We’ve received some questions about a proposed new ordinance that deals with domestic violence charges. Here is some background on the ordinance that was approved by the City Council.
The original version of the state’s Battery Domestic Violence laws was passed in 1997. At that time, a battery domestic violence conviction did not require a jury trial even though a person lost their right to possess a firearm at the federal level.
In 2017, the Nevada Legislature required judges to admonish a person convicted of Battery Domestic Violence that they could not possess a firearm and they had to surrender their firearms within 24 hours of a conviction.
In 2019, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the loss of the right to possess a firearm deems it a “serious offense” requiring the right to a jury trial.
However, the city of Las Vegas charter and NRS 266.550 prohibit Las Vegas Municipal Court from conducting jury trials. Also, there is no staff or infrastructure in place to set a jury, which would delay domestic violence cases. The length of time it takes to get to a trial could influence a victim’s decision to testify, according to the city attorney. In addition, with an estimated 4,500 domestic violence cases currently pending in the city’s jurisdiction, it could make it more difficult for the District Attorney’s office to adequately absorb or prosecute these domestic violence cases in a timely manner.
According to the city attorney, the new ordinance will be a temporary fix while the city waits for a long term solution from the state.
The new ordinance will charge individuals with a municipal code battery domestic violence allegation. While this would not bar the defendant from having a gun, it would ensure that the cases are heard in a timely manner. In addition, the ordinance would have the same mandatory minimum sentence as the previous domestic violence change and the city will continue to prosecute battery domestic violence cases. A defendant can still get a temporary protective order from family court. Lastly, on a third charge the accuser can have their gun taken away if convicted of a felony.
The City Attorney will continue to pursue clarification on this law before the Legislature meets in 18 months.