Joinder and Severance
* This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Hinds Injury Law Las Vegas immediately at (702) 940-1234. This information is valid as of August 4, 2017.
What is joinder and how can I separate my case from my codefendant?
Joinder is the legal term for putting two defendants in the same case or multiple charges in the same indictment or information. That means that the prosecution can put two defendants on trial in the same case without having to present the case to two different juries, making all the witnesses testify twice. Section 173.135 of the Nevada Revised Statutes sets out the criteria for joining one or more defendants in the same indictment or information – they participated in the same act or series of acts constituting an offense.
Severance is the legal term for separating two defendants or charges that have been joined in the same criminal case. Section 174.165 of the Nevada Revised Statutes governs separating codefendants from the same trial or severing their cases. Under NRS 174.165 the court can sever codefendants if one of the defendants is “prejudiced” by their joinder. What does that mean? In Rodriguez v. State, 117 Nev. 800 (2001), the Nevada Supreme Court explained that severance should only be granted where there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence. The fact that one defendant will have a better chance at trial due to “guilt by association” is not sufficient to establish prejudice. Lisle v. State, 113 Nev. 679 (1997).
One scenario that requires severance is where one of the counts the State alleges is of ex-felon in possession of a firearm. The Nevada Supreme Court has held that such a charge must be severed where the State seeks a conviction on multiple counts, one of which is the charge of ex-felon is possession of a firearm. Brown v. State, 114 Nev. 1118 (1998).
Another scenario that requires severance is where one codefendant claims innocence and the other codefendant admits guilt and says the other codefendant is the mastermind. Chartier v. State, 124 Nev. 760 (2008). In Chartier, the Court reiterated that “[c]onflicting defenses may cause prejudice warranting severance if the defendant seeking severance shows that the codefendants have ‘conflicting and irreconcilable defenses and there is a danger that the jury will unjustifiably infer that this conflict alone demonstrates that both are guilty.’”
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