New Bail Process Standards for Las Vegas Courts Under a Recent Nevada Supreme Court Decision

In most cases, a person charged with a criminal offense in Las Vegas can post bail to stay out of prison between arrest and future court dates. While Nevada statutes govern the bail process, a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision added constitutionally-required standards to court bail proceedings.

How Does Bail Work?

Bail (also referred to as bond) is a process that enables a person facing a criminal charge to remain free pending court proceedings relating to the alleged offense. Following an arrest, the amount of bail is set either by standards for the specific offense and circumstances or set by a court.

If you or someone acting on your behalf cannot post the entire amount of bail, a bail bondsman can post the bail in exchange for a fee of up to fifteen percent (15%) of the entire bond, plus expenses like notary fees and travel costs. When you appear for trial, the bail is returned to you or the bail bondsman. If you don’t show up, or you violate conditions of the bail, the entire amount can be forfeited.

As long as you abide by the bail conditions, being out on bail is helpful to your case. Staying free until trial makes it easier to work with your attorney and prepare for trial, continue your employment, and do other things to improve your position in the case, such going to counseling.

Nevada Statutory Bail Provisions

State laws relating to bail are found in NRS 178.483 through 178.578. The statutes set the amount of bail for specific offenses and establish the legal processes relating to bail. The provisions also prescribe the conditions and offenses for which a court must set the amount of bail. Generally, a judge sets bail for criminal charges involving significant or repeat offenses.

The provisions of the Nevada bail laws are extremely complex. If you face a serious criminal charge in Nevada, an experienced criminal defense attorney should represent you not only for the substantive issues relating to the charge but also for matters relating to bail immediately after the arrest.

Court Determination of Bail Amount and Conditions

When the law requires a court to set bail, the judge has authority to impose any reasonable conditions deemed necessary to “protect the health, safety and welfare of the community” and ensure the individual’s appearance at times and places ordered by the court. Conditions may include geographic travel restrictions, limiting contact with specific people, and restrictions on identified conduct.

The judge may release a person without bail on a showing of “good cause.” The statute specifies a number of factors that the court must consider in determining whether there is a basis for releasing a person without bail and the reasonableness of any conditions imposed by the judge, including when an amount of bail is set.

The factors that courts consider in bail decisions include the nature of the offense and risk to an alleged victim, likelihood of the person appearing in court, and the individual’s reputation and character, employment history, community ties, and criminal history. The criteria encompass matters relating to flight risk and danger to the community.

Under the statute, a defendant can be arrested for violation of bail conditions. Failure to comply with bond requirements can result in a finding of contempt or an increase in the amount of bail, following a court hearing. Failure to appear in court as required results in issuance of an arrest warrant and initiation of proceedings for forfeiture of the bond.

Nevada Supreme Court Decision Relating to Court Decisions on Bail

Nevada courts make bail decisions based on the statutory factors relating to flight risk and likelihood of commission of additional offenses. On April 9, 2020, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Valdez-Jimenez v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 136 Nev. Adv. Op. 20, that further impacts court determinations on bail issues.

In the decision, the Supreme Court stated that under the Nevada Constitution, defendants have a right to bail in a reasonable amount. Based on that conclusion, the Court set constitutionally-required standards for bail decisions by a judge.

The Supreme Court’s decision requires each Nevada judge to complete due diligence on the record to establish a defendant’s background before making a decision on bail. In addition, the court stated that a defendant is entitled to a hearing on the bail determination within a reasonable time after arrest.

The reasons for the court’s bail decision must detailed on the hearing record. If the judge decides to set cash bail after the required on-the-record review, the judge must then evaluate the defendant’s financial situation and ability to pay before setting the monetary amount. If the court sets bail in an amount the defendant cannot afford, heightened procedural due process requirements apply.

The new standards set guidelines that a court is constitutionally required to follow in making fair and just bail decisions. The requirements also put the burden of proof on prosecutors to provide evidence on the record relating to the flight risk and danger to the community of individual defendants. The Court decision requires prosecutors to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that bail — rather than less restrictive conditions — is necessary to protect community safety and ensure the defendant’s appearance at future court proceedings.

The new requirements for the bail process make representation by a criminal defense attorney at a bail hearing absolutely essential. Your attorney can advocate on your behalf concerning bail, as well as challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence on bail and the bail amount.

Talk With an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney — Free Consultation

If you face any state or federal criminal charges in Las Vegas, Henderson, or elsewhere in Clark County, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney who knows bail law and process, as well as the laws involved in the charges against you. Criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten vigorously defends clients based on his Las Vegas criminal defense experience and extensive investigative background.

Your initial consultation at The Gersten Law Firm is always free-of-charge. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.