Who prosecutes crime in Nevada?
The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer in Nevada with primary responsibility to ensure that the laws of the state are uniformly and adequately enforced (see NRS chapter 228), while the elected district attorney in each county is the chief law enforcement officer who prosecutes all crimes committed within his or her respective county (see NRS chapter 252). The elected or appointed city attorney prosecutes misdemeanor crimes that occur within the city limits of an incorporated city (NRS 266.470), while the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada represents the United States of America in the prosecution of federal crimes committed in our state.
The term “prosecutor” is used herein for both the Attorney General, district attorneys, city attorneys, and their respective deputies. For further information on the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, please see the U.S. Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nv/.
Is the only responsibility of the prosecutor to convict criminals?
The prosecutor’s primary responsibility is not to win cases but to see that justice is done. Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78 (1935); see also NDAA National Prosecution Standard § 1.1, 2nd Ed. 1991. The prosecutor should at all times be zealous in the need to protect the rights of individuals, but must place the rights of society in a paramount position in exercising prosecutorial discretion. NDAA National Prosecution Standard § 1.3, 2nd Ed. 1991.
How does a prosecutor decide to charge someone with a crime?
The prosecutor shall refrain from prosecuting a charge not supported by probable cause. Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(a). Furthermore, the prosecutor in exercising charging discretion should require sufficient admissible evidence to support a conviction. ABA Prosecution Function Standard § 3-3.9(a); NDAA National Prosecution Standard § 43.6(a), 2nd Ed. 1991.
Does the prosecutor have any responsibility to victims of crime?
Victims of crime have a constitutional right to be:
- Informed, upon written request, of the status or disposition of a criminal proceeding at any stage of the proceeding;
- Present at all public hearings involving the critical stages of a criminal proceeding; and
- Heard at all proceedings for the sentencing or release of a convicted person after trial.
Nevada Constitution Article I, Section 8.
Victims of crime also have statutory rights, which include:
- Right, upon written request, to notice of any release of defendant from pre-trial custody, amount of bail, and disposition of charges [NRS 178.5698];
- Right to secure waiting areas at court separate from those used by jurors, defendants and their families [NRS 178.5696(1)];
- Right to an attendant to provide support in court during testimony [NRS 178.571];
- Right to notice of the date of sentencing [NRS 176.015(4)] and to be heard at sentencing after the defendant and/or his counsel speaks [NRS 176.015(3)];
- Right to notice of the disposition of harassment and stalking cases [NRS 200.601(1)] and a certified copy of any no contact order imposed as a condition of sentencing [NRS 200.601(2)];
- Right to notice within 30 days of the defendant’s conviction under NRS 205.980 and resulting civil liability for damage to the victim’s property [NRS 205.980(3)]; and
- Right, upon written request, to notice of the date of any meeting to consider the defendant for parole and to submit documents and be heard at the meeting [NRS 213.130(4)].
To the extent feasible and when it is deemed appropriate by the prosecutor, the prosecution should provide an orientation to the criminal justice process for victims of crime and should explain prosecutorial decisions . . . and provide certain services. NDAA National Prosecution Standards §§ 26.2-26.3, 2nd Ed. 1991.
There are additional specific statutory rights for victims of certain sexual offenses:
- Certain criminal justice information that reveals the identity of a victim of certain sexual offenses is confidential and can only be disclosed for preparation of the defense absent good cause or waiver by the victim [NRS 200.3771;]
- A victim of certain sexual offenses may, upon written request, choose a pseudonym to be used instead of the victim’s name on all files, records and documents of the case [NRS 200.3772]; and
- A victim of certain sexual offenses has a right to notice of the disposition of the case and to a certified copy of any no contact order imposed as a condition of sentencing [NRS 200.3784].
Does the prosecutor have any responsibility to the defendant?
In order to accord the defendant a fair trial as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, the prosecutor has a duty to provide the defense with evidence that is favorable to an accused if it is material to guilt or punishment (i.e., creates a reasonable doubt that does not otherwise exist). Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); see also Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(d); NDAA National Prosecution Standard § 25.4, 2nd Ed. 1991. The prosecutor shall make reasonable efforts to assure the accused is advised of the right to counsel (i.e., Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)). Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(b).
Does the prosecutor have any responsibility in dealing with the media?
A lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding; . . . Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6(a). The prosecutor should strive to protect the both the rights of the individual accused of a crime and the right of the public to know . . . [and] maintain a relationship to the media that will facilitate the appropriate flow of information to the public. NDAA National Prosecution Standards §§ 33.1-33.2, 2nd Ed. 1991.
What do I do if I am unhappy with a judge or a prosecutor?
The Attorney General and district attorneys are elected public officials, placed in office by the citizens of the state and each county. The Attorney General respects each district attorney's prosecutorial discretion. The most expedient recourse is to complain directly to the district attorney since, as an elected official, he or she has an interest in constituent service.
If you wish to file a complaint against a prosecutor or any public officer or employee (except a judge) regarding an alleged violation of the Nevada Ethics in Government Law (see NRS chapter 281A), please contact the Nevada Commission on Ethics at www.ethics.nv.gov. If you wish to file a complaint against a prosecutor or any lawyer regarding an alleged violation of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct, please contact the State Bar of Nevada at www.nvbar.org.
If you wish to file a complaint against a judge regarding an alleged violation of the Nevada Rules of Judicial Conduct, please contact the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline at www.judicial.state.nv.us.
Who enforces Nevada’s Open Meeting Law?
The Nevada Open Meeting Law was enacted in 1960 to ensure that the actions and deliberations of public bodies be conducted openly (see NRS chapter 241). The Attorney General investigates and prosecutes violations of the Open Meeting Law. For additional guidance, please see the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.state.nv.us.
Do prosecutors have any other responsibilities?
The Attorney General serves as legal counsel to the Executive Branch of Nevada’s state government (NRS 228.110), while the district attorneys serve as legal counsel to their respective counties (see NRS chapter 252) and the city attorneys serve as legal counsel to their respective municipalities (NRS 266.470).