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Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Trials May Require a Jury

The Nevada Supreme Court issued an order establishing a statutory right to a jury trial for individuals charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. Keep reading for more information.


AB42, the new law going into effect, is based on a ruling in 2019 that prohibited firearm ownership for those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. The state Supreme Court found that a crime leading to the suspension of gun rights was serious enough to justify a juried trial.

However, there have been issues making it a reality since the ruling. In reaction to the Supreme Court, several municipal courts tried to find a way to hold juried trials in courts that generally don't have them. Changing the court process significantly takes time and resources that many courts did not have.

Then, in 2020 as courts closed their doors because of the pandemic, plans to transition the process from a misdemeanor hearing to a juried trial came to a halt. Municipal and federal courts alike shut down, and countless cases were postponed.

However, now that courts have resumed, the burden of altering the court process for domestic violence cases has picked up again. The main issue for courts was creating a strategy for these trials – a problem that AB42 will solve.

Nevada Law vs. The Constitution

The Constitution of the United States grants all citizens the right to a trial by jury. Still, historically, Nevada courts have not given juried trials to those charged with "petty" offenses. State law defines petty offenses as violations with a maximum prison sentence of no more than six months. In general, minor offenses are low-grade misdemeanors like shoplifting or traffic violations.

For a crime to be elevated out of the petty category, it must be severe enough to justify a more thorough legislative approach. In simpler terms, if the crime requires the court to prosecute at a higher level, the offense is no longer petty.

Before the 2019 court ruling, misdemeanor domestic violence charges were considered serious but still petty. While many municipalities agreed with the Court that these charges should be prosecuted more severely, they were left with no guidance to implement the ruling.

Redefining Violence

Part of the responsibility related to implementation is creating a clear definition of what domestic violence crimes qualify for a prohibition on gun ownership. This not only redefines the defendant's rights post-conviction but also sets Nevada laws apart from federal precedent.

Precedents are often the backbone of criminal processes. When the Supreme Court issues a ruling on a case, it sets a precedent that federal and sometimes state courts must follow. Along with federal law, these examples provide consistency within the criminal justice system – something that the Nevada ruling challenges.


Changing state law to differ from federal law raises many questions for lawmakers and pro-gun groups in Nevada. Many of them question whether the ruling violates constitutional rights or if state law should veer away from federal precedent at all.

Proponents of the bill are confident that AB42 is in line with the constitution and only applies to those convicted of specific domestic violence cases. The bill does not retroactively remove firearm rights and only applies to those sentenced after January 2022.

Regardless of the constitutional concerns, other groups worry over the jury selection process for these cases. Juror selection is complicated and time-consuming, and the bill provides little guidance regarding the selection process.

Overall, AB42 sets up a framework for juried trials in misdemeanor domestic violence cases, but it also raises more questions.

Protecting Your Rights

The criminal process may result in losing rights like gun ownership, but your rights may also be challenged during arrest, trial, and conviction. The best way to protect your rights is with the help of an experienced attorney.

The Draskovich Law Group has over 20 years of experience with criminal cases at the local, state, and federal levels. Our attorneys are compassionate and tenacious, and we leave no stone unturned.

Entrust your case to The Draskovich Law Group and let us protect your rights during a criminal trial.