A conditional plea agreement in Nevada is a type of plea bargain where the defendant retains the right to appeal certain issues. An example of such an issue is whether the law that the defendant allegedly violated was constitutional to begin with.
Upon an unconditional waiver of a preliminary hearing, a defendant and the district attorney may enter into a written conditional plea agreement. The plea is subject to the court accepting the recommended sentence pursuant to the agreement.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about conditional plea agreements in Nevada.
1. What is a conditional plea agreement in Las Vegas, Nevada?
A conditional plea agreement in Nevada is when a criminal defendant agrees to enter a guilty (or “no contest“) plea while reserving the right to appeal certain aspects of the case. The judge will find the defendant guilty and impose a sentence. But if the defendant ultimately wins the appeal, he/she can withdraw the guilty plea. Then the case would resume as if the plea never occurred.
Example: Jeffrey is charged with failing to pay back casino markers in Nevada. Jeffrey knows the evidence is stacked against him and that he would probably lose at trial. Therefore, Jeffrey takes a conditional plea agreement where he pleads guilty but reserves the right to appeal the constitutionality of the casino marker statute in Nevada. If Jeffrey is ultimately victorious on appeal and convinces the Nevada Supreme Court that the casino marker law is unconstitutional, then Jeffrey can withdraw his guilty plea and the case would proceed in the lower court. At that point, the justice court judge would probably dismiss the charges because there would no longer be a casino marker law to prosecute Jeffrey under.
Another common issue people may reserve for appeal in conditional plea agreements is challenging a motion to suppress evidence.1
2. Am I eligible?
Yes, as long as the prosecutor and the judge in the case agree to the terms. Note that only people charged with felonies may seek a conditional plea agreement.2
3. When can I get a conditional plea agreement?
Anytime before a preliminary hearing in a felony case. If the preliminary hearing already occurred, there is no longer an option for a conditional plea agreement.3
4. Can I still withdraw my conditional guilty plea if I do not win on appeal?
No. And because the plea agreement stays in place, the defendant still has no right to a trial by jury.4
5. What is the difference between a conditional plea bargain and a regular plea bargain?
With regular plea bargains, the defendant gives up his/her right to appeal any issue deriving from the case. Conditional plea agreements preserve the defendant’s right to appeal predetermined issues. Furthermore, conditional plea agreements must always be written.5
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- Nevada AB 453 (2017).
- NRS 174.035.