How is Bail Determined?

During a defendant’s first court appearance following their arrest is when a judge ordinarily sets bail. The more serious and dangerous the crime, the higher the amount of bail will generally be. Bail for felony offenses is usually five to ten times the bail required for misdemeanors. Judges have the sole authority to set bond amounts and generally adhere to a “bail schedule,” but depending on individual circumstances, they can raise, lower, or waive bail altogether and grant release on the defendant’s own recognizance. The amount of bail can also depend on factors such as a defendant’s past criminal record, reputation, ability to pay, employment, residency, and ties to relatives and the community. Bail may be denied if the charge is not eligible for bail, the defendant is on probation, there is a warrant for the defendant in another jurisdiction, or the judge believes the defendant is a flight risk.

What is a Bail Schedule?

In each jail, a bail schedule is usually posted. This is essentially a list of offenses and their corresponding bail requirements. If a defendant pays their specific bail amount on the jail’s bail schedule, they can gain immediate release. Bail schedules save both the accused and the court staff time and resources since the amount of bond has already been approved for certain offenses. As a result, defendants do not have to wait to appear before a judge. They (or friends or family) can personally post cash bail or arrange for a bond with a bail bond agency. However, this posted bail schedule is inflexible. If a defendant wants to pay less, they must go before a judge.

Police Practices That Affect Bail Amounts

Police tend to arrest suspects for the most serious criminal charge possible based on the facts at hand during the arrest. Even if a charge will almost certainly be reduced, if a defendant wishes to bail themselves out of jail, they will need to post the bail amount that corresponds with their current charges, not their anticipated reduced charges.

What are Superior Court Only Bonds?

Only a Superior Court judge may set bond for serious offenses such as: treason, murder, rape, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, hijacking an aircraft or motor vehicle, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated stalking, trafficking in cocaine or marijuana, and offenses such as kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault or burglary if the defendant is currently on probation or parole for any of the previously listed offenses.


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