When you are accused of a crime, part of your arraignment will usually entail a discussion and setting of your bail. Bail is the amount of money that needs to be paid as a retainer to get you out of jail until your trial. The assumption is that if you or a loved one pays the bail amount, you’ll honor your trial date and appear in court in order to get that money back. However, depending on the crime you’re charge with, your bail could be set for anywhere between $100 to an excess of $1 million.
So how does bail work? Who sets it and why does the severity of the crime affect the amount?
Setting Bail and Paying the Price for Limited Freedom
The U.S. Constitution limits setting excessive bail as a way to prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. However, depending on how severe the judge deems the charges (as well as your criminal past), he can set an extremely high bail in order to keep you from being able to afford to miss your trial.
This is how it works...
- A judge will listen to arguments from you (if you choose to represent yourself) or your lawyer and the prosecutor to determine your past criminal history as well as how likely you are to attempt to flee to avoid your trial.
- Once the judge weighs your arguments against the severity of the crime you’re charged with, he’ll determine and set a reasonable amount for bail.
- If you are able to pay that amount, you’ll be allowed to leave until the time of your trial.
- When you do show up for your trial, the full amount you paid will be returned.
- If you don’t show up, that money will be forfeited, a warrant will be issued for your arrest, and you’ll most likely be fined and charged for jumping bail.
- If you’re unable to pay the bail amount, you’ll either be forced to stay in jail until your trial, or seek the help of a bail bondsman.
- If you choose to use a bail bondsman, he’ll pay the entirety of your bail, but charge you at least 10% of the bail amount up front. For example, if your bail is set at $50,000, he would require a non-refundable payment of $5,000.
- If you keep your trial date after using a bondsman, he will get back the money he paid, however, you won’t get anything except the time you had between your arraignment and trial.
- If you don’t keep your trial date, in addition to a warrant for your arrest and additional fines and charges, the bondsman may attempt to track you down and bring you back in order for him to get his money from the court.
Unfortunately, many people are unable to pay their bails (or in some cases even the 10% for a bondsman) and either remain in jail or just plead guilty as they believe it is the only course of action.
There’s Another Way
Thankfully, Darwyn Easley can help make sure the judge doesn’t set your bail excessively high and he can also help you plead down the amount if you’re unable to pay. Make sure you’re not forced to sit in jail or waste money on a bail bondsman when you don’t have to. Fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment and see how we can help secure your pre-trial freedom.