Bail has a long history. In fact, some form of bail-temporarily releasing an accused person on the condition they will return for trial-has been around since the Middle Ages.
However, in those days the motive for returning to trial was often the threat of torture rather than a monetary payment. Aren’t you glad we don’t live in a world like that?
In any case, bail is a great asset, because
- It allows prisoners (particularly the innocent) to return to their normal lives (including job and family) before a verdict is reached
- It prevents jails from becoming overcrowded
- It gives the accused time to work on their defense
During the relatively short history of the United States, bail has undergone some important changes. Let’s start at the beginning and take a journey through history.
Bail Bonds in the Early United States
Of course, the US bail law was based on English law until independence was declared in 1776. However, some colonies had their own versions of bail law, which continued with the states.
Virginia’s 1776 Constitution states that “excessive bail ought not to be required.” Thus, the accused’s rights were taken into high consideration. In 1785, though, the Virginia Constitution specified that if the crime could merit a life sentence (“punishable by life or limb”), the crime was manslaughter, or there was good cause to believe the accused was guilty, then bail would not be granted-a general guideline which largely stands today.
For the entire country, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution follows the Virginia guideline in prohibiting excessive bail. However, application of this varied from state to state. Also, the Sixth Amendment stated that people under arrest are required to “be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”-so they have a right to demand bail if it applies.
Bail Bonds from 1789-1966
In 1789, the types of crimes that were bailable were more clearly defined and applied to the entire country. The Judiciary Act of
1789 made all noncapital offenses (crimes without the possibility of the death penalty) bailable.
It also gave individual judges freedom to decide if certain capital crimes could also be bailable. Additionally, this act gave judges less power in setting bail (which helped prevent bails set at exorbitant amounts).
Bail Bonds from 1966-1984
For almost eighty years, there weren’t many changes to the bail law. But in 1966, congress passed the Bail Reform Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson and others believed that too many people were being held unfairly in jail when they should have been released on bail.
With this act, defendants were given the right to be released on bail unless the judicial officer determined bail would not assure his or her appearance in trial. In cases of capital crimes, the accused was held if they were believed to be a danger or flight risk.
Bail Bonds from 1984-Today
There have been a few additions to the Bail Reform Act in recent years. In 1984, Congress introduced a new bail law to prevent dangerous subjects from being released on bail. This law states that accused individuals could be denied bail if:
- They are considered dangerous to their community
- They are charged with a violent crime
- They are charged with an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death
- They are charged with a drug offense for which the maximum offense is greater than 10 years They are repeat felony offenders
- They pose a risk of flight, obstruction of justice, or witness tampering
The court holds a hearing to determine whether the accused fits in one of these categories. If it’s determined they don’t, they must be allowed bail.
Nevada Bail Bond Laws Today
While the country follows these general bail guidelines, the law may vary somewhat from state to state. If someone is arrested in
Nevada, here’s what happens:
- They are taken to the station for a court appearance.
- If they are granted bail, they can be released once they post bail; each crime is matched with a particular bail schedule (the more serious the crime, the higher the bail).
- They must show up to all future court hearings. If they do, their bail money will most likely be returned once the court reaches a final decision. If they miss a court date, though, their bail may not be returned.
What if they cannot afford the bail? In Nevada and throughout the US, bail bondsmen are available-they will post your bail in exchange for 15% of the total bail price.
Bail throughout the Years
Throughout the almost 240 years of the U.S. government’s history, bail laws have been changed and clarified. Some of these changes were to make things fairer for those arrested, and others were to protect the community from potentially dangerous criminals. Throughout all the changes, United States lawmakers have worked to uphold the rights of the people.
If you know someone who was arrested in Nevada for a nonviolent crime, know that they have a good chance of being released on bail until the time of their trial. If you don’t have the financial means to help them out, you can direct them to a bail bonds company.