Alternative Sentences: Can First-Time Offenders Avoid Jail?
Being arrested doesn’t mean you are guilty or that you will go to jail.
As criminal defense attorneys in Las Vegas, we continually remind clients that there are alternative sentences available to help many of them avoid jail time, especially for first-time, nonviolent offenders.
You may be familiar with some alternative sentences, such as fines, probation and community service. Nevada law also offers first-time offenders alternatives to jail like drug diversion programs, counseling in minor domestic violence cases and DUI classes available after a drunk driving conviction.
Most criminal charges are resolved in plea agreements negotiated with local prosecutors and approved by the courts. In many cases, finding an alternative to incarceration helps the state and society, as well as the defendant. The state and local governments benefit by avoiding the high cost of jailing a person. Prosecutors in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada may agree to alternative sentencing if presented with a reasonable option.
A first-time, nonviolent offender in Las Vegas can go to jail if convicted, but probably won’t if he or she is properly represented by an experienced defense attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Adras & Altig can provide you with effective legal representation with the goal of protecting your liberty.
Types of Alternative Sentencing Options in Nevada
Alternative sentences in Nevada are mostly available to individuals convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors. An alternative sentence is meant to provide the offender with an opportunity to learn from his or her mistake and get back on the right track.
A court may impose one or a combination of the following alternative sentences:
- Fine. A monetary penalty paid to the court.
- Restitution. An offender may be ordered to pay the victim of the crime for their losses.
- Probation. The offender’s conduct is monitored for a period of time through various requirements, such as meeting with a probation officer, or drug or alcohol testing. Probation can be revoked if its requirements are not met.
- Community service. The offender is assigned a certain number of hours they must spend at a task that benefits the community. Court-approved community service may include picking up trash along a highway, cleaning animal shelters, serving food at soup kitchens or other work for a non-profit organization. The Las Vegas Justice Court Community Service Program serves as a placement agency for defendants who are ordered to perform community service as a sentencing option.
- Suspended sentence. A judge may hand down a prison sentence and then order it suspended, meaning it will not be imposed. Some suspended sentences include conditions that the offender must meet, much like probation. A suspended sentence may be activated if the offender is re-arrested within a defined period or fails to meet conditions applied.
- House arrest. In lieu of jail time, an offender may serve his or her sentence at their own home with allowances for going to work. A person under house arrest is electronically monitored 24/7 and subject to unannounced visits by police or probation officers.
- Deferred Adjudication / Pretrial Diversion. Nevada and some local communities, such as Las Vegas, have established programs available to those accused or convicted of certain misdemeanors to allow them to avoid jail. The programs offer defendants the opportunity to show they can act responsibly, complete a defined program and stay out of trouble. Typically, the programs include classes and counseling.
Programs available through Las Vegas Municipal Court include:
- Domestic Violence Program. The program holds offenders accountable for their actions, helps challenge beliefs and attitudes that contribute to violence and provides participants with positive alternatives to violent behavior. For a first-time offender, there are 26 classes over six months. For a repeat offender, there are 52 classes over the course of a year.
- DUI Classes. Classes teach participants to be accountable for their actions, explain Nevada DUI laws and provide information about the effects of substances on a person’s ability to drive. Four two-hour classes or two four-hour classes.
- Drinking Driver Awareness. The focus of this class is reducing drinking and driving behavior by teaching the effects, consequences, and laws associated with driving under the influence. Four hours.
- Substance Abuse. Participants learn about accountability and how to make better decisions about drug and alcohol use so they may achieve a healthier lifestyle. Four two-hour classes or one eight-hour class.
- Impulse Control. Offenders who commit battery against non-family members are taught to be accountable for their actions and are provided positive alternatives to inappropriate and impulsive behavior. Impulse control: four two-hour classes or one eight-hour class.
- Petty Larceny Program. The class teaches the consequences of theft and holds offenders accountable for their actions. Four two-hour classes or one eight-hour class.
- Prostitution Prevention Class. Teaches the legal, social and health ramifications of engaging in prostitution. The goal is to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and to sensitize attendees to the victimization associated with prostitution. One eight-hour class.
- Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving. The class teaches critical thinking related to driving behaviors and attitudes that lead to tickets, accidents and/or arrests. One eight-hour class.
- Repeat Traffic Offender Class. The class reintroduces participants to defensive driving techniques and new driving techniques that will refine collision-prevention skills. One eight-hour class.
Am I Eligible for Alternative Sentencing?
A defendant usually has to ask the judge to be allowed to enter an alternative sentencing program. Alternative sentencing may occur as part of a plea agreement negotiated by your attorney with the understanding that the prosecutor will recommend the agreed-upon alternative sentencing program.
Alternative sentencing programs are available in misdemeanor cases in which no one has been significantly injured, such as:
- Drug possession
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Simple battery
- Domestic violence.
Cases related to drugs or alcohol or domestic violence require an evaluation of your usage of impairing substances or criminal history, which results in a recommendation to the judge about whether you would benefit from the program.
How Can A Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me in Las Vegas?
The bottom line is that many first offenders are eligible for alternative sentencing in Nevada. But you’ll need the help of a knowledgeable attorney. If you have been arrested in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Clark County, you need a reputable Las Vegas criminal defense attorney to negotiate an alternative sentencing recommendation.
The attorneys at Adras & Altig are respected local attorneys who have established professional relationships with local prosecutors. We will work on your behalf to seek a resolution to your case that has the least adverse impact on your life and liberty.
Our attorneys are familiar with local alternative sentencing options and will try to identify one for you that the court would find acceptable.
When you engage Adras & Altig as your Las Vegas criminal defense firm, Paul Adras and Steven Altig will handle your case as a team. They have extensive courtroom experience handling a wide range of cases. Contact us for a free discussion about how we can help you.