US prisons and jails can't handle the amount of people convicted of serious crimes like murder, so often offenders of lesser crimes don't need to complete their full sentences. Aside from the lack of room, America also faces the issue of the cost of housing prisoners. Without room for prisoners or the money to keep them behind bars, courts need a system to keep accused people accountable for their part in the legal process, but not necessarily keep them in jail while they await their court dates. That's where bail comes into play.
If a person has little to no criminal history and is not accused of a serious crime, the odds are that the accused will be granted the opportunity to bail out of jail. Bailing out of jail sounds easy enough, but if the person who was awarded bail cannot pay the amount of the bail set by the judge, they might end up in a sticky situation. It is not a necessity for the accused to pay their own bail if they are not able to. Anyone, friends, family, etc. can post bail for another person. It is also possible to use collateral such as property as bail. The money paid for bail or property used as collateral will be returned once the accused shows up to all of their court appearances.
Another option for those who can't pay bail themselves is to go through a bail bond agency. A bail bondsman is able to post a surety bond (an assurance to the court that the accused will indeed appear at all court dates) on behalf of the person embroiled in the legal process. In return for posting bail, the bail bondsman charges a fee upfront. The fee usually runs from 10-20% of the total amount of bail. Nevada Law is 15%. Unfortunately this amount is not refundable. Because the agency must pay the court the amount of bail should the person accused of the crime not make a court appearance, the bail bondsman will do what they can to make sure that all court appearances are made as promised by the accused.
Without bail, the overcrowding problem in American jails would cause the legal system to a standstill. With no cells available, no new criminal charges could be brought to courts and no jail sentence is given. In many ways, bail has become a central point in the legal process.
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