After a Las Vegas man refused a plea deal for a 90-day jail term for stealing a pair of sneakers from a store, prosecutors dismissed the misdemeanor charge and resubmitted the case as a felony, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The new criminal complaint said the man’s previous convictions for petty theft made him a habitual offender under state law, one who could be sentenced to life in prison.
The case is indicative of the unprecedented challenges facing lawyers who represent the poor in Las Vegas. With relative parity in funding between criminal defense and prosecution entities, District Attorney David Roger’s office has sought other ways to gain leverage over public defenders and contract defenders. The tactics of the district attorney’s office include seeking habitual, or repeat offender, status against a record number of defendants and filing cases with the most severe charges possible, even if some are difficult to prove. That style of aggressive prosecution forms the backdrop against which court officials will seek to improve the county’s indigent-defense system, a review being undertaken in response to a six-month investigation by the Review-Journal.