Learn about the judge and the items for which he or she will be held responsible, and you’ll better understand how bail is determined. In many ways, judges are no different from the rest of us; they are still subject to the same desires, desires, and needs we all share.
One of these is bail.
Discussing bail in the context of criminal proceedings.
The judge must usually establish bail because…
Why? Because it’s in the Constitution. U.S. constitutional law guarantees that “excessive bail shall not be required….” in the 8th Amendment. While this does not imply that everyone has a right to bail, it does mean that the bail amount cannot be “excessive.” Most people accused of serious crimes, however, are granted bail.
An accused person posts bail to guarantee debt payment to the court if they fail to comply with a court order. Setting bail will increase the accused’s sense of urgency and accountability to comply with the Court’s ruling, for example, if the Court has ordered the accused to return to the Court for the next hearing. The bail amount is entirely at the judge’s “discretion” (is entirely up to the judge’s choice) as long as it does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition on “excessive” bail.
However, there are many eyes on the judge. A judge’s reasoning for setting a bond amount is subject to examination by other judges, such as those in an Appellate Court, who may overturn the amount or send it back to the original Judge for reconsideration if they strongly disagree with the original Judge’s reasoning. Therefore, courts determine bail partly based on sums and conditions with which they anticipate little to no disagreement from other judges.
Citizens who vote could be observed as well. Even in cases where the accused is presumed innocent, judges seek to project an image of being harsh on crime and offenders. The judicial system must uphold the assumption of innocence. But if they give too much weight to that premise, voters will perceive the judge as “too soft on crime” and work to ensure that he or she is not re-elected.
A judge’s decision on bail will have implications for the defendant, the court, and the society.
The judge will take the following into account in this case:
First, the issue might as well not occur if the accused doesn’t attend court. The accused should be “upped the ante” with a large bail sum that will result in his or her loss, if the accused fails to appear in court when directed to do so or otherwise complies with the court’s decision.
If the judge gives some more thought to point #1, he or she may recognize that an accused individual facing severe charges who faces a lengthy jail sentence may be ready to pay a small sum of money for the chance to flee (also known as “skipping bail” or “jumping bail”). If such happens, the bail is considered “forfeited,” and the court keeps the money posted (since the accused is now considered a “fugitive”). The court will consider the offense’s seriousness when deciding how much bail to set to avoid this fugitive outcome.
Third, the accused may threaten the community at large depending on the seriousness of the crime for which he or she has been charged. Suppose the defendant was recently out on bond for another offense and committed armed robberies against a dozen convenience stores. In that case, he or she risks committing other severe crimes if released with a low bail amount. Repeat offenses while out on bond are a significant turnoff for judges. Both communities and voters as a whole are opposed to it.
Fourth, the judge will consider the likelihood that the accused will be found guilty in light of the evidence available when bail is set. The judge’s judgment that the accused should be allowed to participate from “the outside” in preparing his or her defense weakens as the likelihood of conviction rises.
Fifth, the victim’s and witnesses’ safety must be considered in tandem with the issue raised in point No. 4. Judges will often establish hefty bail sums to protect victims and witnesses from the defendant’s return to criminal activity while they are out on bond.
The judge considers the community and the defendant’s circumstances.
First, does the suspect have local links that make it improbable that he or she will disappear? See what I mean? Judges believe that only the most heinous crimes and offenders would cause an accused to abandon ties to family, a $50,000 home, a job they have been working for some time, and other relations that “tie” them to their local communities. But if the suspect is homeless or “just passing through,” there is a greater chance that he or she may disappear.
Second, the judge will consider a defendant’s criminal history for obvious reasons. The judge will likely assume that a defendant with a history of breaching the law will decide that “what’s another little crime like failing to appear,” and will thus not attend court. To ensure that the accused person appears in court, the court may temporarily seize assets (such as cash or the right to use a vehicle or a home) or issue a restraining order.
Has the defendant already complied with the court’s orders? Is there a history of bail agreements that have worked? Over time, judges will develop faith in defendants in the same way that you and I would. The element of trust is also considered when determining bail.
Changes in the case’s dynamics (the prosecution uncovers more incriminating evidence or the defense discloses new information that lowers the likelihood that the prisoner is accountable for the crime) can prompt a reconsideration of bail. The judge will repeatedly review the same factors but may make a different decision each time bail is reviewed.
In your bail hearing, convince the judge that you are not a flight risk, that the crime is minor, that you have never been arrested before, that you have strong community ties, and that your release on bail (or personal recognizance) will not endanger anyone involved in the case or any potential witnesses.
If you want to discuss more, you may find me at. Jim.