What is Bail?

Bail is easy to understand. This post explains the concept and shares some of its history.All-Pro Logo with phone number

A Short Definition

To paraphrase several online definitions, bail is money or property given to a court to hold during a person’s temporary release from police custody while that person awaits trial for a crime.

Any person “out on bail” who does not return for his or her court appointment forfeits the money or property posted for bail.

Who Needs Bail?

When people are charged with crimes severe enough to require that they be arrested and held by law enforcement, they may be offered bail. Anybody who does not want to “rot in jail” awaiting trial needs bail.

Needing bail and being offered bail are quite different. Some criminal charges are so severe bail cannot be allowed.
Bail in U.S. History

According to Wikipedia’s page on the subject, bail’s practice predates the United States. Bail has evolved along with the U.S.

At the nation’s dawn, bail was allowed for all non-capital crimes. Whether to allow bail for capital crimes was a judge’s decision. Until 1966, “allowed” did not mean “granted.”

Congress gave all non-capital defendants a statutory right to bail with the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The act also gave judges discretion to withhold bail when they lacked confidence in a defendant’s return.

Today, defendants may also be denied bail if considered a threat to the general public.

Who Can Pay Bail?

Courts do not tightly restrict who may offer a person’s bail. It can be “put up” by:

  • Defendants
  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Distant relatives
  • Acquaintances
  • Admirers
  • Nonprofit entities
  • Bail bond agencies

Any person or group willing to risk money or property on the promise a defendant will return for trial proceedings can typically post that defendant’s bail.

What Is a Bail Bond?

A defendant signs a bail bond at the time of his or her release on bail. This is an agreement that details the terms of the defendant’s temporary release.

Bail bond agents help defendants who do not have many resources to post bail. In this arrangement, the bail bond agent accepts a portion of the bail amount plus a fee and provides the full bail amount on the defendant’s behalf.

What Is “Jumping Bail”?

A defendant who does not return for trial has “jumped bail.”

 

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