As public speakers we need to understand how to communicate in a number of different situations. If we happen to find ourselves being arrested, this could be one of the most important communication challenges that you’ll ever face. Once arrested, your goal will be to get out of jail as quickly as possible and that means that you are going to have to post bail. Just exactly how does that bail stuff work?
Is it fair to get locked up for months while waiting for your court date just because of a probation violation or disorderly conduct?
Well, if you find yourself incapable of paying the set bail amount. That might be your fate. About 70 percent of defendants in the U.S. are stuck behind city and county jails because they can’t afford to pay the set bail.
So, what is Bail and how is Bail amount determined?
Bail vs. Bonds: What’s the Difference?
The questions “what is bail?” and “what is bond?” leaves many confused. This is because they both ensure the defendant’s temporary freedom. Yet, they’re actually different when it comes to the source of the money.
Bail is the amount of money that a judge asks a defendant to post during the arraignment process. It acts as collateral to ensure that the defendant will return during their court date. If the defendant or his/her family member pays the bill he/she will bail out of jail. When the funds aren’t available, bonds come in. Bonds occur when a defendant secures a loan with a bail bond association to pay his/her bail.
How to Determine Bail Amount
The law gives judges the power to set bail on whatsoever they see fit. They do this considering many factors relevant to a case such as:
1. Past Criminal Record
This determines the level of threat a defendant poses to his/her community when released. If a defendant has a criminal record, he/she will face a higher bail amount compared to one who doesn’t have any.
Defendants who have outstanding warrants in other jurisdictions can have their bail denied. A judge can keep a defendant for another jurisdiction to peruse its charges.
2. The Seriousness of the Alleged Crime
Judges follow particular guidelines for specific categories of crimes. Crimes that are dangerous and violent in nature have a high bail amount set. So, the bail for offenses classified as felonies is ten times that for misconduct.
The court assumes that serious charges may increase the chances of a defendant to go into hiding as opposed to those with minor cases.
3. Bail Schedules
Bail schedules simply specify the bail amounts needed for different crimes. This helps defendants to post bail or jail bond even before they go to court. After booking a defendant, he/she can be set free by settling the set bail. Bail schedules vary according to the state and crime committed.
It’s important to note that law enforcement won’t accept bail unless it’s settled as per the bail schedule. If a suspect pays less, they’ll have to go to court.
4. Potential Flight Risk
This majorly applies to defendants who are non-residents of the state. In most cases, it’s assumed that the defendant is at a higher risk of fleeing, and thus, may not attend the trial if bail is granted to them.
Also, a judge might set the bail amount high to keep the defendant from trying to run away. This commonly affects defendants caught while trying to run away from law enforcement officers.
5. Current Criminal Status
Factors like the release from another crime, parole or probation impact bail amount. If the defendant has been recently involved in a crime, the bail will be high.
6. Defendant’s Character in the Community
Although the character of a defendant doesn’t form the basis for denial or granting of bail. It can help the court if considered with other factors. It was discovered that defendants who are well invested in the community are at a lesser risk of committing other crimes or even fleeing.
This is because defendants with many ties to their community will generally stick close while they await their court date. Hence, judges are most likely to set a lower bail amount.
7. Probability of Making it to Court
If a defendant pleaded guilty to a crime in the past and failed to appear when called to court. He or She is likely to repeat themselves when given the chance.
Thus, a judge may not want to provide that chance if a defendant has failed to appear before.
8. Algorithm Bail Setting
Courts are now using bail algorithms to make informed decisions on bail amount and pre-trial releases. The algorithm uses selected information about a defendant such as criminal records, age, and current charges. The obtained data assesses the risk of the defendant failing to appear in court or committing the crime again.
Also, before making a bail decision, the judge gets to consider the algorithm’s result.
9. Defendant’s Employment
The court considers if a defendant has a job to enhance the likelihood that he or she will attend the trial. Besides, a defendant’s line of work whether white collar or casual should not influence the judge’s decision to grant bail.
10. Prosecution Case Strength
A judge gets to sentence a defendant to pre-trial detention when the evidence is strong. A good example is when all the witnesses from the prosecution side have testified, and the defendant is vividly aware of the case against him/her. The court can assume that the defendant may want to abstract justice hence deny bail.
What Happens Once Bail Amount is Set?
After a judge determines the bail amount, the defendant gets booked and bail gets posted on their behalf. The member who paid the bail or committed to pay it in case the defendant skips bail signs the contract. Once signed, the defendant will be free to go until his or her court date begins.
Since there is no rule for the amount to set bail for, most judges will follow how previous similar cases got handled in the past. They do this while taking the ten factors explained above into consideration.
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