In some cases, a person facing a criminal charge in Las Vegas may fail to defend themselves properly and receive a conviction. Misdemeanor offenders often have it easy, with brief jail times and some community work. However, those dealing with felony convictions can expect to stay in prison for years, maybe even for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully, Nevada offers several post-conviction relief options for defendants in its justice system. One of the most common options used is the commutation of sentences, sought out by the defense through official channels. Let’s see how getting a commuted sentence works.
What’s a Commutation?
A commutation is a reduction of the length of time that a defendant must serve the sentence for a crime they are convicted for. For example, instead of serving six years for a third DUI conviction, the sentence may be commuted to four or even three years. In the most extreme cases, a life sentence may be reduced to only a few decades, depending on circumstances.
The commutation of a person’s sentence is handled by Nevada’s Pardons Board. They determine whether or not an application meets the minimum requirements for a commutation. Eligibility is often determined on a case-to-case basis, although some general provisions still apply for all instances.
Who is Eligible to Apply?
Sentence commutations are available for most prisoners in Nevada’s justice system. However, certain restrictions may apply depending on the crime they were convicted for, the circumstances of the crime, or the parties involved. In all, the following types of defendants can apply for reduced time:
- those currently incarcerated as part of their sentence
- defendants on parole
- defendants on death row
- defendants on life without parole
As stated earlier, circumstances can affect a defendant’s chances of having their sentence considered for commutation. For example, a prisoner on parole may not be able to apply for commutation if they are on parole less than a year from the next Pardons Board meeting.
How the Process Works
Applying for a commuted sentence is a straightforward process, but it can take a while to push through. It involves the following steps:
- Filling up an application form
- Submitting the form to the Board 90 days before the next meeting
- Waiting for the Board to consider the application
- The board sending a notification to the district attorney and judge so they can provide statements
- Waiting for input from the general public regarding their support for or opposition to the commutation
- Receiving the commutation, or being notified of the refusal to commute
Note that the commutation is approved if the governor and at least four members of the Pardon Board agree to it. Public opinion, as well as written statements from the judge and district attorney, may affect a defendant’s chances.
Commutation may not be the same as a full pardon for a crime, but it can help make the burden easier for a defendant. Ask your Las Vegas defense attorney about other post-conviction relief options that are available to you.