Seventy-two-hour hearings in Nevada are where courts arraign defendants who are still in jail three judicial days after their arrest. Also called the “initial appearance,” 72-hour hearings are also where defendants or their criminal defense lawyers can ask the judge to lower bail or grant O.R. release. Defendants who bail out before they can have a 72-hour hearing have their arraignment scheduled a few weeks later.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is a 72-hour hearing in Nevada?
- 2. Can defendants be there?
- 3. Can defense attorneys be there?
- 4. Can family be there?
- 5. When do 72-hour hearings occur?
- 6. Does everybody have a 72-hour hearing?
- 7. Can defendants ask for a bail reduction there?
- 8. What is the difference from 48-hour hearings?
1. What is a 72-hour hearing in Nevada?
A 72-hour hearing is another word for arraignment or initial appearance. It is where defendants who are still in custody following their arrest get formally charged by a judge in open court. 72-hour hearings are a defendant’s first opportunity to see a judge in person (or through video-conferencing).
It is at the 72-hour hearing that prosecutors give defendants (or their defense attorney) the formal complaint listing the criminal charges they are accused of. The judge reads aloud the complaint (unless the defendant “waives” the reading). Prosecutors also hand over the discovery, which is a packet containing all the available evidence so far in the case such as police reports.
If the defendant is facing only misdemeanor charges, the defendant will enter an initial plea of not guilty. Then the judge may schedule a trial, though the vast majority of cases resolve through a plea bargain. If the defendant is charged with a felony, then the court will schedule a preliminary hearing. In-custody defendants have their prelim two weeks later unless they agree to delay it.
Note that if the District Attorney fails to bring formal charges by the 72-hour hearing, the suspect may be eligible to be released. Delays in bringing formal charges often occur in drug cases where the prosecution is awaiting test results from labs. In these situations, the judge has the discretion to decide whether to keep the suspect incarcerated until the D.A. is ready to file formal charges.1
2. Can defendants be there?
Yes, defendants must be at their 72-hour hearings. Note that sometimes defendants are video-conferenced in from the jail.
3. Can defense attorneys be there?
Yes. Defendants’ criminal defense attorneys may appear along with the defendant at 72-hour hearings.
4. Can family be there?
Usually a defendant’s family can attend the 72-hour hearing in the courtroom.
5. When do 72-hour hearings occur?
Seventy-two-hour hearings must occur within three (3) judicial days of a defendant’s arrest unless the defendant gets released first (such as by posting bail).
Unlike calendar days, judicial days do not include weekends, holidays, or other days that the court is closed. So a person arrested Friday night in Las Vegas on Memorial Day weekend does not get a 72-hour hearing until the following Thursday – the day after the 48-hour hearing.2
6. Does everybody have a 72-hour hearing?
No, only defendants who are still in custody three judicial days after their arrest. Defendants who get released on bail or O.R. still get an arraignment, but it is often weeks or months later.3
7. Can defendants ask for a bail reduction there?
Yes. Seventy-two-hour hearings may double as bail hearings, where the defense attorney asks the judge to reduce or eliminate bail completely (O.R release). Note that if the judge refuses, the defendant can still request bail reductions at a later time.
8. What is the difference from 48-hour hearings?
Forty-eight-hour hearings are not really hearings. They occur in the judge’s chambers without the defendant, defense attorney, or prosecutors. And the purpose is just to review whether sufficient probable cause exists to keep detaining the defendant until the 72-hour hearing.
In contrast, 72-hour-hearings are held in open court. Defendants, defense attorneys, and prosecutors may attend. And at the 72-hour hearing, the defendant gets formally charged. By the 48-hour hearing, charges are still only pending.3
- See, e.g., Meyer v. Balaam, (April 28, 2020) NV District Courts – Trial Orders Second Judicial District Court of Nevada, Washoe County, 2020 Nev. Dist. LEXIS 255. See also NRS 171.178.
- See NRS 1.130; Rules of the District Court of the State of Nevada, Rule 4. Nonjudicial days.
- See NRS 178.484; See NRS 171.178; see NRS 174.015.