Supreme Court: Jury trial required in first domestic battery cases
A decision issued by the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday will require anyone denying a misdemeanor domestic battery charge receive a jury trial.
The court ruled in the case of a Las Vegas man who was pleaded no contest to domestic battery after being denied a trial by jury.
He appealed to district court, where he was also denied and the appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
The high court ruled that misdemeanor batter constituting domestic batter is a serious offense and that anyone accused has the right to a jury trial.
The court made its ruling based on recent changes the Legislature made to the law which limits the right to bear arms on the part of someone convicted of domestic battery.
Under established law in the U.S. and Nevada constitutions offenses categorized as petty are not covered under the right to a jury trial. Those cases can be heard by the magistrate who can render a verdict.
However, serious cases do require a trial by jury. Because offenses aren’t generally listed as petty or serious in statute, the Supreme Court said that the maximum penalty of incarceration is a determiner.
Any offense with a maximum authorized period of incarceration of six months or less is considered petty.
While the penalty for first offense domestic battery is six months or less, it now carries state penalties, which are more severe.
State law now prohibits possession or control of firearms by someone convicted of domestic violence.
According to the ruling, the federal regulation contained in the Brady Bill restricting possession of a firearm was not a direct consequence of a Nevada conviction.
“Given that the Legislature has indicated that the offense of misdemeanor domestic battery is serious, it follows that one facing the charge is entitled to the right to a jury trial,” the court concluded in a 7-0 decision.
A jury trial is not required if an accused enters a guilty plea to domestic battery.
Under Nevada law, a third domestic battery in seven years is considered a felony.