There are several jurisdictions and courts in Southern Nevada. The location where the alleged crime occurred will determine in which court or jurisdiction the case is heard.
State of Nevada
Nevada state courts hear cases that arise under Nevada state laws, including those charges filed pursuant to the Nevada Revised Statutes.
- Municipal Courts
- Municipal courts handle misdemeanor cases that originate within each city’s limits. There are several Municipal Courts within Southern Nevada, including Las Vegas Municipal Court, Henderson Municipal Court, and North Las Vegas Municipal Court.
- Justice Courts
- Clark County Justice Courts primarily handle cases originating within Clark County that are filed as a gross misdemeanor or felonies. The case will begin in a regional Justice Court and will remain there unless and until the case proceeds to District Court. As an exception, the Las Vegas Justice Court also handles misdemeanor cases that originate within unincorporated Las Vegas. There are several Clark County Justice Court locations.
- District Courts
- District Courts, also known as “trial courts,” handle felony cases after they have moved on from Justice Court or after an Indictment has been filed after a Grand Jury proceeding. Among other things, District Courts accept guilty plea agreements or set matters for jury trials, hear arguments and decide motions, and sentence defendants upon a finding of guilty. District Courts also act as appellate courts for Municipal and Justice Courts.
- Courts of Appeal
- Courts of Appeal, including the Nevada Appellate Court and the Nevada Supreme Court, hear appeals of issues upon final decisions made by District Courts. Essentially, an appellate court’s job is to ensure that the lower court correctly applied the law to the facts of a case. The Court of Appeal reviews the record and decision made by the District Court and decides whether the decision should be upheld or overturned.
- United States Supreme Court
- The Supreme Court of the United States, or “SCOTUS,” hears cases from around the country, but is very selective about which cases they choose to decide. SCOTUS will hear appeals of state cases when a federal question or Constitutional issue is involved, and hears appeals from U.S. Circuit Courts. There are also a small number of cases for which SCOTUS has “original jurisdiction,” meaning cases that do not have to be heard by another court first, but begin with SCOTUS.
- According to the SCOTUS website, the Court receives about 7,000-8,000 new cases filed per year, but only hears argument on about 80 of those. Generally, the Court only decides cases that include pressing Constitutional issues or cases where lower courts are split in their interpretation of the law. SCOTUS is the highest court in the United States, and it’s decisions can’t be overturned by other courts.
Federal courts generally hear criminal cases that arise from alleged violations of federal laws.
- United States District Courts
- United States District Courts are the trial courts of the federal system. They serve a similar function as the Nevada District Courts described above, hearing facts and applying the law to reach decisions. There are 94 District Courts across the United States.
- United States Circuit Courts
- Circuit Courts are the courts of appeal for the federal system. There are only 13 total Circuit Courts in the United States, and each hears appellate cases from a region containing several U.S. District Courts. Nevada belongs to the Ninth Circuit.
- United States Supreme Court
- Please see above.