Bail System Can Disproportionately Affect The Poor

Perhaps you’ve heard about our overcrowding problem at the Clark County Detention Center? It’s an ongoing issue, one that hits taxpayers like you and me squarely in the wallet. There’s a reason for it… but with a recent federal appeal, things could be changing.

Here’s the backstory. If you are charged with a crime at the state level – say in Las Vegas, for example, you’ll almost always need to pay cash bail to be released before your trial. But what if you’re poor and just don’t have enough money to make bail?

Simple, the courts keep you in jail until your trial. Think about that: how many low-level criminals are being held in our county jail simply because they can’t raise the cash for bail? And we, the taxpayers, are footing the bill for their lengthy stay (not to mention running out of room to house them at the Detention Center).

Interestingly, the US Department of Justice took on this issue last week, arguing in the US Court of Appeals that the practices currently in place in some states that keep people (who would otherwise be released) locked up because they can’t afford bail are unconstitutional. This is the first time the Department of Justice has ever taken this position. Keep in mind, they operate U.S. Attorney’s offices nationwide.

In Las Vegas, federal courtrooms almost never impose cash bail amounts as a condition of release. For the most part, they follow the rule that “liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.” (United States v. Salerno).

So a federal judge deciding whether to hold a defendant or release him considers several things: how dangerous is this person, will he/she run (flight risk), and finally what will assure this person’s appearance in court. Notice that there’s no consideration of the defendant’s ability to pay bail. In fact, the general rule is that financial conditions like bail should only be used when nothing else will guarantee that person will show up in court.

Note the dramatic difference at the state level. Most low-income defendants just sit in a jail cell until their trial… that’s the norm rather than the exception. This is why it’s so important to get qualified legal representation in your corner. Not only will the right criminal defense attorney help get you released with a minimum amount of bail, but more importantly, he’ll also be equipped to defend you by attacking weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

The lawyers at Oronoz and Ericsson Injury Lawyers have the experience and track record to defend your case to the fullest. No team of lawyers has gone in front of Clark County juries and had as much success as we have in obtaining not guilty verdicts. If you’ve been charged with a crime, or even if you are in the process of being investigated. Call us. Our clients tell us it’s like having a friend who’s an expert in the law. You need us in your corner.

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