What is Bail all about in Las Vegas?
In Nevada, the class of your charges determine how much money is required to post your bail: the more serious the offense, the higher your bail will be. Your charges are arranged by case, and each case requires a separate posting of bail. Defendants always have an opportunity to formally hear their charges from a judge; misdemeanors can be heard within 48 hours of arrest, and felonies will be heard within 72 hours. You can begin the process immediately if you do not want to wait for your arraignment.
The arraignment and bail hearing steps are especially important for lower- and middle-income defendants because your attorney may be able to secure a lower amount. Bail is a constitutional guarantee in Nevada, except for Class A felonies, fugitive flight, and for defendants who have previously failed to appear in court.
Three Release Options for Defendants
Cash bail can be posted at the Pretrial Services booth, which requires 100% of your bail amount. Pretrial Services accepts many different forms of payment but will not take more than $10,000 in cash. This payment is entirely refundable upon the completion of your trial. The address for the county jail is 330 S. Casino Center Boulevard. There are also city jails for the municipalities of Las Vegas (which also houses North Las Vegas defendants) and Henderson.
Surety bail involves the posting of a bond, which functions like an insurance policy. Essentially, the policy reads that a bond agency has taken financial responsibility for the defendant and will pay the whole bail amount if the defendant fails to appear before the court. Bonds are physical pieces of paper controlled by the state’s Department of Insurance, which are prepared by national producers. A bond covers 85% of your bail amount and requires that the defendant and a cosigner fill out a short application. Local agencies can bail out defendants in other states, but only if the defendant is a local citizen in the area where the contracted agency is located.
Sometimes, defendants charged with minor offenses are released on their own recognizance, where the court does not assign a bail amount if the defendant signs a legally binding promise to appear on their court date. There are reserved for special circumstances, such as first-time DUI cases where there is no property or human damage, for low-value misdemeanors, or for locals without warrants. Any domestic violence offense immediately disqualifies a defendant for this form of release, no matter the other circumstances of their case.
Differences between Cash and Surety Bail
If you aren’t afforded a release on your own recognizance, you’ll stay in jail until the end of your trial. Although every defendant has the right to a speedy trial, the reality is that the legal process is time-consuming; you should always bail out so you can sleep in your own home, keep working without interruptions, and mount a competent defense.
The benefits of cash bail are purely monetary. All of your bail value is held in an account until the end of your trial, and is refunded less any criminal fines, regardless of the outcome of your trial. However, there are drawbacks to this system. First, it may not be affordable if your bail is very high, as Nevada’s bail schedules are incremental steps in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. Second, that money is held through your trial, which can cripple your resources for months or years, in turn preventing you from paying your attorney’s fees. Third, cash bail is low-priority release, and usually takes a full 24 hours to release a defendant, which often causes problems at home and work. Fourth, you will have to personally attend to any administrative responsibilities the court imposes on you.
The benefits of surety bail are more administrative in nature, but there are also practical financial reasons to secure a bond. First, bonds are less expensive in the short run (15% of your total amount) and free up more resources for attorney’s fees, a flight home, etc. Second, because bonds are regulated by the state, agents are not able to price discriminate against their customers, and many offer payment plans for locals. Third, a secured bond is considered a high-priority release. The release process can still be as long as 24 hours on busy days but may be as short as 4 to 6 hours. Finally, your bail agent may be able to postpone your first hearing by a month while you prepare your defense strategy.
Some important things to consider concerning surety bail: your premium payment will not be refunded, the agent will require some collateral up front (cash, car titles, and home deeds are all standard options, depending on where you live and how much the total is), and you will need to check in with the agency over the phone on a weekly basis to update your file.
The Bail Contract
A standard agency contract will include an application, which heavily weighs your employment and residential history. You will need to have at least one year in your current home and your current occupation before a bail agent will consider your case, unless you are retired. You will also need a cosigner who meets these minimum qualifications. For more information on how to pass a bail application see [How to Pass a Bail Application].
When you sign a bail contract, you give the agency the right to conduct an extensive background check on you, which surveys your employment, residential, arrest, and personal histories. You also agree that if the cosigner will be responsible for paying the full amount to the court if the defendant fails to appear. Failure to appear after bail is a misdemeanor crime for which you can be returned to jail by the bail agency. These agencies are prohibited from discussing the details of your case with anyone not employed at the company, however, this is not the same thing as attorney-client privilege and thus an experienced agent will ask you for the particulars of your arrest.