas court may impose either jail, fines, or both.1 In some cases, misdemeanor charges may be dismissed pursuant to a plea bargain.
1.2. Gross Misdemeanors
A gross misdemeanor in Nevada is more serious than a straight misdemeanor but is not as serious as a felony. Examples of gross misdemeanors include:
- indecent exposure (first offense)
- stalking (second or subsequent offense)
- open or gross lewdness (first offense)
- false imprisonment (as long as the defendant was not a prisoner, did not use a deadly weapon, or acted to avoid arrest)
- marijuana possession of one oz. or less (third offense)
The maximum jail sentence for a gross misdemeanor conviction is 364 days, and the maximum fine is $2,000. A Las Vegas judge can order the defendant either to go to jail, to pay fines, or to do both.2 Depending on the case defendants may do probation in lieu of incarceration.
A felony in Nevada is the gravest type of crime. Felonies, in turn, are divided into the following five subcategories (ranging from most serious to least serious):
- category A felonies, such as murder or sexual assault
- category B felonies, such as voluntary manslaughter or robbery
- category C felonies, such as violating an extended restraining order or receiving stolen property (if the value is at least $5,000 but less than $25,000)
- category D felonies, such as unpaid casino markers or forgery
- category E felonies, such as possessing drug paraphernalia or gang recruitment (if the defendant is an adult)
The punishment depends on the class of felony. Obviously category A felonies in Las Vegas carry the harshest punishments, including life in Nevada State prison or even the death penalty in Nevada. Meanwhile, category E felonies in Las Vegas usually guarantee just probation with no prison.3
Note that there are some crimes called “wobblers” which can be either felonies or gross misdemeanors. In these cases, the judge has the discretion to decide which one to convict the defendant of.4 Examples of wobblers in Nevada include:
- Attempts to commit burglary
- Attempts to commit assault with a deadly weapon
- Attempts to commit fraud
2. Can a felony charge get reduced to a misdemeanor?
If a defendant is charged with a felony, his/her lawyer’s first line of attack is to attempt to get the charge dismissed outright. But if prosecutors insist on pressing charges, then the defense attorney would try to negotiate a plea bargain whereby the felony gets reduced to a gross misdemeanor or a misdemeanor.
Whenever a defendant pleads to a wobbler – which can be a felony or a gross misdemeanor – the judge has the final say over which conviction to impose. In making this decision the judge considers several factors:
- the facts of the case
- the nature of the offense
- the defendant’s personal history
- the defendant’s criminal history
Remember that defendants never have to accept a plea bargain. Anyone charged with a felony is entitled to a jury trial in Nevada, where the D.A. has the burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.5
3. Can a felony plea get reduced to a misdemeanor at a later time?
Yes, but only if the terms of the original plea bargain specifically call for the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor (or gross misdemeanor) upon successful completion of the sentence. Otherwise, unlike the California system, there is no procedural rule in Nevada that allows a judge to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor later on.
Note that a person who pleads to a felony may file a motion with the court after he/she has been convicted to withdraw the plea. But courts rarely grant this motion unless it would be manifest injustice to sustain the conviction.6
4. What is the purpose of trying to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor?
Being a convicted felon in Nevada brings several disadvantages. Among them are:
- Prospective employers may disqualify job applicants who have felonies on their background check.
- Various state licensing boards may deny certification to people who have been convicted of felonies.
- Convicted felons may not possess, own or use firearms.7
- Convicted felons may not serve on juries.8
- Having a felony count as a strike on Nevada’s equivalent of the Three Strikes Law.9
- Felonies cannot be sealed from the defendant’s criminal record for at least two-to-ten years after the case is closed. There are some felonies such as sexual offenses that can never be sealed. And sealing a felony record does not automatically restore the defendant’s right to bear arms.
So having a felony reduced to a misdemeanor would avoid all of these problems. Furthermore, most misdemeanors may be sealed from a criminal record only one or two years after the case has closed, and the waiting time for gross misdemeanors is usually two years.10 Read more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.
For information about California law, go to our informational webpage on California Penal Code 17(b) PC | Reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors.
- NRS 193.150.
- NRS 193.140.
- NRS 193.130; see also LaChance v. State, (2014) 130 Nev. 263, 321 P.3d 919; see also Breault v. State, (2000) 116 Nev. 311, 996 P.2d 888.
- NRS 193.330.
- NRS 175,
- NRS 176.165.
- NRS 202.360.
- NRS 179.285.
- NRS 207.010.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.