History of Bail Bonds

history of bail bondsThe development of bail bonds law has gradually formalized the rules of the legal and court officials with respect to how they must treat the accused. A defendant can “raise bail” by placing money in the hands of the court as a guarantee that he will return for his trial. The beginning of bail bonds history really began in June 15, 1215 with the passing of the Magna Carta.

What is Bail?

Originally, the English King could falsely arrest anyone and hold him without “showing any cause for the imprisonment.” The court process can take a long time – even years to complete. Innocent men could lose their social reputation, employment and housing without having ever been found guilty of any crime by a court of law.

Under the English system, the judicial and executive branches were combined. English law makers created the bail bond system to curb the abuses of authorities. The “right to hear charges against you” and “to provide a monetary security to be free before a trial” were established. Generally, bail is to be set based on 1) the character of the suspect, 2) the nature of the offense (capital or non-capital) and 3) community safety.

English “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” Standards

The very concept of being “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” is invalidated if a man is imprisoned during a long court hearing process. After English kings imprisoned innocent men on vague unsubstantiated charges and then delayed court action, English legislators realized they must create a new system to prevent abuse of power. The bail bond process permits the accused to place a monetary deposit with the authorities to guarantee his return for the trial.

In 1677, the English Habeas Corpus Act authorized magistrates to determine bail provisions, instead of sheriffs. Formalizing court procedures reduced the opportunity for abuse. English law differentiated between “bailable” and “unbailable” offenses.

American Bail Statutes

After the American Revolution, the new United States incorporated the “right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation” in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This prohibits “excessive bail” and directs the authorities to notify defendants concerning bail provisions. The Judiciary Act of 1789 defined the “bailable offense” and defines judicial authority in assigning bail. The 1946 Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure left bail after conviction up to the discretion of the judge.

The Bail Reform Act of 1966 sought to reduce the financial burdens on the poor of raising bail. The “burden of proof” was shifted from the character of the accused or the safety of the community to the nature of the offense and whether the accused was likely to appear at trial. The poor man could be “ordered released pending trial on his personal recognizance” with bail payment. It is important to note that will all of these bail bonds laws, the judge still retains discretion in extreme cases.

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Bail Bond Rates

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