Because in America the law states that you are innocent until proven guilty, it isn’t fair for some individuals who have been accused of crimes to sit in jail awaiting a trial by their peers – especially if the court system is severely overcrowded. Bail can allow someone who is arrested for a crime but has not yet been convicted to be released pending their court date. However, not everyone can afford to post bail. This means it often leads much of the socioeconomically- disadvantaged population awaiting their trial in prison because they don’t have the means to “make bail.”
Bail is the amount that a judge will ask a defendant to post during the arraignment process to increase the likelihood that they will show up to their court date. Bail doesn’t have any specific guidelines; the parameters that judges will use to set the dollar amount are typically based many factors – the most important being the defendant’s criminal history and the egregious nature of the charges set against them.
There are also times when a crime is so minor, and the defendant appears to be an upstanding citizen, that a judge will release bail and not have them post any money. It is possible for the presiding judge to release someone on their own recognizance, which means that they are released to return for their court date.
It isn’t mandatory for you to have a lawyer present during the arraignment hearing when bail is set. But if you are facing severe charges or you have a criminal history, then having someone to try to get your bail reduced may be necessary so that you don’t sit in prison awaiting your day in court.
Once the bail is set, the defendant can either pay their own bail amount, they can request a bail bond seller to “lend” them bond money, or someone can post bail money on their behalf. If someone posts bail for another person, if the defendant does not return to court, the person who posted the bail will not get their money returned to them. There are also times when an individual’s crimes are either so egregious, or they have an extensive criminal history, which the judge has the right to deny the defendant bail altogether.
It isn’t just the severity of the crime that the judge must take into consideration when setting the bail amount. The judge will also ask about the defendant’s previous criminal history and whether they hold a job, or whether or not they are established in the community. If they are transient, then there is more of a likelihood that they might not return to face charges, so the bail is typically set higher.
Some courts use computer programs that are designed with algorithms to determine the amount of risk that a defendant poses of not returning in order to determine how much money the judge should set for bond. But the amount is usually left to the discretion of the sitting judge.
What are bail schedules?
Some jurisdictions allow defendants to post a bail amount before they even have to await the arraignment hearing. Some jails post “bail schedules,” which specify how much bail someone has to post in relation to their alleged crime. The amounts, however, can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. In general, felony charges result in bail amounts that are anywhere from five to ten times more than what someone would post for a misdemeanor charge.
The reason for this is because if a felon is let out of jail, they generally pose a greater risk to the community than someone who is charged with a misdemeanor. Another option in some areas is using “duty judges.” When you are arrested, a duty judge is allowed to ascribe a bail amount over the telephone. It speeds up the bail process and allows people to return to their lives in the event that they aren’t guilty of what they are alleged to have done.
If you are arrested on criminal charges, you will probably be granted a bail amount – unless the crime is extremely egregious or you are a threat to society due to your criminal history. If you are facing serious charges, you might want to hire a right to bail lawyer to ensure that you can make bond, or to ensure that it is even granted in the first place.