Judge sitting behind gavel reading documents

How is my bail set?

A specific bail is set by the court based on the decision of either the judge or the magistrate, depending on who is hearing the case. When making their decision, they refer back to their county or state schedule of bails and make a decision based on key factors such as previous offenses, the severity of the crime, community standing, if they have an attorney and how likely they are to voluntarily return.

Judges can also deny a defendant’s request for bail if they feel that the defendant is still a danger to the general public, following a serious crime, if they have a previous criminal record, or any combination of those three factors. The court also must have assurance that the bail money was not obtained during the commission of a felony.

Bail Amount

A judge will set a bail amount based on the severity of the crime. The more severe the crime, the higher the amount of bail they are going to require to release the defendant back into society. A defendant with a criminal record may not even receive a bail amount following more serious crimes. Even a defendant with no criminal record, who commits a severe enough crime, will be given a very high bail.

The defendant’s probable level of danger to the public also plays a role in setting bail. To determine how much risk they pose, the judge will look at the previous criminal record because it is assumed that if the defendant has committed that crime several times before, they are likely to do so again while out on bail. Also, if the defendant has outstanding warrants against them, they are likely treated as a repeat offender and not receive any bail, or have a higher bail set for their release.

Community Standing

The judge also takes into consideration the defendant’s standing in the community by checking if they own a home, are employed, or have a family. Judges sometimes will use their personal discretion in determining the amount if the defendant has hired a private attorney. They may listen to the recommendations of a criminal justice agency based on an interview with the defendant. If the defendant is deemed to be a high flight risk, they will receive a higher bail or sometimes no bail at all.

Once the bail has been set, it will need to be paid before the defendant can be “bailed out of jail.” Many people will not have the money on hand to pay the bail money immediately, so when they call their chosen friend or family member to bail them out, that person has to go to a bail bond company. Then the friend or relative has to co-sign a contract in the amount of the bond, agreeing that the defendant will attend all court ordered hearings. If they breach that contract and the defendant does not show, then they are responsible for paying the balance of the bond and any charges related to apprehending the defendant.

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