New Clark County jail policy bars lawyers from bringing in cellphones

Attorneys are no longer allowed to bring cellphones into the Clark County Detention Center, according to a new policy announced recently by the Metropolitan Police Department.

The guidelines were sent in the form of a letter to several area attorneys. It cited the reason for the policy change as “multiple violations by officers of the court which created safety and security concerns,” and it was signed by the jail’s captain, Andrew Peralta.

Lawyers are considered officers of the court. The letter said the changes would take effect Oct. 1.

Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said he could not give specifics about the violations. He said only that “they had to do with cellphones.”

“What I can say is we are not going to be allowing cellphones into the secure confines of the jail,” Hadfield said. “You are allowed to have a tablet or computer or other electronic devices to assist you in your legal duties, however cellphones are now going to be prohibited.”

He added that “corrections officers are not allowed to have cellphones in the jail, either.”

Peralta was not available for comment Friday.

The new guidelines were announced two days before District Judge Michael Villani decided to dismiss a 14-count indictment against Las Vegas defense attorney Alexis Plunkett. According to the indictment, the case involved Plunkett bringing a cellphone into the jail, then giving it to at least two inmates and allowing them to make phone calls.

In the ruling, Villani agreed with Plunkett’s lawyers, who argued that no statute explicitly prohibits people from providing jail inmates with cellphones.

When asked if the jail’s policy change was a response to the Plunkett case, both Hadfield and Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn declined to comment.

Kohn said he met with jail administrators on Friday afternoon to discuss the new policy and cited safety concerns in leaving attorneys alone with inmates without a means to call for help. He said the administrators seemed receptive, but as of Friday, the date the new policy would take effect had not changed.

“What I’m trying to do is work out some compromise with the jail to keep my people as safe as they can be and also not violate the security and integrity of the jail,” he said.

Defense attorney Tom Pitaro, who has practiced law for more than 40 years, said he had not seen or heard of any issues regarding cellphones at the jail until the new policy was announced.

“They always seem to rule by exception instead of what is actually happening,” Pitaro said. “It seems almost a vindictive reaction to the Plunkett matter. I think that’s what it is, probably, more than anything.”

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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