The bail system is a way to make sure that people accused of a crime come to court when they are supposed to, while upholding their presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A bail is an amount of money or property set by the court, which a defendant must pay to secure their release from pretrial detention. If a defendant cannot afford their bail, it may affect their personal and professional lives, as they may spend their trial period in custody.
In this article, we’ll explore the purpose of bail, different factors influencing bail amounts, consequences of not posting bail, the duration of jail stay when bail isn’t posted, alternatives to the traditional bail system, and more.
What is the Purpose of Bail?
Ensure Appearance in Trial
Primarily, a bail ensures that the defendant appears in court for their initial bail hearing and other court sittings. The bail incentivizes the defendant to return to court to face their charges. If the defendant fails to appear in court, they stand the risk of losing their bail money.
Protect the Community from Potential Harm
Bail may also come with other conditions such as mandatory check-ins, house confinement, and other restraining orders. These restrictions help ensure that the defendant does not pose harm to the public during their trial period. And the defendant may forfeit their bail money and even incur more charges if they fail to comply with their bail conditions.
Upholds the Individual’s Rights
Detaining the accused before their conviction can result to violation of their rights. Hence, bail provides a way to uphold an individual’s rights and presumption of innocence by protecting them from unnecessary detention during their trial period.
Factors Influencing Bail Amount
Nature and Severity of the Crime
Minor crimes attract low bail amounts, while severe crimes attract higher bail amounts. For example, a person accused of DUI may be required to post $1000 bail, whereas a drug trafficking charge may attract up to $100,000 bond.
Criminal History of the Accused
If you have a long criminal record, the court may set a high bail amount. Also, depending on the severity of your past crime, the court may deny the bail entirely.
Ties to the Community
Strong ties to the community such as residency, family, employment, and membership in social and religious groups makes you a low flight risk, and therefore, attract a low bail amount. Having little or no community ties, on the other hand, increases your likelihood of flight, resulting in a high bail amount.
Financial Status of the Defendant
People with high financial status are considered high flight risk as they have enough money and resources to facilitate flight. For instance, expect an astronomical bail amount for an individual who owns a private jet and multiple passports.
Past Court Appearance
If you have a history of missing court dates, you may end up incurring a high bail amount. In some cases, the judge may deny the bail entirely.
Danger to the Public
Individuals accused of violent or sexual crimes are considered a high risk to public safety. Hence, the court may release them with a high cash bond and harsh bail conditions to deter them from committing another crime.
Consequences of Not Posting Bail
Immediate Remand to Jail
When people cannot pay bail, they are taken back into custody immediately. This is to ensure that the individual appears on a court date to face their charges and to protect the public from potential danger.
Impact on Employment and Personal Life
When an individual is remanded to jail, they won’t have the opportunity to go to work, take care of their family, and fulfill other personal obligations. Worse still, the individual may lose their job, causing financial stress for them and their loved ones.
Potential Influence on Legal Strategy and Defense
When you stay in jail, you won’t have the opportunity to communicate with your attorney, plan your defense strategies, and prepare for trial. Additionally, you won’t have time to gather the evidence and resources necessary for bolstering your claim in the court. This could negatively impact the outcome of your case.
Duration of Jail Stay When You Don’t Post Bail
How long you stay in jail when you don’t post bail depends on various factors such as the nature of the case, court procedures, and scheduling. The court may delay the trial of your case for weeks, months or even years, depending on factors such as the complexity of your case, court backlogs, scheduling conflicts, and the judge’s availability.
Some changes in circumstance, however, can constitute a legal ground to petition for bail modification or release from pretrial detention. Some of these changes may include health conditions or the appearance of new evidence that weakens the prosecution’s claim. Additionally, many jurisdictions have statutory limits on pretrial detention for certain offenses.
Alternatives to Traditional Bail
Release on Own Recognizance (ROR)
In ROR, the defendant doesn’t post bail. Instead, they’re released based on the promise that they will appear in court for scheduled hearings and proceedings. The court typically grants this bail option for individuals who are considered low flight risks and low threat to public safety.
Unsecured Bond or Signature Bond
For unsecured bonds, the defendant secures their release without paying collateral, based on the promise that they will appear for all scheduled hearings. However, the defendant would pay a specified amount of money if they fail to fulfill their promise. This is unlike the secure bond where the court requires the defendant or the cosigner to surrender their assets as collateral.
Pretrial Services Programs and Electronic Monitoring
Many jurisdictions run pretrial programs that provide support and supervision for defendants awaiting trial. Such pretrial programs assess the defendant to determine their likelihood of appearing in court or committing another crime while on pretrial release. This helps the court make informed decisions about the best possible bail conditions to set for the individual.
Potential Problems with Prolonged Pretrial Detention
Pretrial detention has contributed to the growth of jail population by 63%, and more than 60% of the defendants are jailed pretrial because they can’t pay bail. This results in jail overcrowding, putting strain on the resources and structures of correctional facilities.
Emotional and Psychological Effects on Detainees
Studies show that people detained pretrial are six times more likely to commit suicide than people who have been convicted and sentenced. Being detained for a long period can affect a person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. This may be due to isolation, stress, and loss of personal freedom due to detention.
Potential for Coercing Plea Deals
Being detained for a long time increases your chance of yielding to the prosecutor’s plea deal offer. Studies have shown that any period of trial detention increases the likelihood of a guilty plea by 23%. The stress and harshness of the detention may pressure a person to accept an unfavorable plea agreement just to secure release from custody.
Disproportionate Impact on Economically Disadvantaged Individuals
Many individuals are detained not because they pose a danger to the public but because they can’t afford bail money due to low financial status. Rich people, however, can secure their release while awaiting trial. This creates inequality in the judicial system; reason many people criticize the cash bail system.
Legal Rights of Those Unable to Make Bail
Right to a Speedy Trial
Also known as the sixth amendment, the speedy trial clause allows the accused to enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed. This provision seeks to protect the accused from unnecessary delay in the trial proceedings. It also helps prevent the individual from being held in pretrial detention for a long time without their case being resolved.
Periodic Review of Bail Amounts
In the case of changes in circumstances or the appearance of new information, you may request for the review of your bail amount to have it potentially reduced. With that, you can present new arguments or evidence to justify lower bail.
Access to Legal Counsel and Rights to Challenge Excessive Bail
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees you the right to legal counsel. On the other hand, the Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail charges and cruel punishment, giving you the right to challenge unnecessarily high bail amounts. So, you can seek legal representation to challenge in court if you think your bail is high.
Bail Reform Movements
Many individuals and organizations have criticized the cash bail system. The primary argument is that it is discriminatory to low income individuals who cannot afford bail, leading to pretrial detention and inequality in the justice system. Cash bail critics have also proposed alternative methods such as pretrial programs on the basis of more equity.
Consequently, states such as New Jersey, Alaska, and New York have enacted bail reform, abolishing cash bail for the majority of cases. Illinois recently became the first state to fully abolish the cash bail system.
New Jersey, after enacting bail reform in 2017, have reported improved court appearance, with the reduction in jail population saving the state around $68 million in 2018 alone. Also, following the enactment of bail reform in New York in 2019, the pretrial population in NY jail decreased by 15%.
Bail reform, however, is not without counterargument. Critics of bail reform argue that reducing or eliminating the cash bail system increases the risk of failure to appear in court and committing of new crimes. For example, many politicians and political commentators have tied the increase in crime rates in New York to the bail reform.
Tips for Navigating the Bail System
Work with a Defense Attorney or Public Defender
To ensure effective legal representation and protection of your rights, work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney is well-versed in criminal law and can help you navigate the bail system.
However, you must be open and transparent with your attorney about the details surrounding your case. Provide them with any relevant documents and evidence supporting your case, as this will help them build a strong argument to justify lower bail charges.
Explore Bail Bond Services
If you cannot afford a full bail, consider hiring a reputable bail bond company like the Connecticut Bail Bonds. Bail bond services charge a certain percentage of the bail, usually 10%, under certain terms of bail bond agreement, and post the bail on your behalf. At Connecticut Bail Bonds, we help you secure your release; you don’t have to pay the full amount of the bail.
It’s important, however, to note that bail bonds come with risks. Depending on the type of bail bond specified by the court, you may need to surrender your asset or money before the bail bondsman posts the bail.
In the case of a property bail bond, you’ll hand over your property as collateral, while for a cash bond, you have to pay the full bail amount upfront. If you violate the terms of the agreement, you may lose the asset or the money you used as collateral.
Communicate with Family and Support Networks
Be open and keep your family and loved ones informed about your case. They can provide you not just emotional support, but relevant resources, finances, and evidence to secure your bail bond or release. Keep them updated about your court dates, changes in bail conditions, bail bond terms, and other relevant information, as it will help them stay engaged and assist you when necessary.
Staying Informed about Rights and Available Resources
Take advantage of free legal channels and blogs to educate yourself about your legal rights, especially concerning the bail system and the bail bond process. Understand what actions are permissible for the police under the law, what type of information you can provide to avoid incriminating yourself, and what protections should be afforded to you according to law.
Also, take advantage of available legal resources like public defender services, legal aid organizations, and pro bono attorney to help you navigate the bail system effectively.
The bail system is a complex legal setup that protects the defendant’s rights and guarantees their appearance in court. However, it’s not without its own challenges, as many deem it discriminatory to low income citizens. This resulted in a push against the cash bail system, leading to the enactment of bail reform. It’s important you understand your legal rights regarding the bail system and seek quality legal assistance to help you navigate the complexities of the bail system.
At Connecticut Bail Bonds, ready to help you secure your release, so you can have the freedom to go about your normal business while awaiting trial. Available 24/7 365 days/year, contact us now for a free consultation.