How Bail Is Set In Criminal Cases
In most cases, you are entitled to a reasonable bond set by the court. Generally, this requires that you post a bond with the court. A bond is a binding agreement to pay money to the court in the event that you do not appear for your scheduled court dates. A bond is intended to ensure your appearance in the case. Your bond may either be a cash bond in smaller cases, or a surety bond in larger cases.
To post a surety bond, you will need the assistance of a bondsman who will file a bond with the court on your behalf, guaranteeing your appearance at all scheduled court dates. The bond is a conditional release, therefore, if you are arrested for subsequent offenses while you are out on bond, your original bond may be revoked by the court without notice. If you cannot afford to post the bond that is set by the court, it may be necessary to request a bond reduction hearing with the court. Depending upon the severity of the allegations made against you, the court may also impose other conditions of your pre-trial release, which could include many other restrictive conditions, such as electronic monitoring.
Judges ordinarily set a bail amount at a suspect’s first court appearance after an arrest, which may be either a bail hearing or an arraignment. Judges normally adhere to standard practices (for example, setting bail in the amount of $500 for nonviolent petty misdemeanors). However, judges can raise or lower the standard bail, or waive bail altogether and grant release on the defendant’s “own recognizance,” or O.R., based on the circumstances of an individual case (source).
Defendants do not need a lawyer to arrange for bail. They can either post cash bail personally, or phone a bail bond seller and arrange for a bond. Relatives or friends can come to a jail or court and post cash bail for an arrested person or purchase a bond from a bail bond seller.
Factors That Influence Bail Amounts
In addition to the seriousness of the charged crime, the amount of bail usually depends on factors such as a defendant’s past criminal record, whether a defendant is employed, and whether a defendant has close ties to relatives and the community.
Judges may legally deny bail altogether in some circumstances. For example, if another jurisdiction has placed a warrant (hold) on a defendant, a judge is likely to keep the defendant in custody at least long enough for the other jurisdiction to pursue its charge. And bail may be denied to a defendant who is likely to flee the jurisdiction before the case concludes.
Example: Rosie Olla is arrested and charged with managing a large prostitution ring. Rosie is a naturalized American citizen born in Spain, and her family still lives in Barcelona. While searching Rosie after her arrest, the police found that she was carrying a passport and $5,000 in cash. Under these circumstances, a judge will probably be very reluctant to set bail for Rosie. Her family background and the fact that she was carrying a passport and a large amount of cash suggest that Rosie may flee to Spain if she is released on bail. Unless Rosie can explain to the judge why she was carrying the passport and cash, and can also demonstrate strong ties to the local community, a judge is likely to deny her request for bail.
In many areas of the country, defendants can post bail with the police even before they are brought to court for a bail hearing or an arraignment. Many jails have posted bail schedules, which specify bail amounts for common crimes. An arrested defendant can obtain release immediately after booking by paying the amount of bail set forth in the jailhouse bail schedule. Bail schedules can vary considerably according to locality, type of crime, and residency.
As a general rule, bail for offenses classified as felonies is five to ten times the bail required for misdemeanors. The more serious and dangerous the crime, the higher the amount of bail is likely to be. As a general rule, a jailhouse bail schedule is inflexible. The police will not accept bail other than as set forth in a schedule; suspects wanting to pay less must go before a judge.
As an alternative or in addition to jailhouse bail schedules, some areas have duty judges. A duty judge is available to fix bail over the phone, without the necessity for a formal court hearing. Like a jailhouse bail schedule, using a duty judge is an option for arrested persons who are anxious to bail out of jail before going to court.
Police Practices That Affect Bail Amounts
Unfortunately for many suspects who want to bail out of jail quickly, the police tend to arrest suspects for the most serious criminal charge that can possibly be supported by the facts at their disposal. For instance, the police may treat possession of a small amount of marijuana (a misdemeanor in most states) as an arrest for possession of marijuana with intent to sell (a felony in all states). Even though such a charge will almost certainly be reduced to a misdemeanor later in the case, it is a felony for the purposes of the bail schedule, and bail will be set accordingly.
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Since 1992, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Although some defendants think that they can “beat the system” on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic.
West Palm Beach lawyer Andrew Stine focuses exclusively on criminal defense cases and has an exceptional track record of results spanning the last ten years. A former public defender and medic for the U.S. Army, Mr. Stine is known for being proactive. He represents his clients aggressively, armed with individual attention and a passionate respect for their rights to due process.
When you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your family, your reputation and your job may be at stake. Be certain of your attorney’s competence, reputation, expertise and experience as a Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.