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Can Someone Fail to Post Bail?

If you’re arrested for a crime, it’s likely that some period of time will elapse before the jurisdictional court will have room on its docket to hear your case.

In order to ensure that you’ll show up in court when your case is to be heard, you may be required to deposit some kind of tangible asset with the court. Such assets, known as bail, can either be cash, property, or a bond.

If you appear for your hearing in front of the court, your bail will be returned to you in full. If you fail to appear, however, your bail will be forfeited, and a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

Is Bail a Right?

While the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, there is no Constitutional right to bail itself as such. Rather, the concept of bail reflects the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, which is a fundamental ideal embedded within the American criminal justice system.

How Is Bail Set?

Bail is set at the discretion of the court. Commonplace crimes may have standard bail schedules, which enable a defendant to be released quickly without having to wait to be arraigned in front of a judge.

If a court sets your bail, the judge presiding over your arraignment will consider a number of different factors when setting the amount of your bail. He or she may look at the number of years you’ve resided in your community, your past criminal record and whether or not alcohol or drug abuse may have played a role in the crime of which you’ve been accused.

In addition to bail, the court may impose other conditions for your release from custody. The court may ask you to surrender your passport and impose other restrictions upon travel. The court may also require psychological testing or testing for alcohol or drug use. If the crime of which you’re accused involved a victim, you will not be allowed to have any contact with that victim or with any witnesses who may be called upon to testify. Violating these any of these conditions will likely lead to the revocation of bail and the forfeiture of any money that was put up.

If you’re accused of certain capital crimes, if an outstanding warrant exists in another jurisdiction for your arrest or if the judge deems that you are likely to flee the jurisdiction before your case is heard, the judge may deny your request for bail entirely

What Happens If You Can’t Pay Bail?

If you’re unable to afford the bail that has been set in your case, you don’t necessarily have to resign yourself to remain in custody until your trial date. Regardless of your ability to pay, you’ll be assigned an attorney. Your attorney will pursue all options available that may allow you to be released from custody pending your trial.

One of those options may entail allowing you to be released on your own recognizance. This type of release is essentially a no cost bail and may be subject to the same types of restrictive conditions as other instances of bail.

The nature of the crime you’ve been accused of will likely influence any decision an arraignment judge may make that allows you to be released on your own recognizance. You’re more likely to be released on your own recognizance if you’re accused of a nonviolent crime like shoplifting than if you’re accused of criminal assault.

Bail Bond Agents

Commercial bail bondsmen can also be helpful if you’re unable to afford the total amount of your bail. A bail bond agent will charge you a nonrefundable fee for putting up your bail that typically amounts to 10 percent to 20 percent of the total bail. If you fail to show up on your court date, the bail bond agent is then responsible for paying the total amount of your bail to the court. Most bail bonding agencies accept credit cards, and they may also be willing to accept a payment arrangement if your credit is good. If you’re interested in pursuing this option, speak with your attorney or contact a bail bonding agency in your area.

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