Vacations can be a time to cut loose and relax, temporarily free from the pressures of modern life, and no city embodies this attitude more than Las Vegas. However, when this fun spills over into illegal activity -- public intoxication, destruction or defacing of property, or driving while under the influence -- you could find yourself visiting the inside of a jail cell for the first time. What should you do if you're placed under arrest? Will you be held in Las Vegas until your trial? Read on to learn more about what you'll need to do if you're arrested while visiting the City of Lights.
What will happen after your arrest?
Once you've been placed under arrest, you'll be escorted to the nearest booking facility for the intake process. You'll be measured, have mug shots and fingerprints taken, and any personal possessions (including your wallet and cell phone) will be placed into storage. You'll then be permitted to make a phone call to a friend or relative who may be able to come pick you up (and provide bail money if needed). At this point, you'll be escorted into a holding cell, either with a group of other defendants or just a roommate. You'll wait here until you're released or required to attend court.
Depending upon the severity of the crime you committed, you may be released on your own recognizance -- meaning you aren't required to pay bail, but can be re-arrested if you fail to show up for any scheduled hearings -- or released on bail. Bail is designed to be a financial incentive for defendants to return to court (and a steep financial penalty for those who don't). If there's enough cash in your wallet to cover the bail amount, you'll be able to sign yourself out of jail once you're processed; but if you weren't so lucky in the casinos or if your bail amount is more than you currently have in your checking or savings accounts, you'll need the services of a bail bondsman.
A bail bondsman or bond agent will put up the necessary funds to the court on your behalf in exchange for a non-refundable fee of 15 percent of the bail amount. Because the bond agent has a financial incentive to ensure you attend all court hearings and other proceedings to avoid forfeiture of the funds put up by the agent, he or she may go to any measures -- up to and including arrest -- to secure your presence in court.
Will you need to return to Las Vegas to attend your court hearing?
For most ordinance violations and minor misdemeanors, you'll be offered a plea agreement by the prosecutor that will allow you to pay a modest fine, court fees, or restitution in exchange for unsupervised probation or dismissal of the underlying action. Although you'll need to sign this agreement and return it to the court, this process can usually be accomplished by mail or a telephone or video conference with the prosecutor and judge.
However, if you're arrested and charged with a more serious crime -- battery, hit and run, or sexual assault -- and don't accept (or aren't offered) a plea agreement to settle the case outside of trial, you'll likely have to return to Las Vegas for your scheduled bench or jury trial. You'll be responsible for paying these costs yourself in all but a very small number of situations (such as if the case is later thrown out and you successfully sue the county for malicious prosecution). If you are convicted of a crime, you may be sentenced to serve probation in your home state, and a violation of this probation (in your home state or elsewhere) could land you back in jail for the duration of your sentence.
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