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Sweat v. Eighth Judicial District court of State of Nevada

Supreme Court of Nevada

October 5, 2017

LONNIE LYNN SWEAT, Petitioner,
v.
THE EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF CLARK; AND THE HONORABLE STEFANY MILEY, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondents, and THE STATE OF NEVADA, Real Party in Interest.

         Original petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus challenging a district court order denying a motion to dismiss a felony-criminal charge. Petition denied.

          Philip J. Kohn, Public Defender, and Howard Brooks and Kenton G. Eichacker, Deputy Public Defenders, Clark County, for Petitioner.

          Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, Steven S. Owens, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Ryan J. MacDonald, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Real Party in Interest.

          BEFORE HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.

          OPINION

          STIGLICH, J.

         The Double Jeopardy Clause protects a defendant from multiple prosecutions for the same offense. This opinion addresses whether a defendant's failure to comply with the terms of a plea agreement with the State constitutes a waiver of that protection. We hold that where a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge pursuant to a plea agreement and fails to comply with the terms of that agreement, he waives his right to be protected from prosecution on a greater charge. Accordingly, we deny the petition.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 9, 2016, the State charged petitioner Lonnie Sweat by way of criminal complaint with battery constituting domestic violence, a category C felony.[1] Pursuant to negotiations with real party in interest the State of Nevada, Sweat agreed to plead guilty in justice court to one count of battery constituting domestic violence, a misdemeanor, and in district court to one count of battery constituting substantial bodily harm, a felony. In exchange for his pleas, the State agreed to drop the charge of battery constituting domestic violence as a felony.[2] Per the agreement, Sweat pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor battery constituting domestic violence and was immediately sentenced to time served. Sweat also waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was bound over to district court for entry of plea on the felony count of battery causing substantial bodily harm.

         Despite his prior agreement with the State, Sweat refused to plead guilty in the district court. As a result, the State filed an amended information pursuant to NRS 173.035, reinstating the original felony battery constituting domestic violence charge that it had dropped pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement. Sweat filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that his misdemeanor conviction in the justice court barred prosecution of the felony offense in the district court. The district court denied Sweat's motion. The district court held that plea agreements are subject to contract principles and that Sweat violated the spirit of negotiations by reneging on the plea agreement. The district court ordered the State to place the misdemeanor matter back on the calendar with the justice court to withdraw adjudication on the misdemeanor charge.

         Sweat now petitions this court for a writ of prohibition, alleging that since he has already been convicted of misdemeanor battery in the justice court, the Double Jeopardy Clause protects him from prosecution for felony battery constituting domestic violence in the district court. We disagree.[3]

          DISCUSSION

          Sweat's petition should be entertained

         A writ of prohibition "arrests the proceedings of any tribunal, corporation, board or person exercising judicial functions, when such proceedings are without or in excess of the jurisdiction of such tribunal, corporation, board or person." NRS 34.320. The issuance of the writ is purely discretionary, Smith v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 107 Nev. 674, 677, 818 P.2d 849, 851 (1991), and it will generally not issue where the petitioner has a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. NRS 34.330. A writ of prohibition is an appropriate vehicle to address double jeopardy claims. See Glover v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 125 Nev. 691, 701, 220 P.3d 684, 692 (2009) ("A writ of prohibition will issue to interdict retrial in violation of a defendant's constitutional right not to be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.")- Furthermore, considering the petition can be appropriate to clarify an important issue of law. Smith v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 113 Nev. 1343, 1345, 950 P.2d 280, 281 (1997).

         Here, Sweat asserts that the district court erred by denying his motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds. Sweat has another remedy because he could raise the double jeopardy issue on appeal from a judgment of conviction. See NRS 177.015; NRS 177.045. However, that remedy is not adequate to protect the right afforded by the Double Jeopardy Clause-to not be placed twice in jeopardy. Furthermore, Sweat's petition raises an important issue of law that needs clarification- whether a defendant's conviction on a lesser misdemeanor offense in the justice court, as part of a plea agreement with the State, precludes prosecution on a ...


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