Steven J. Karen
Las Vegas Domestic Violence
Battery Defense Lawyer
Practicing Regularly in Las Vegas Justice Court, Las Vegas Municipal Court, Henderson Justice Court, Henderson Municipal Court, District Court, Federal Court and all Courts in Nevada.
I get people out of all kinds trouble.
Domestic Violence Battery Charges
I win a lot of Domestic Violence Battery Cases! It is not unusual for me to get the case completely dismissed. Sometimes the charges are reduced. Can I win your case? Will it be reduced or dismissed? The answer is that It depends. Every case is unique. One thing is for sure. You need a lawyer on your side who knows what they are doing. Why? Because the penalties are severe. I have 25 years of experience handling these kinds of cases. Call me now. I promise to listen to your problem so that we can face it together and form a strategy to win your case.
Do you need a lawyer? Can you handle the case by yourself? What happens in court?
The penalties for a first offense domestic violence battery conviction are substantial. You are facing the possibility of losing your freedom and going to jail. The jail time ranges from two days to six months. for a first offense You are also facing a fine of up to $1,000.00. If you are convicted you will have to attend and pay for six months of domestic violence classes. That is 26 weeks of classes for 1 1/2 hours per week. The classes will cost you about $1,000.00. You will also have to complete 48 hours of community service. But the nightmare does not end there. A person convicted of domestic violence cannot own a firearm or ammunition. If you have a gun collection you will have to get rid of it. If you wanted a career in the military or the police and you are convicted of domestic violence your career is over. A conviction for domestic violence battery will stay on your record for at least seven years. But that is not all. Domestic violence is considered a crime of moral turpitude. What does that mean? It means that you may not pass an employment background check because the conviction will show up. You may never get the job you wanted because of a domestic violence conviction. You may lose the job you already have. If you possess a privileged license such as a doctor or nurse you may be subject to discipline from the licensing board; placing your career in jeopardy. (I have represented several doctors and nurses and I have managed to keep every single one of them in good standing.) A teacher with the Clark County school district is required to report a domestic violence arrest. See, Regulation 4207. A conviction will probably result in termination. If you are not a United States Citizen there may be immigration consequences for a domestic violence conviction. You may be deported; barred from entry into the United States; lose your ability to renew your legal residency status; or lose your ability to gain United States Citizenship or legal residency. If you are facing a child custody proceeding a domestic violence conviction may be used against you to determine the custody of your children. Remember, these penalties are for a first offense. The penalties are even more severe for a second offense. The minimum jail time is ten days for a second offense. The maximum jail sentence is six months. Between 100 – 200 hours of community service are required. The classes are much longer; 52 weeks. They cost a lot more. A third offense within seven years is a felony; with a sentence of 1-5 years in prison; probation is not an option. Domestic Violence involving strangulation is a felony and carries a prison sentence of 1-5 years and a fine of up to $15,000.00. “Strangulation” means intentionally impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person in a manner that creates a risk of death or substantial bodily harm.
But my spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend wants to drop the case, is that the end of it?
No. Both the Clark County District Attorney and the Las Vegas City Attorney have a no drop policy. This means that once a case gets submitted to them for prosecution and they determine there is enough evidence to file charges, they will not drop the case because the victim does not want to proceed. Why do they do this? Their philosophy is that many victims of domestic violence get caught up in “battered woman syndrome” where a person is dependent on their spouse. Meaning the victim will return to the cycle of violence and drop the charges because they are afraid to testify and are unable or unwilling to leave their abuser. Unfortunately this no drop philosophy cast a very wide net. It means a lot of innocent people and/ or a lot of innocuous behavior such as spitting, pushing ripping clothes, or slapping will be prosecuted no matter what the circumstances. That does not mean the prosecution will be able to prove their case. In many cases both sides are partially to blame for what happened. Often, both sides have been drinking or using drugs. Couples fight for a lot of reasons; jealousy, stress, money, you name it. It does not necessarily mean their is a battered spouse involved. However, because of the no drop policy it does mean that you need a lawyer to fight the charges. Having stated all of this, I agree that it is always better if the alleged victim is on your side and not clamoring for you to be locked up in jail.
What if they don’t show up for court?
It depends. A person who is not subpoenaed for court has no obligation to be there. If the prosecution does not have a necessary witness they may not be able to proceed. The case might be dismissed; or it might be continued. However, a witness is not allowed to intentionally avoid being served with a subpoena. On the other hand they do not have to volunteer for one either. This is a complex area of the law and the answer will depend on the facts and circumstances. If a witness is properly subpoenaed for court and they do no attend they could be facing criminal penalties including contempt of court and/or a material witness warrant. One thing a person can never do is threaten or instruct another person not to go to court. That is called dissuading or preventing a witness from testifying. It can result in a felony charge. See, NRS 199.230.
Is there a spousal privilege to refuse to testify?
There is no spousal privilege not to testify against a family member in a domestic violence case. See, NRS 49.295(2)(e).
WHAT WILL I DO FOR YOU?
Let me tell you something; hiring an attorney is not like buying a television set or a car. Attorneys are not all the same. When you hire me this is what I will do for you: I will meet with you in person as many times as needed. You will talk to me personally. We can talk on the phone, in person, thru e-mail or by skype or facetime. I will go to court and plead not guilty for you. I will obtain all police reports, discovery, arrest reports photographs and recordings. I will subpoena evidence such as surveillance videos and medical records as needed. I will subpoena witnesses for the defense to come to court. Together we will formulate a strategy to fight the charges. I will prepare cross examination of the witnesses. I will prepare you to testify if you decide to testify. I will file all necessary motions and attend all hearings. I will always show up prepared. If you end up taking a plea deal I will be ready at your sentencing with mitigating evidence on your behalf. I will appear at all your status checks. I will always be on your side. Once you hire me you will know what to expect. The real question here is how can you afford to go to court without the right representation? I know that many people cannot afford their own lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer the court will appoint you a public defender. Unfortunately the court will not usually appoint a public defender until a person is already in jail and is taken to court in custody. This means that if you have not been arrested but the police want to interview you; or if you have a warrant out for your arrest or even if you are sitting in jail and waiting to go to court you will usually not have access to an attorney unless you hire your own. I always advise that if the police want to talk to you about a crime get a lawyer immediately. The police are professionals. They know how to get admissions out of people so they can close their case. The number one way police prove their case is because someone made an incriminating statement, an admission. People often do not realize what they say has hurt their case until after it is too late.
WHAT DEFENSES ARE AVAILABLE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES?
I didn’t do it. A Defendant does not have to prove that he did not commit a battery. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant did commit a battery, that it was not legally justified, that it was a domestic relationship, and that it occurred in the jurisdiction. If they can’t prove all of that, then they lose. To properly defend the case it is important to properly evaluate and attack the credibility and reliability of the prosecution witnesses. This is why an experienced attorney is vital to your case.
The prosecution can’t prove it: This can happen for many reasons. They may not be able to secure the testimony of a necessary witness. The evidence may be corrupted, suppressed because it was not taken legally, lost or be inconclusive. However, if you do not hire a lawyer, plead not guilty and set the case for trial; then you may never find out that the prosecution cannot prove their case.
The following are affirmative defenses. This means that force was used, but it was legally justified and therefore the Defendant is not guilty. Once an affirmative defense is properly raised It is the burden of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the battery was not legally justified:
Self Defense: A person is allowed to use reasonable force to defend himself. A person using this defense must assert that he or she is in imminent fear of bodily injury and that this fear was justified. This is evaluated on a case by case basis. Some of the factors may include whether the Defendant knew the other person had been violent in the past, whether the accused was injured, disabled, weaker or smaller then the other person involved in the fight. I have had many cases where a husband was attacked by his wife and all he did was push her out of the way to get out of the house. This is often a successful use of self defense.
Defense of Others: This applies If you were defending someone else such as a child. Many of the same factors used to evaluate self defense apply here.
Defense of Property: This is a rarely used defense. I once had a case where a husband and wife were in a terrible argument. The husband got drunk and grabbed the wife’s prescription medications and threatened to flush them down the toilet. The wife screamed and pleaded for her husband to return the medications. She needed her medications to live. She also did not think they could be replaced. The wife grabbed a baseball bat, hit her husband (not hard enough to cause serious injuries) and retrieved her prescription medications. The police arrived and the wife was arrested. At trial we successfully argued that she was defending her property and was legally entitled to use reasonable force to do so. She was found not guilty.
If the battery did not occur in the jurisdiction it cannot be prosecuted there.
Not a domestic relationship.
If the offense did not involve a domestic relationship as defined above. However, the prosecution may be able to prosecute for a charge of simple battery not involving a domestic relationship.
Definition of domestic violence
Domestic violence is the non justified use of force or violence (a physical fight) between family members or between people who live together or between people in a dating relationship. It can involve slight force. The Nevada Supreme Court has held that spitting on another person can constitute enough for a battery charge. So can pushing a person or tearing their clothes. It can be between a father and daughter/son, mother and daughter/son, an adult child and elderly parent, but it most often occurs between a man and a woman living together, married or not.
How are charges filed?
The police officers, who respond to the place where the incident occurred must investigate whether or not a crime has been committed.
If the police officers believe that a battery has been committed they must make a police report for the incident. If possible, the officers must also arrest the person who they believe committed the battery within 24 hours of the battery. That person must spend a minimum of 12 hours in jail before he/she can be released.
If the officers are not able to arrest the person within 24 hours (because they cannot find the person), they must submit appropriate paperwork to the LVMPD Domestic Violence Unit. Detectives review the reports and evidence and may submit the case for possible prosecution.
Other police reports such as; violation of protective orders, destruction of private property, stalking or harassment, may also be submitted to the LVMPD Domestic Violence detectives for evidence review and possible prosecution.
Misdemeanor or felony
Generally, if the battery did not involve a weapon (such as a knife or gun) or the injuries did not result in permanent physical damage or involve strangulation then the crime is classified as a misdemeanor. The maximum possible penalty for a misdemeanor is $1,000.00 fine and/or 180 days in jail.
Misdemeanors that occur within the city of Las Vegas are prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office.
Batteries with weapons or serious injury or strangulation are felonies. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office, prosecutes all felony cases and any misdemeanor cases that occur outside of the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite.
The Court Process
Arraignment: When a criminal complaint has been filed against the defendant, he/she is ordered to go to court. He/she will be informed of the charges against him/her and must enter a plea of either “Guilty,” “No Contest” (“Nolo Contendere”) or “Not Guilty.”
At trial the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing the crime with which he/she is charged. This evidence may include the testimony of the complaining witness, testimony of independent witnesses including police officers as well as photographs, medical records and 911 tapes.
The defendant may present evidence at trial. However the Defendant is not obligated to testify or to present any evidence. It is the prosecution burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense is not obligated to prove anything. The judge will hear the evidence and then decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty of battery domestic violence, the judge will decide the appropriate sentence within the guidelines established by Nevada Revised Statute (NRS). The sentence will include jail time, community service, fines and counseling.
The sentencing guidelines are also broken into levels for first and second domestic violence offenses being misdemeanors, while third or more offenses are felonies.
PENALTIES FOR BATTERY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
A “first offense” Domestic Battery is a misdemeanor. • A person convicted of first offense Domestic Battery must be sentenced to:  serve a jail term of at least 2 days, but not more than 6 months;  perform community service of at least 48 hours, but not more than 120 hours;  pay a fine of at least $200.00, but not more than $1,000.00; and  participate in counseling sessions of at least 1 1/2 hours per week for at least 6 months, but not more than 12 months, at his own expense. A person convicted of first offense Domestic Battery must also pay:  an administrative assessment of not more than $115.00;  a court facility fee of $10.00; and  a special court programs fee of $7.00. ________ If a person is charged with and convicted of two Domestic Batteries committed within a seven-year period, one of these convictions may be treated as a “second offense” Domestic Battery. A “second offense” Domestic Battery is a misdemeanor. • A person convicted of second offense Domestic Battery must be sentenced to:  serve a jail term of at least 10 days, but not more than 6 months;  perform community service of at least 100 hours, but not more than 200 hours;  pay a fine of at least $500.00, but not more than $1,000.00; and  participate in counseling sessions of at least 1 1/2 hours per week for 12 months at his own expense. • A person convicted of second offense Domestic Battery must also pay:  an administrative assessment of $115.00;  a court facility fee of $10.00; and  a special court programs fee of $7.00. ________ If a person is charged with and convicted of three or more Domestic Batteries committed within a seven-year period, one of these convictions may be treated as a “felony” Domestic Battery. A “felony” Domestic Battery is a category C felony. • A person convicted of felony Domestic Battery is not eligible for probation, and is subject to be sentenced to:  serve a prison term of at least 1 year, but not more than 5 years; and  pay a fine of at not more than $10,000.00. • I can be charged with and convicted of felony Domestic Battery even if all prior judgments of conviction were entered as first offense Domestic Battery. ________ Every person convicted of first offense, second offense or felony Domestic Battery must pay a domestic violence programs fee of $35.00. ________ I may be ordered to pay restitution in this case. D. Other Consequences of Conviction. The following other consequences of conviction exist. ________ A conviction, and any other prior conviction from this or any other state which prohibits the same or similar conduct, may be used to enhance the penalty for a subsequent conviction. ________ If I am convicted of “first offense,” “second offense” or “felony” Domestic Battery, my possession, shipment, transportation or receipt of a firearm or ammunition may constitute a felony pursuant to NRS 202.360 or federal law. ________ If I am convicted of “first offense,” “second offense” or “felony” Domestic Battery at a time when I was not a U.S. citizen, I may be removed, deported or excluded from entry into the United States, or denied naturalization, in addition to other consequences defined in the federal law. ________ If I am convicted of “first offense,” “second offense” or “felony” Domestic Battery, the judge may order me to participate in an alcohol or drug treatment program at my expense. ________ If I am convicted of “first offense,” “second offense” or “felony” Domestic Battery, and it appears that a child under the age of 18 years may need counseling as a result of the Domestic Battery, the judge may refer the child to an agency which provides protective services. The judge will require me to reimburse the agency for the costs of any services provided to the extent of my ability to pay for them.
Here are some examples of a real case I handled:
I once had a case where a husband and wife were in a terrible argument. The husband got drunk and grabbed the wife’s prescription medications and threatened to flush them down the toilet. The wife screamed and pleaded for her husband to return the medications. She needed her medications to live. She also did not think they could be replaced. The wife grabbed a baseball bat, hit her husband (not hard enough to cause serious injuries) and retrieved her prescription medications. The police arrived and the wife was arrested. At trial we successfully argued that she was defending her property and was legally entitled to use reasonable force to do so. She was found not guilty.