Are You Facing Criminal Charges? What You Should Know About Determining Your Bail

If you've been arrested for a crime, it's important to understand the bail process so that you know what to expect. Your bail will typically be set by the judge during your first appearance in court. In some cases, this is during the arraignment, but in others, there may be a specific bail hearing set instead. Every court has its own standards for bail amounts based on the specific crime, but the judge also has the freedom to adjust it as he or she sees fit. Here's a look at some of the factors that can influence your bail.

What Affects Your Bail Amount?

The judge will begin your bail determination by evaluating the seriousness of the crime that you're charged with. In addition, he or she will look at your criminal history, your employment status and your current community ties. If you have no criminal history, have a stable job, and own a home in your neighborhood, you are more likely to get a lower bail amount than if you are unemployed with a long criminal background.

The judge may want to talk with you about your travel plans, your current financial resources and any access you may have to private transportation. The goal is to ensure that you don't have the financial means to travel so that the courts can be certain that you will appear when your court date arrives. If you have the financial means to leave the country, the courts may require that you surrender your passport and may also freeze your accounts until the trial.

What are Bail Schedules?

In most states, there are options for defendants to post bail with the local police department when they are arrested. Many jails have a bail schedule posted which defines a set bail amount for common, minor crimes. The defendant can be released from jail immediately with a follow-up court date for arraignment by paying the bail amount to the jail.

Some jails offer bail schedules for felonies, but those bail amounts are typically much higher than amounts for misdemeanors. The more serious the crime, the higher the bail will be set on the schedule. Unlike the flexibility that you'll have with a judge who could exercise some restraint in the bail amount, the bail schedule in a jail is not flexible.

Finally, you may be able to have your bail set by a duty judge. Duty judges will assign a bail amount via a phone call with the jail officials. If you are looking to bail out as soon as possible and the jail doesn't have a bail schedule, a duty judge may give you the option to bail out before your court hearing.

What Effect do the Police Have on Bail Amounts?

The police officer who arrests you will have a significant role in the ultimate determination of your bail amount. He or she will have the choice of what charge to arrest you on, and some officers will opt to arrest you on the most serious charge possible based on the evidence at hand. This will lead to your bail being higher than if the officer opted for a lesser charge from the start.

If you can negotiate the charge with the officer, you may be able to save yourself significantly on your initial bail amount. Even if the charge were to be lessened in court after your arraignment, your bail amount would remain as initially set based on the charge from your arrest.

Once you have determined your bail amount, you can talk to a bail bondsman to help you post that bail and regain your freedom until your court date. With the information presented here, you'll be in a better position to understand the bail amount that is set and what you can do about it. Click here for more information.