A Grand Jury recently refused to indict a prominent Las Vegas Construction Defect Attorney for First-Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud. Prosecutors presented evidence to the grand jury that the local attorney and her boyfriend planned her suicide and also planned to burn down her house so that her children could collect her life insurance. The grand jury returned an indictment (called a "True Bill") on a drug-related offense. But, the grand jury declined to issue an indictment (called a "No Bill") on the arson and insurance fraud charges.
In Nevada, First-Degree Arson is willfully setting fire to or burning a person's home or other structure in which they live (i.e. - mobile home, trailer, etc.) Lesser degrees of Arson exist for the willful burning of abandoned structures, personal property, timber, crops or even grass. Whatever the degree, Arson is a serious Felony Offense and can result in a term in the Nevada State Prison, the County Jail and heavy fines and restitution. If a defendant is convicted of Arson, they can be forced to pay the cost of the police and/or fire response to the scene of the fire, the costs of the investigation and prosecution of the offense and court costs.
Fraud is a broad term that includes a range of
theft offenses. In general, fraud means taking someone else's property using a false representation or pretense. In Nevada, fraud is a serious offense. Most fraud crimes are felony offenses, which can carry prison time and heavy fines. They are also considered "crimes of moral turpitude," which means they can affect your ability to pass background checks, obtain or keep employment in certain fields (such as law enforcement, military, real estate and other fields), obtain or keep professional licenses, and/or your immigration status and can have other serious consequences.
Being the subject of a criminal trial for a gross-misdemeanor or felony offense can be embarrassing and potentially damaging to a person's reputation, business and personal life. As a result, our laws provide that prosecutors must present their case for a probable cause hearing prior to holding a defendant for trial on a gross-misdemeanor or felony charge. There are two types of probable cause hearings - preliminary hearings and grand jury hearings.
A preliminary hearing is held in court in front of a judge. The defendant and his attorney are present for the hearing. The prosecutor presents the evidence to the Court, and the defense has the right to cross-examine witnesses and challenge evidence. The proceeding looks much like a trial might, except that the judge (not a jury) makes the finding and the burden of proof is much less (probable cause vs. beyond a reasonable doubt).
A grand jury is a secret proceeding. Neither defendants nor their attorneys are allowed to be present during the presentation of the prosecutions case. The grand jury is comprised of seventeen (17) citizens who hear cases and review evidence to determine probable cause. The prosecution is required to instruct the grand jurors on the law, in addition to presenting evidence. Prior to going to Grand Jury, the prosecution must serve notice to the defendant of their intent to seek an indictment. This is referred to as a Marcum notice. A
Marcum notice advises the defendant of their right to testify before the Grand Jury and/or to request that exculpatory evidence (evidence that benefits the defendant) be presented to the Grand Jury. Once a defendant receives the
Marcum notice, he or she has a very limited time in which to respond and request to testify or present exculpatory evidence.
Whether the case goes to preliminary hearing or grand jury, the burden the government must show is "probable cause." In Nevada, probable cause is defined as "slight or marginal evidence" that a crime was committed and that the accused person committed it.
Whether you are the target of an investigation, have received a Marcum notice or have already been charged, it is critical that you contact a
Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. A Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney can review the facts of your case and give you expert legal advice. If you want to negotiate your charges as quickly and quietly as possible, they can provide you with confidential advice and strategies to assist you in achieving your goal. An experienced and professional Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney can also aggressively protect your rights and provide you with a comprehensive litigation strategy, should you choose to exercise your constitutional right to contest the charge.