On April 9, 2020, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a published opinion in the case of Valdez-Jimenez v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 136 Nev. Adv. Op. 20. This decision made an impactful change to the procedure and restrictions in place that allow Nevada Courts to issue cash bail decisions for individuals awaiting trial. Bail decisions are, in theory, based on an individual’s flight risk and likelihood of future offenses should they be released pending trial – in an attempt to mitigate both the number of crimes being committed and prevent any speedbumps in the trial itself. As a result, a Judge’s choice to increase or decrease a cash bail amount has been based solely on the aforementioned factors.
However, in recent years the concept of cash bail has become one of great controversy. Those accused of crimes are theoretically entitled to a constitutional right of “innocent until proven guilty.” However, low-income individuals have been forced to spend their time in custody until trial simply because they have been unable to afford bail. Meanwhile, people with financial means who are facing the same charges are allowed to defend the allegations against them while out of custody, simply because they have ability to post a cash or surety bond.
Two particularly topical bail decisions for Jose Valdez-Jimenez and Aaron Willard Frye were brought forward in Nevada, as both defendants had high cash bail amounts set pending their trial and had the petitions to reduce or vacate these amounts denied, even though the courts could not explicitly say why these amounts were set so high. Thus, after reviewing these cases earlier this month, the Nevada Supreme Court issued an opinion which set for a new set of cash bail standards to improve these decisions in a way that makes the Nevada process of justice as fair and equal as possible.