Bail reform bill gets hearing at Nevada Legislature
Defending her bill to make release from jail the norm, Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, said Tuesday it’s time to stop the practice of imposing onerous bail and conditions on people arrested on non-violent, non-sexual charges.
“We’ve been fighting for what the community wants and what they perceive has been a consistent injustice around bail,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Washoe County Public Defender Kendra Bertschy said the goal of AB125 “is to create some form of automatic release for some offenses.”
She said the bill would “ensure that individuals who are poor are not just languishing in jail.”
Clark County Public Defender John Piro said especially in rural areas, sometimes a person is in jail for days before the judge holds a hearing despite the fact the charges are simple misdemeanors.
“You could lose your job,” he said. “If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you may lose your living situation, your car. An individual cannot be held in custody solely because they are too poor to pay.”
They testified AB125 would shift the imposition of bail from the first consideration to the last, releasing people on their own recognizance if they’re not a threat to public safety and don’t have a history of failing to appear.
Studies including in Nevada have indicated the poor and people of color are disproportionately impacted by the current heavy reliance on bail.
But the bill drew opposition from prosecutors, law enforcement and the association representing Nevada’s JP’s and municipal judges. JP Samuel Bateman told the committee he sees the bill as “almost micromanaging the courts.” He said the provision requiring each court jurisdiction to issue an administrative order while, “essentially saying what’s supposed to be in the order,” is a violation of the separation of powers between the three government branches.
Bateman also said it won’t be easy to implement and judges will have to gear up for it if passed.
John Jones representing the Nevada DA’s Association agreed. He also said there are situations in which bail is completely appropriate, such as when a defendant gets new and added charges after an indictment.
Sen. James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said the move away from bail in the majority of cases is following a national trend. Other supporters in previous hearings have said it would also save jails a lot of money.
Republicans Ira Hansen and Keith Pickard both said they support the idea of letting charged people out of jail while their case is processed but both expressed concern dangerous people might get free and endanger public safety.
Piro said the bill is designed to release non-violent, non-sexual misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor and lower felony defendants, that it doesn’t apply to violent criminals or crimes of a sexual nature. Asked by committee members, they also said it wouldn’t let stalkers and those charged with harassment out because those crimes are akin to domestic violence cases.
The committee took no action on AB125.