Jury Trials for Misdemeanor Domestic Battery Allegations

The potential of losing the constitutional right guaranteed in the Second Amendment “commands the conclusion that misdemeanor domestic battery is a serious offense.”
— Nevada Supreme Court Justice Stiglich

Back in 2018, Christopher Anderson was charged with the allegation of domestic battery, a misdemeanor in Las Vegas Municipal Court. His attorney demanded a jury trial which the court refused. In Nevada, only charges with carry more than a possible 6 months in jail as punishment are allowed jury trials. Everything else, citations and misdemeanors, are tried before a judge in a “bench” trial. Christopher was found guilty by a judge and he appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court arguing that the the municipal court violated his constitutional right to trial by jury,

jury-box-620.jpg

The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with Christopher. In a landmark unanimous decision issued on September 12, 2019, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that because there are significant collateral consequences when one is convicted of a domestic battery allegation, people must be given the right to a jury trial.

The Court focused on a 2017 law that requires those convicted of domestic violence to give up their firearms. Someone convicted of failing to comply with the new law, a felony, faces up to six years in state prison.

The potential of losing the constitutional right guaranteed in the Second Amendment “commands the conclusion that misdemeanor domestic battery is a serious offense,” Justice Stiglich wrote. “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,” according to the decision.

Now courts across Nevada are scrambling to accommodate jury trials for misdemeanor allegations of domestic battery. Many courtrooms do not even have jury boxes in the courtroom. Some prosecutors are opting to charge simple battery instead of domestic battery, as simple battery does not implicate one’s right to possess firearms.

If you are facing an allegation of domestic battery, contact us today and we can guide you through how this new decision may affect you and your case.