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Grand Jury Indicts Fourteen in Largest Methamphetamine Bust in Nevada History

The Clark County Grand Jury indicted fourteen suspects in connection with the largest methamphetamine bust in Nevada history. Last week, a taskforce including local and federal drug enforcement authorities simultaneously executed search warrants on several houses and seized 208 pounds of methamphetamine and 4 pounds of heroin. Clark County prosecutors took the case to the Grand Jury this week, and received indictments for fourteen (14) suspects on drug trafficking charges. When the indictments were returned, Judge Linda Bell set bail at one million dollars for each defendant except one, who was alleged to be the "ring leader." His bail was set at two million dollars.

Drug Trafficking ordinarily makes people think of a group of people or a cartel transporting and distributing large amounts of drugs across international (or at least state) borders. But, in Nevada, a person can be charged with Drug Trafficking for merely possessing more than four (4) grams of a controlled substance. Possession of more than 28 grams (or one ounce) of a controlled substance is considered a "Large" Trafficking and can result in a life sentence.

Prior to holding a defendant for trial on a criminal charge, a prosecutor must first present its case at a probable cause hearing. There are two types of probable cause hearings: Preliminary Hearing and Grand Jury. Preliminary hearings are adversarial proceedings where the defense has the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him and test the prosecutor's evidence. In contrast, Grand jury proceedings are considered "secret" and are not adversarial proceedings. In fact, unless they elect to testify, the defendant and his attorney are not even allowed in the Grand Jury room. It has often been said that "a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich." In many cases, that is not too far from the truth.

In state court, prosecutors must serve the defendant a Marcum notice prior to seeking the indictment. The Marcum notice: (1) informs the defendant of the proceeding; (2) informs him that he may testify if he or she so chooses, and (3) allows him an opportunity to provide exculpatory (or favorable) evidence which the prosecutor is then required to present to the grand jury. However, even if the defendant provides exculpatory evidence, the prosecutor frequently instructs the jury only on the elements of the crime, and not on the importance (or relevance) of the exculpatory evidence.

There are many reasons why a prosecutor may go to a grand jury instead of preliminary hearing. Sometimes, it is just a matter of time – because it is much faster to indict a case than go to preliminary hearing. In addition, many justice courts (where preliminary hearings are held) set those hearings out several months to nearly a year. Sometimes, a prosecutor will present a case to the grand jury to avoid giving the defense an opportunity to test their case, because they don't want to expose weaknesses in the case that they know exist.

If you or someone you know is charged with a criminal offense or has been served with a Marcum notice, it is important that you contact a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney immediately because once a Marcum notice is served, the timelines to respond can be as little as five (5) days. The Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer can assist you by analyzing the facts of your case, identifying appropriate defenses and developing the most aggressive litigation strategy possible to protect your legal rights.