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All About Bail Schedules

No one looks forward to being arrested. They are even less keen on spending time behind bars while they wait for a court date. In many cases, the judge holding the preliminary hearing will set bail and provide the opportunity for the defendant to be released on bail.

This is where the idea of a bail schedule comes into play.

What is a Bail Schedule?

The bail schedule is a breakdown of typical bail amounts that are approved by the local jurisdiction. For example, the schedule may be approved and used in all courts that operate within a specific county or parish. The amounts are based on the nature of the crime associated with the event in question. In order for the accused party to be released between the time of the arrest and the actual trial, it is necessary to either post the entire bail with the court, or secure the services of a bail bonding company to pledge the funds required by the court.

How is the Schedule Organized?

While the actual structure of the bail schedule can vary from one jurisdiction to the next, it is typically organized into two sections. The first has to do with offenses that are considered felonies. Felonies are events that involve some level of violence, such as the intentional injury of another person. The most extreme form of felony would be the murder of another individual.

Along with a schedule associated with felony accusations, the court will also have bail amounts set for various types of misdemeanors. These types of crimes usually do not involve any type of violent acts, but are still serious enough to require some sort of legal action.

In most jurisdictions, various offenses that fall under the broader categories of felonies and misdemeanors are broken down and will carry different bail amounts. This provides the presiding judge with a valuable resource in terms of settling bail when and as it’s appropriate.

Will the Judge Use the Exact Amounts Identified in the Schedule?

Many jurisdictions have laws in place that allows judges some discretion in setting the amount of bail related to a specific case. Many factors play into settling on that bail amount. One has to do with the risk of flight on the part of the accused. If the prosecutor can provide the judge with facts that indicate the accused is likely to leave the area in an attempt to evade the trial and the chance for being found guilty, the judge may choose to deny the request for bail altogether.

Other factors include the past history of the accused party. When the individual has been convicted of any type of offenses in the past, this may give the judge grounds for imposing a bail that is higher than found in the schedule. At the same time, a first-time offender who demonstrates no signs of being a flight risk may be granted a lower bail.
What Happens When the Bail is Set?

Once the judge sets the bail at the preliminary hearing, there are three avenues open to the accused party. The first is to remain in custody until the court date arrives. In this scenario, no bail money is pledged or provided to the court. Instead, the defendant remains behind bars until the trial takes place.

A second option is to pay the bail in full. Assuming the defendant has the financial resources to do so, the bail can be tendered to the court. That triggers the release process. Depending on how that process is established in the local jurisdiction, the accused party may be released within the hour or at any time over the next several hours. In either scenario, the release occurs with the understanding that the party is pledging to return to date set for the trial.

The third and more common strategy is to engage the services of a bail bonding company. Once the bail amount is set, the bondsman enters into a covenant with the court to pledge the amount necessary to obtain the release of the client. In turn, the bonding company collects a fee from that client. Typically, the fee is a fixed percentage of the total bond amount. The court holds the bonding company liable for the entire bond amount until the court date arrives and an official verifies that the defendant has in fact returned to face the court.

Remember that making bail does more than allow the accused party to remain free. It also means being able to show up for work every day, have time to find and hire an attorney, and in general prepare for the trial. In the best case scenario, the individual is not convicted of the accused crime, and it’s possible to put the entire situation in the past where it belongs.

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