How Parole Works and How to Avoid Violations

Parole Violations

Guest contributor, Houston criminal defense lawyer Greg Tsioros, discusses parole and how to avoid parole violations.

Parole is the term used to describe the release of an inmate from prison before the end of his or her sentence is complete. It’s a conditional release that requires the prisoner, or parolee, to live by certain rules for the remaining sentence term. If a parolee violates the established rules, or conditions of parole, he or she returns to prison.

Texas law says that certain individuals aren’t eligible for parole. For instance, if the inmate committed an extremely violent crime like murder, felony sexual assault, or sex crimes involving children, or repeated crimes, he or she may be ineligible. However, after many inmates are in prison for a certain amount of time, they may have a right to a parole hearing under the law.

An inmate’s eligibility for parole is dependent on several factors, such as the year in which the offender committed the crime, if the offense happened in a drug-free zone, or if a violent crime was involved. In most cases, the offender is eligible when the time served plus good conduct is equal to 25 percent of the original sentence.

What is a Parole Hearing in Texas?

Real life is different from what you may have learned about parole on television shows and movies. Parole hearings in Texas are difficult. Here are several things you should know about parole in Texas:

• Approximately six months before the inmate is eligible for parole (the first time), his or her case is marked for review. At that time, the offender is notified of the parole review. The file is shared with the parole board and he or she is interviewed.

• Victims, if any, are notified of the upcoming parole review. They may submit statements to the Parole Board.

• Inmates don’t have the right to appear before the voting panel while the parole review is in process. Most inmates never see a commissioner or board member unless he or she has been in prison for 20-plus years.

• The Parole Board reaches a decision. Three members vote and two of the three members must vote “yes” to approve the offender’s parole.

• A Parole Board vote isn’t always an approve/deny situation. The board could consider as many as 11 variables plus required conditions, such as therapy, life skill testing, drug or alcohol addiction rehabilitation programs, educational courses, programs for sex offenders, and others.

• The Parole Board is required to notify the inmate of its decision, but it isn’t required to provide specifics about a denial. It may elect to use a boilerplate form to deny the inmate parole.

• A prior failed probation or parole might affect the board’s vote. In that event, it’s really important to consult an experienced Texas probation attorney.

How Does Parole Work in Texas?

Parole is granted by the Parole Board in Texas. If the offender is granted parole, he or she will enjoy relative freedom in exchange for adhering to specific conditions such as:

• Maintain a residence and a job

• Avoid new criminal activity and attempts to contact victims

• Avoid drugs and/or alcohol

• Stay within a certain location: don’t leave the area without the parole officer’s permission

The parolee has a parole officer. He or she meets with the parole officer on a regular schedule. The parole officer may visit unannounced to check the parolee’s home environment. The goal of a surprise visit is to determine if the parolee is adhering to parole conditions. An unannounced visit also allows the parole officer to see whether the parolee is violating certain conditions, such as alcohol or drug use.

A parole period typically runs the span of the remainder of the prison sentence the offender didn’t spend in prison. Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule. Good conduct time isn’t guaranteed. Certain serious offenses require that the offender serves the full prison sentence behind bars.

Let’s consider George’s case. George committed a non-violent white-collar crime. If George’s original prison sentence was 10 years but he is granted the privilege of parole after serving eight years, his parole term will usually be two years. After George successfully completes his parole, he’s released from official custody.

What Are the Statistics on Approval/Denial of Parole in Texas?

According to the Texas Board of Paroles and Pardons Annual Statistical Report (2012), the Board considered:

• 11,342 Violent Aggravated Non-Sexual criminal offenders with a 35.4 percent approval rate (4,017 individuals)

• 4,387 Violent Aggravated Sexual criminal offenders with a 48.5 percent approval rate (2,127 individuals)

• 14,836 Violent Non-Aggravated Non-Sexual criminal offenders with a 28.5 percent approval rate (4,221 individuals)

• 2,801 Non-Aggravated Sexual criminal offenders with a 32.7 percent approval rate (915 individuals)

• 47,278 Non-Violent criminal offenders with a 39 percent approval rate (18,415 individuals)

The average parole approval rate was 36.8 percent. Parole approval rates have been trending up in Texas over the past 15 years. However, some members of the board routinely deny more cases than they approve. For example, one of the board members has an approximate 73 percent denial rate. In contrast, a fellow board member approves prospective parolees more than 94 percent of the time.

How Does a Lawyer Help in the Parole Process?

If you or someone you love is eligible for parole in the near future, an experienced parole attorney can make a difference in the outcome. The parole attorney will encourage board members to review the client’s file.

Because the attorney knows what parole boards are looking for as they review a parole decision, he provides:

  1. Statements from former employers that showcase the offender’s skills
  2. Statements from family members who pledge support for the offender’s future well-being
  3. Provide statements from psychologists and physicians who believe that the offender is both ready and willing to re-enter society as a peaceful citizen
  4. Highlights the inmate’s good behavior in prison

In addition, a skillful parole attorney will work to bright to light extenuating circumstances if they exist.

Consider that there really are two sides to each story. Each eligible offender has a story that the Parole Board members should hear. A knowledgeable parole attorney will ensure that the client’s story is told.

It’s important to understand that taking these steps can’t guarantee that the Parole Board will grant parole. However, taking these steps will improve the offender’s chance of a favorable outcome. The parole attorney will present a case that demonstrates the offender is a good candidate for the privilege of parole.

For these reasons, if you’re facing a criminal charge, it’s important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your criminal defense attorney will help you navigate the complicated Texas criminal justice system and do everything possible to improve your potential for a positive outcome.

If you’ve already been convicted, recognize you may be eligible for parole in the future. The sooner you connect with an experienced criminal defense firm, the sooner you’ll have an advocate to work on your behalf.

About the Author

Greg Tsioros

Houston criminal defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature – from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges.

The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
www.txcrimdefense.com
1201 S. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77019
Phone: (832) 752-5972

Marijuana Legalization on Ballot in Nevada

In November 2000, Nevada voters approved Question 9, which amended the state constitution to recognize the medical use of marijuana. On Tuesday, voters in the Silver State will decide whether to legalize recreational use of cannabis as well.

The Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, better known as Question 2, would let adults 21 years of age or older legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of marijuana concentrates. Nevada is one of five states in the country to have recreational cannabis measures on the ballot.

If the initiative passes, it is likely that marijuana would not become as available as alcohol until January 1, 2018. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the 2017 Legislature would still be able to “make amendments and clarify technicalities” with the bill.

Legalized recreational use of cannabis in Nevada would not come without some limitations. Adults would only be able to consume marijuana on private property, as any public use of cannabis is punishable by a $600 fine. Additionally, people would only be able to grow as many as six plants for personal use if they live more than 25 miles from a medical marijuana facility.

According to the Sun, only Carson City and four Nevada counties currently allow for medical marijuana dispensaries, as the other dozen counties have banned them. Counties and local municipalities would have the right to vote on whether to allow recreational marijuana facilities, but they would not be able to completely ban recreational cannabis use.

Whether the measure will pass remains unclear. An October 26 KNTV/Rasmussen Poll showed 53 percent of Nevada residents were in favor of Question 2, but Anthony Williams, special projects director of poling company Bendixen & Amandi International, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that supporters “would really want to have 55 to 60 percent support” in order to feel confident. “These things always tend to leak oil heading into the end,” Williams said.

Criminal Defense Attorney for Marijuana Crimes in Las Vegas, NV

Question 2, if passed, would remove all legal penalties for adults 21 years of age or older who allegedly possess one ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of concentrated marijuana. The same criminal penalties would apply for alleged offenders who possess more than one ounce of cannabis.

Under current state law, simple possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor for first and second offenses, a gross misdemeanor for third offenses, and a category E felony for fourth or subsequent offenses. Convictions result in possible incarceration and steadily increasing fines.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, marijuana-related charges in Colorado (not including Denver) decreased by 80 percent between 2010 and 2014, with an “overwhelming majority” of the decrease coming in the aftermath of Amendment 64, the 2012 constitutional amendment allowed for the personal possession, cultivation, and private use of marijuana for people over 21 years of age. Colorado Judicial Branch data showed the following statistics for marijuana charges in Colorado courts (which does not include possession data for Denver because of differences between local ordinances and State Criminal Code):

Year Possession Distribution Cultivation Total
2010 8,736 1,077 423 10,236
2011 8,501 987 415 9,903
2012 8,978 930 419 10,327
2013 2,739 553 144 3,436
2014 1,922 23 91 2,036

If Nevada were to legalize recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, countless people could be spared the many serious consequences that come with being convicted of these kinds of offenses. People who are arrested for any kind of marijuana-related crime in the Silver State should be sure to immediately contact a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer for help possibly getting the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Nevada Enacts New Sex Offender Tiers

gavel and open book, shallow dof

On July 1, 2016 Assembly Bill 579 (AB 579), the Nevada legislation which changes sex offender classification and registration requirements consistent with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, becomes effective.

The Adam Walsh Act classifies individuals convicted of certain sex crimes into three tiers and assigns registration frequency and public notification requirements according to tier. Nevada is one of the 17 states, 3 territories, and 63 tribes that enacted sex offender registration statutes that align with the Adam Walsh Act.

Under existing state law, sex offender classification was determined based on subjective criteria, including the offender’s likelihood to reoffend. Effective July 1st, sex offender tier or classification will be determined based on age of the victim and criminal conviction.

Tier Designation Under the New Nevada Sex Offender Law

Under AB 579, offenders will be classified into the following tiers:

Tier I Offender– An individual is considered a tier I offender if he or she has been convicted of a crime against a child or a sex offender other than a tier II or tier II offender.

Tier II Offender– An individual is considered a tier II offender if he or she has been convicted of the following:

  • Luring a child, if punishable as a felony
  • Abuse of a child, if the abuse involved sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
  • An offense involving pandering or prostitution of a child
  • Any offense involving pornography and a minor
  • Any sexual offense or crime against a child after the person becomes a Tier I offender.

Tier III Offender– An individual is considered a tier III offender if he or she has been convicted of the following:

  • Murder of the first degree committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sexual molestation of a child less than 14 years of age
  • Sexual assault
  • Battery with the intent to commit sexual assault
  • Abuse of a child, if the abuse involved sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child less than 13 years of age
  • Kidnapping, if the victim is less than 18 years of age (unless offender is the parent of the victim)
  • Any sexual offense or crime against a child after the person becomes a Tier II offender.

Important Changes in the Nevada Sex Offender Law

In addition to the tier system, the new legislation implements the several changes. The chart below explains critical differences between the existing law and AB 579.

Existing State Law New State Law Under AB 579
1.       All sex offender convicted of a crime against a child must register with law enforcement. 1.       Each sex offender must register before release from imprisonment. If no imprisonment, the offender must register within 3 days of sentencing.
2.       Offender must register in person. 2. Offender must register in person and update certain information, including residence, employment, and school, whenever there is a change.
3.       Offender must mail verification each year to the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History to verify the information in registration record.      3.   Annual requirement to register is removed. Rather sex offender must register every 90 days, 180 days, or 1 year depending on tier classification.
      4.   Under certain circumstances, an offender may petition for termination of registration requirements.      4. An offender may terminate to have registration requirements terminated after 15 or 25 years depending on tier classification.
       5. Designation of sex offender as Tier I, Tier II, or Tier III is based on several subjective factors, including an assessment addressing the offender’s likelihood to reoffend.    5. Tier designation depends on criminal conviction and age of the victim.
     6. Community notification requirements depend on tier level. 6. All sex offenders convicted of a crime against a child must comply with community notification requirements regardless of tier level.

 

Potential Impact of the New Sex Offender Registration Law

The chart above does not list all the changes and contents of Assembly Bill 579. If you have been charged or convicted of a sex crime, including sexual assault, lewdness with a child (child molestation), child pornography, or failure to register as a sex offender, it is important to consult an experienced sex crime defense attorney immediately to discuss how the new law affects you.

Jeffery Jaeger of The Law Office of Jeffery Jaeger is an experienced Las Vegas sex crime defense attorney.  He has the knowledge and experience to fully explain your legal options and prepare the best defense possible on your behalf. Attorney  Jeffery Jaeger diligently defends individuals accused of sex crimes throughout Clark County, including Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, and surrounding areas.

Contact The Law Office of Jeffery Jaeger at (702) 816-3888 to schedule a free confidential consultation.

Nevada Grand Jury Indicts Man for Wire Fraud, Identity Theft, and Money Laundering

online crime with handcuffs

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Public Affairs issued a press release on March 10 indicating a Nevada grand jury indicted a 37-year-old man living in Las Vegas for withdrawing money from the bank accounts of hundreds of thousands of victims without authorization. The offender was charged in a 39-count indictment with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.

The indictment stated that between 2008 and 2013, the offender operated a third-party payment processing company in which the man specialized in the creation and deposit of unsigned remotely created checks (RCCs). In January 2013, the offender allegedly created the facade that he was operating an Internet merchant business matching consumers with online payday loans. Over the course of six months, he allegedly deposited hundreds of thousands of RCCs for $30 each, all stating that the account holder had authorized a payment, to his company.

The indictment alleged that the man debited the accounts of victims who had never visited his websites, never requested any service, and never authorized any payment. The release stated that the offender also debited over a hundred thousand accounts that had previously been debited by his prior merchants, and then created and deposited hundreds of thousands of additional, repeat charges against accounts he had already charged when he ran out of unique accounts to charge.

By July 2013, the man allegedly created and deposited more than 750,000 RCCs totaling over $22 million. According to the release, approximately 50 percent of the RCCs were returned by the account holders’ banks.

Federal charges are always serious, as prosecutors in these cases have significantly more resources than their state or local counterparts. Additionally, convictions for federal fraud crimes carry severe penalties. The criminal charges involved in this DOJ case are punishable as follows under federal law:

  • Fraud by wire, radio, or television, 18 U.S. Code § 1343 — Up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 (or $500,000 for organizations), If the victim was a financial institution or the offense was committed in relation to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency, offenses are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
  • Aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S. Code § 1028A — Up to two years in prison, although offenses committed in connection with acts of terrorism are punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • Laundering of monetary instruments, 18 U.S. Code § 1956 — Up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved in the offense.

If you suspect that you are the target of a criminal investigation or you have already been arrested for any type of alleged fraud offense, you should not say anything to authorities without first obtaining legal representation. A Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer can make sure that your rights are protected.

Common standards and practices play an important role in these cases, and an attorney can investigate to determine whether any evidence was illegally obtained and should be suppressed.

More Police Likely to Lead to More Arrests

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The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on March 9 that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) would be asking its plain-clothed officers and detectives to begin working two-week patrol duties as part of an effort to address a spike in violent crime in the valley this year. The Clark County Commission voted in September to enact a More Cops sales tax increase that would pay to put more police officers on the streets in 2016.

The 0.05-percentage point increase that boosted the county’s sales tax rate from 8.1 percent to 8.15 took effect on January 1. LVMPD spokesman Larry Hadfield told the RJ that the patrol initiative would bridge the gap while new cops are hired and only last “until patrol areas start being replenished.”

“What we found is that, you know, when we put more police cars in communities, that has a positive effect as far [as] deterring crime,” Hadfield told KLAS Channel 8. “What we’re doing, and what the department is doing is putting more cops in and on the streets in uniforms.”

According to the RJ, the LVMPD has seen the following year-to-date increases in violent crimes in 2016 compared to 2015:

  • 9 percent more homicides;
  • 3 percent more sexual assault cases;
  • 86 percent more assault and battery cases; and
  • 25 percent more robbery cases.

More police will inevitably mean more arrests. The focus on reducing the number of violent crimes will not only put pressure on officers to place more people into custody, but prosecutors may also use news stories about these increases to convince judges impose harsh sentences.

When a person is accused of a violent crime in Las Vegas, it is often a felony offense subject to stiff penalties. Prosecutors will stress that people accused of these crimes are dangers to the community that need to be incarcerated for the safety of the general public.

In addition to the offenses listed above, other common crimes of violence in Nevada include:

  • Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter;
  • Kidnapping;
  • False imprisonment; and
  • Reckless endangerment.

If you have been arrested or suspect that you might be under investigation for a violent crime, you should contact a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to review all of your legal options. In some cases, police arrest the wrong person in response to the pressure to resolve an open case.

A lawyer can conduct a full investigation and uncover possible flaws in the prosecution’s evidence. Any errors made by authorities may lead to criminal charges being reduced or dismissed.

Substantial Bodily Harm Usually Equals Substantial Penalties

gavel and open book, shallow dof

A 51-year-old man was arrested on 10 counts of driving under the influence (DUI) after he allegedly swerved his car into a shuttle bus, causing it to overturn on Interstate 15 on March 12. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that 12 people were injured, one of them critically.
The Nevada Highway Patrol told the RJ that the man was booked on 10 counts of DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm. He also faces one count each of reckless driving, failure to maintain a lane, having an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and failure to wear a seat belt.

First and second DUI offenses are typically misdemeanors, but these charges become felony offenses if death or substantial bodily harm results from a motorist being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. A DUI causing death or substantial bodily harm is a category B felony punishable by a minimum of two years up to 20 years in prison and a fine of at least $2,000 up to $5,000.

The definition of death is fairly clear cut, but substantial bodily harm remains a term that can often be in dispute. “Unless the context otherwise requires,” Nevada Revised Statute 0.060 defines substantial bodily harm as “bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ” or “prolonged physical pain.”

Court decisions have been fairly liberal in their acceptance of the definition. In the case of Brooks v. Sheriff, a man was charged with burglary and battery with intent to commit rape. At that time, battery with intent to commit rape was punishable by life in prison if the offense resulted in substantial physical injury to the victim.

The offender in this case appealed his conviction on the basis that the victim’s injuries “were trivial, and only amounted to ‘simple battery’ because there was no showing of the ‘substantial physical injury.’” The victim described her injuries as a cut on the left side of her forehead, swollen eyes, and a swollen head. A magistrate concluded there was sufficient probable cause to show “substantial bodily injury.”

In 1973, the Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed the ruling of the lower court, concluding:

Substantial physical injury is a question of degree to be determined from the evidence by the trier of fact. Although some physical injuries are unquestionably substantial and others trivial here the “evidence supports a reasonable inference that the victim sustained a `serious physical injury,’ and satisfies the quantum of proof necessary to allow the magistrate to order that the accused be held for trial in the district court.”

In the case of Levi v. State, John Neil Levi was convicted of child abuse resulting in substantial bodily harm after Levi willfully held his eight-year-old son over burning papers causing first and second degree burns to the boy’s stomach and hand. Levi claimed the state failed to prove that the burns constituted substantial bodily harm and sought to have his felony conviction modified to that of a gross misdemeanor.

In 1979, the Supreme Court of Nevada again affirmed the decision of the lower court, noting:

Although it is true that the burns to the boy’s stomach and hand did not create a substantial risk of death, protracted loss or impairment of a bodily member or organ, or prolonged physical pain, there was sufficient evidence offered to enable the jury to find a serious permanent disfigurement. Indeed, a doctor testified that the disfigurement was permanent, and could be cosmetically serious, if not functionally so. In our view, the phrase, “serious permanent disfigurement,” includes cosmetic disfigurement as well as an injury that is functionally disabling. The child did not want the jurors to see his burned stomach because it was different. The damage apparently was serious in his mind. He was permanently scarred because of pigment loss. It was the jury’s province to determine whether the harm was serious as well as permanent. Gibson v. State, 95 Nev. 99, 590 P.2d 158 (1979). We perceive no error in its determination.

A multitude of factors are considered when a court determines whether a victim has suffered substantial bodily harm. If you are facing a charge of DUI that resulted in death or substantial bodily harm, you will want to make sure that you speak to a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so you can fully understand your legal options.

In addition to challenging the application of the definition of substantial bodily harm, a lawyer can also investigate the underlying DUI offense. Any police errors in the administration of chemical testing or violations of a motorist’s constitutional rights can lead to evidence being inadmissible and make it much more difficult for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction.

Understanding the Limits of Protection Orders

young couple on sofa with problems

Courts in Clark County may issue orders of protection (frequently called restraining orders) against domestic violence, from harm to children, against sexual assault, from workplace harassment, or from stalking, aggravated stalking, or harassment. For any type of protective order, a judge will review a victim’s application for an order of protection before signing a Temporary Protection Order (TPO).

A TPO typically lasts 30 days from the date it is served on the offender (referred to as the adverse party). A restraining order does not become valid, however, until it has been served on the offender.

This timing proved to be a sad element of a recent story that ended in tragedy. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on March 12 that a 29-year-old woman was shot and killed by her 29-year-old boyfriend only hours after a judge granted the mother of two a TPO. The man ended up shooting himself afterward.

According to the RJ, authorities had not yet served the man with a copy of the TPO. Protection orders must be served to adverse parties by law enforcement. When this incident occurred, the order had not been served before the business day came to a close even though the paperwork had been processed.

The RJ noted that it was not clear in this case whether the offender knew that he was going to be served with a TPO, but it was just as uncertain as to whether being served the order would have prevented the murder-suicide. Restraining orders establish certain limits on the rights of adverse parties, including prohibiting any contact with victims, inability to return to shared homes, and/or possible loss of the right to possess or own firearms.

Judges are usually much more likely to err on the side of caution and issue TPOs out of concern for the safety of the applicants. This recent story will weigh heavily on the minds of judges in Nevada who do not want to risk denying protection for victims whose lives may be in danger.

A violation of a TPO in Nevada is a gross misdemeanor, a violation of an extended protection order is a category C felony. An offender can also face additional criminal charges if the act that violated the restraining order was a criminal offense itself.

If you have been served a TPO in the Las Vegas area, you have the opportunity to present your side of the story at a protection order hearing. When victims seek extended protection orders, both sides will appear before a judge who then decides whether to grant the extended order.

When a judge grants an order of protection, the adverse party can file a Motion to Dissolve the protection order, a Motion to Modify the protection order, or file an appeal to District Court if an extended order of protection is issued. If the offender does not attend the protection order hearing, then the judge will find in the applicant’s favor and grant the restraining order.

Do not take a protective order hearing lightly. It is in your best interest to seek the help of a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney who can fight to protect your rights and present the best possible case in court.

‘Pawn Stars’ Fan Favorite Arrested After Search of Home

chumlee

Austin Lee Russell, better known as the cast member “Chumlee” on the History Channel reality television show “Pawn Stars,” was arrested on 20 felony weapon and drug charges following a search of his home on March 9. USA Today reported that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) were investigating an accusation of sexual assault made by a woman against the 33-year-old reality TV star.

According to the Associated Press, police seized a dozen different guns, methamphetamine, various drug paraphernalia, and nearly 5 total ounces of marijuana. Russell was arrested on 19 charges relating to possession of a controlled substance and one charge of possession of a firearm by a person using or under the influence of a controlled substance.

USA Today reported that Russell was initially reluctant to open a large vault on the ground floor for the police because he said there were “private things” inside before telling police that he had guns and marijuana “for his personal use” because he smoked “a lot of weed.” Russell eventually opened the vault after police explained that the search warrant covered the vault, leading police to conclude that the possession of a gun by a user or addict of a controlled substance provided probable cause to seize all the guns and drugs.

When police officers want to search your home, you should not consent to the search until authorities have obtained a warrant. However, you must comply with a valid search warrant. Even when officers do have a warrant, you should seek legal representation to ensure that police do not exceed the scope of the powers authorized under the warrant.

Nevada Revised Statute 179.055 authorizes police officers to break open doors or windows to execute warrants when—after notice of authority and purpose—they are refused admittance. Search warrants are issued based on affidavits or oral statements that specify the types of evidence police want to search for and the places they want to search.

While the Fourth Amendment generally protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures, the United States Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Fernandez v. California essentially created a loophole under which police can search homes without a warrant when the occupants are not present to object to the search.

In Fernandez v. California, Walter Fernandez told Los Angeles police that they could not search his apartment without a warrant, but police removed him from the apartment and arrested him after suspecting he had assaulted the battered woman who answered the door. When police returned later, they persuaded the woman—whom Fernandez lived with—to let them look around the apartment.

The police found several items linking Fernandez to a violent robbery, and he was convicted of the offense after the trial court denied his motion to suppress the evidence. The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to affirm the decisions of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent:

The Fourth Amendment guarantees to the people “[t]he right . . . to be secure in their . . . houses . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Warrants to search premises, the Amendment further instructs, shall issue only when authorized by a neutral magistrate upon a showing of “probable cause” to believe criminal activity has occurred or is afoot. This Court has read these complementary provisions to convey that, “whenever practicable, [the police must] obtain advance judicial approval of searches and seizures through the warrant procedure.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 20 (1968). The warrant requirement, Justice Jackson observed, ranks among the “fundamental distinctions between our form of government, where officers are under the law, and the policestate where they are the law.” Johnson v. United States, 333 U. S. 10, 17 (1948). The Court has accordingly declared warrantless searches, in the main, “per se unreasonable.” Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U. S. 385, 390 (1978) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U. S. 551, 559 (2004). If this main rule is to remain hardy, the Court has explained, exceptions to the warrant requirement must be “few in number and carefully delineated.” United States v. United States Dist. Court for Eastern Dist. of Mich., 407 U. S. 297, 318 (1972); see Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 31 (2001).

Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement, today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate. Suppressing the warrant requirement, the Court shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U. S. 103 (2006), that “a physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” id., at 122–123.

If you are facing any kind of criminal charges following a search of your property, you should immediately contact a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can investigate your case and determine whether police may have violated the terms of their warrant.

When authorities search in areas or for items not specified in a warrant, obtain warrants without probable cause, or use otherwise invalid warrants, the evidence that was seized may be inadmissible. This can leave prosecutors with a weakened case, which can lead to criminal charges being reduced or dismissed.

Don’t Count on Saint Patrick’s Blessings to Avoid DUI Arrest

Sobriety Checkpoint

With St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, residents and tourists in Las Vegas can count on many traditions associated with the celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. People will wear green, partake in corned beef and cabbage, and enjoy Irish music at any one of the number of celebrations around the city.

Thursday also marks the first day of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (more commonly known as “March Madness”). The consumption of alcohol will undoubtedly accompany the festivities.

Last year, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) said that it arrested 30 people for driving under the influence (DUI) at a St. Patrick’s Day sobriety checkpoint. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the LVMPD said that 88 of the more than 2,000 motorists that passed through the checkpoint were tested for impaired driving.

The LVMPD announced that its Traffic Bureau along with officers from the area commands will be conducting a “Sobriety Saturation” event on St. Patricks’ Day from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. with saturation units throughout the valley. As the nonprofit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) noted, people should count on a designated driver (DD)—not luck—for St. Patrick’s Day. People would also be wise to make use of one of the 38 routes operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC).

If you do happen to be stopped on the road for suspected drunk driving in Clark County, do not assume that the recent changes to DUI testing under Nevada Assembly Bill 67 (AB67) will necessarily guarantee that you can refuse to submit to a breath or blood test. Law enforcement will have judges on call throughout the day for the purpose of issuing warrants or court orders directing that reasonable force be used to obtain blood samples.

The authorization of judges helps police get around the murky Fourth Amendment issues that arose under Nevada’s old system of allowing authorities to use reasonable force whenever they deemed it necessary. Many other jurisdictions around the country use popular drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s Day as reason to establish so-called “No Refusal” weekends in which any motorist stopped for suspected drunk driving will be restrained for a blood test should they refuse to submit to breath testing.

Following the passage of AB67, Nevada Revised Statute 484C.160 now states that when a person fails to submit to a required test as requested by a police officer and the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be tested was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance, the officer may apply for a warrant or court order directing that reasonable force be used to the extent necessary to obtain samples of blood from the person to be tested. This means that a judge or magistrate will provide a warrant via telephone that allows a person to be physically restrained and have blood extracted.

Forced blood draws are incredibly humiliating and physical uncomfortable experiences. The suspected drunk driver may be physically restrained so a needle can be used to collect a blood sample.

Again, the simplest way to avoid this type of scenario is to plan ahead and have a designated driver before drinking any alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day. If you are pulled over and arrested for DUI in Clark County, be sure to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

It is in your best interest to contact a Las Vegas DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible following any drunk driving arrest. An attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest and may be able to use any police errors in the administration of chemical tests as a reason to have the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Las Vegas Sees Increase in Stolen Guns

iStock_000004494041SmallAt a press conference on September 23, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Captain Richard Fletcher said that nearly 1,700 firearms had been reported stolen in the Las Vegas Valley this year. According to KSNV-TV, over 7,400 guns have been reported stolen since 2012.

“If you think you know where to hide your unsecured firearms in your house, so does a bad guy,” Fletcher said. “I don’t know where these guns are going, but we do know that some of these guns are used in crimes, and that’s a problem.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that 49 guns had been reported stolen across the valley in the previous week, and Fletcher said 15 of those were stolen in a single home burglary. The 1,694 firearms reported stolen between January 1 and September 5 means that Las Vegas is on pace to surpass last year’s total of 2,200 firearms stolen from homeowners.

Unlawful possession of a gun can result in very serious criminal charges. Nevada state law imposes harsh penalties on alleged offenders who are convicted of stealing firearms.

Under Nevada Revised Statute § 205.226, any person who intentionally steals, takes, and carries away a firearm owned by another person commits grand larceny of a firearm. This crime is a category B felony punishable by a minimum of one year up to 10 years in state prison as well as possible restitution and a fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, each gun stolen is charged as a separate count of grand larceny of a firearm. This means that if the alleged offender in the home burglary mentioned earlier had been caught, he or she would face 15 counts of this crime.

Alleged offenders can also face increased penalties if they are convicted felons who are prohibited from possessing weapons. This is a separate criminal offense that applies even if the alleged offender’s previous felony conviction was not gun-related.

When you have been accused of stealing a firearm in Nevada, it is in your best interest to consult a lawyer who can examine all of your possible defenses. In some cases, police seize weapons as the result of illegal searches.

Oftentimes the alleged theft is actually a misunderstanding. Some people mistakenly believe they have valid ownership claims while others take firearms by accident with no intention to permanently deprive the owners of possession.

If you have been charged with grand larceny of a firearm or any other weapons crime, you should immediately seek the help of a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney. Strong legal counsel can help you get these types of charges reduced or completely dismissed.