Alternative sentencing in Nevada is when the judge suspends your jail sentence on the condition you abide by various terms, such as completing rehab, doing community service, and paying restitution. State statutes permit judges to grant alternative sentencing in many misdemeanor and some felony cases.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys summarize how “alternative sentencing” in Nevada works. Scroll down to learn what alternative sentencing is, how to qualify for it, and the available programs in Las Vegas.
- 1. What is alternative sentencing in Nevada?
- 2. Am I eligible?
- 3. How can I get alternative sentencing?
- 4. What programs are available in Las Vegas, Nevada?
- 5. What is the Department of Alternative Sentencing?
- 6. What happens if I violate court orders?
1. What is alternative sentencing in Nevada?
Like it sounds, alternative sentencing is a form of probation that Nevada judges may impose in lieu of traditional penalties such as jail and fines. Alternative sentencing is meant to help you learn to make better choices so you will not resort to crimes in the future.
Alternative sentencing in Nevada usually takes the form of either:
- educational classes
- rehabilitation programs
- community service
If you are accepted into an alternative sentencing program, you are required to pay for any expenses associated with them. Doing community service is free, but fees for rehab or classes may run into hundreds of dollars.
Note that Nevada now permits courts to offer diversion, which is a kind of pre-prosecution alternative sentencing. You complete a program, and the court dismisses the charge. Best of all, you can still participate in the diversion program if you cannot pay.1
2. Am I eligible?
Alternative sentencing is typically available only if you are convicted of certain misdemeanors such as:
- drug possession
- simple battery
- battery domestic violence (with no major injuries)
- drunk driving (with no major injuries)
3. How can I get alternative sentencing?
You usually need to request alternative sentencing from the judge in the case. Prosecutors sometimes offer alternative sentencing as part of a plea bargain.
In Municipal Court cases involving alcohol or drugs, you are first screened by the Las Vegas Municipal Court Evaluation Center. The judge will then consider their recommendations in deciding whether you would benefit from alternative sentencing.
In Municipal Court cases involving battery domestic violence, the court will order a Pre-Sentence Investigation of your criminal history. The judge will then use this information to determine whether to grant alternative sentencing.
4. What programs are available in Las Vegas, Nevada?
The following are some of the alternative sentencing programs offered by Las Vegas Municipal Court:
- Community Service: Court fines can usually be paid in cash or in community service. One hour of community service is the equivalent of ten dollars ($10) in court fines. There are many organizations at which you may volunteer such as Help of Southern Nevada and Goodwill of Southern Nevada. Call (702) 229-6870 for more information.
- Work Program: This program allows you to pay off your court-ordered fine through work if you cannot afford to pay it. Call (702) 229-6870 for more information.
- Impulse Control Class: If you are convicted of battery against non-family members (with no substantial bodily harm), you may take this course to learn about more constructive ways to handle conflict.
- First Offender Prostitution Program: If you are convicted of a first offense of prostitution, you may take this course to learn about the hazards of selling sex for money including STDs. Call (702) 229-2251 or (702) 229-2252 for more information.
- DUI School: DUI School is a standard penalty in all misdemeanor drunk driving cases. It includes information about alcoholism and ways to avoid getting behind the wheel while inebriated.
- Court Domestic Violence Program: If you are convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse, you can take this course to learn anger-management methods to help prevent a confrontation with family members, significant others or roommates.
- Traffic School: Judges will sometimes reduce speeding tickets and other moving violations down to an illegal parking ticket if you complete traffic school. Call (702) 229-2244.
- Petty Larceny Program: This program is geared for you if you are facing charges of shoplifting less than $1,200 in merchandise. It teaches about how a simple shoplifting incident can end violently and how potential employers may not hire convicted shoplifters.
- Substance Abuse Program: This program helps educate you on the dangers of drug use and how to overcome addiction.
- House Arrest: In some cases, the judge may agree to allow you to “serve time” at home instead of the Clark County Detention Center. With house arrest comes strict rules such as curfews and orders to avoid certain locations. You also have to submit to electronic monitoring.
Clark County Justice Court provides nearly identical programs to the ones listed above. In addition they offer the following:
- Las Vegas DUI Court: DUI Court is an intensive alcohol rehabilitation program if you have been convicted of drunk driving without causing serious injuries. First- and second-time offenders may be eligible for Misdemeanor DUI Court, while third-time offenders may do Felony DUI Court.
- AIDS Awareness Counseling: This class is geared for you if you are facing prostitution charges; the class educates you on how AIDS may be transmitted by sexual activity.
5. What is the Department of Alternative Sentencing?
Every Nevada city and county has its own Department of Alternative Sentencing. Its purpose is to oversee defendants who have been placed on either:
- misdemeanor probation (for people sentenced to a suspended jail term of up to two years); or
- supervised release (for people who have been released from custody while awaiting their trial or sentencing hearing)
The Department gives each probationer and person on supervised release written statements outlining the court conditions they must follow in order to remain out of custody.
Note that each Department of Alternative Sentencing is headed by a Chief who must:
- have at least five years of applicable experience with roles of increasing responsibility; and
- be appointed by the city or county’s governing body through a majority vote.2
6. What happens if I violate court orders?
If you are out of custody on an alternative sentence in Nevada, police may arrest you without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe you violated a condition of release. You are then entitled to a court hearing to argue that:
- you did not violate your conditions; or
- any violation was minor or accidental, and you deserve a second chance to remain on alternative sentencing.
If you were out on probation and the court finds against you, the court may revoke your probation and remand you to jail to serve out your jail sentence. Though in some cases, courts allow you to remain out on probation but with harsher probationary conditions.
If you were out on supervised release and the court find against you, the court may harshen the terms of your release or else remand you to jail until trial or sentencing. Plus, the judge can consider your violation during sentencing.