Excessive Sentencing Project - Nevada

Policies and rulings on lengthy imprisonment terms in Nevada.

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  • Nevada allows for parole; life sentences generally provide for parole eligibility after 10 years.
  • Nevada’s habitual criminal statute mandates minimum sentences of five years for those with two prior felony convictions and 25 years for those with three prior felonies.
State Constitution

Art. I, § 6. Excessive bail and fines; cruel and unusual punishments; detention of witnesses: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor shall cruel or unusual punishments be inflicted, nor shall witnesses be unreasonably detained.

Sentencing Statutes

Habitual criminal statute: 

A person convicted of a felony, who has two prior felony convictions in Nevada (or two out-of-state convictions for crimes that would be felonies in Nevada), faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 20 years. N.R.S. § 207.010(1)(a). A person who has three prior felony convictions shall be punished by (1) life in prison without the possibility of parole, (2) life with the possibility of parole, with eligibility at 10 years, (3) for a term of 25 years, with parole eligibility beginning at 10 years. N.R.S. § 207.010(1)(b).

The prosecutor has the discretion to charge a defendant as a habitual criminal. N.R.S. § 207.010(2).

Courts may assign military veterans to special treatment programs: 

Courts may assign defendants who served in the military to special treatment programs in lieu of prison time if the defendant suffers from mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or PTSD that appears to be related to military service. N.R.S. § 176A.285(2)(b).

Case Law

General  

The Supreme Court of Nevada affords lower courts wide discretion in sentencing. Chavez v. State, 125 Nev. 328, 348 (2009). The sentencing judge has the discretion to consider the defendant’s age and prior record in determining a sentence. Tanksley v. State, 113 Nev. 844, 848 (1997). A consideration of “the fullest information possible regarding the defendant’s life and characteristics is essential to the selection of an appropriate sentence.” Wilson v. State, 105 Nev. 110, 115 (1989).

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The court will not interfere with a sentence unless the record shows “prejudice resulting from consideration of information or accusations founded on facts supported only by impalpable or highly suspect evidence.” Silks v. State, 92 Nev. 91, 94 (1976).

Proportionality 

A sentence that is within the statutory limits does not violate the Eighth Amendment unless (1) the statute fixing punishment is unconstitutional, or (2) the sentence is so “unreasonably disproportionate” to the offense that it shocks the conscience. Chavez v. State, 125 Nev. 328, 348 (2009) (citing Blume v. State, 112 Nev. 472, 475 (1996)).

Leading Court Discussions of Graham and Miller 

Rogers v. State, 127 Nev. Adv. Op. 88, 267 P.3d 802 (December 29, 2011) (Lists the unresolved issues in Graham

Cruz v. State, 59962, 2012 WL 4801631 (Nev. Oct. 8, 2012) (the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for juveniles.) 

Womack v. State, 61127, 2013 WL 588326 (Nev. Feb. 13, 2013) (Graham holding does not limit consideration of a prior felony conviction, committed as a juvenile, for habitual criminal purposes.) 

Allen v. State, 61563, 2013 WL 3270892 (Nev. June 12, 2013) (Post-conviction petition denied because Graham does not apply to first degree murder cases and defendant waited too long after Graham was issued without good cause.) 

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Randell v. State, 61232, 2013 WL 7158872 (Nev. Dec. 12, 2013) (Post-conviction petition denied because Graham does not apply to first degree murder cases and defendant waited too long after Graham was issued without good cause.) 

Rohweder v. State, 63596, 2014 WL 495465 (Nev. Jan. 15, 2014) (Post-conviction petition denied because Graham does not apply to first degree murder cases and defendant waited too long after Graham was issued without good cause; Miller does not apply either because the decision of whether to impose a sentence of LWOP is discretionary in Nevada and court record showed that the court did considered defendant’s age.) 

Harvey v. State, 64566, 2014 WL 1430380 (Nev. Apr. 10, 2014) (Miller does not apply because the jury had discretion to sentence appellant to death, life without the possibility of parole, and life with the possibility of parole after ten years.) 

Severe Sentences 

Court found that mandatory life sentence for woman found guilty of lewdness with a child under 14 did not shock the conscience; woman would be eligible for parole after 10 years under state statute. Taylor v. State, 2011 WL5146037, *2 (Nov. 27, 2011) (slip copy).

Court upheld life sentence under state’s habitual criminal statute for man who pleaded guilty to grand larceny. Defendant had prior convictions for receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, attempted burglary, forgery, and grand larceny. Blackwell v. State, 2011 WL486620, *1 (Feb. 9, 2011) (unpublished disposition).

Federal court denied habeas review for prisoner challenging sentence of three consecutive life terms after being convicted of six felonies related to a string of alleged burglaries. Prisoner would be eligible for parole after 10-30 years, distinguishing petitioner’s claim from the sentence overturned in Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277 (1983). Wright v. Crawford, 294 Fed.Appx. 274, 276 (9th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1214.

Sentence of 10-25 years in prison for burglary upheld on the grounds that it fell within the statutory limits and did not shock the conscience. Risser v. State, 2011 WL2803103, *1 (July 15, 2011) (unpublished disposition).