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What is Bail and What Does it Mean for Someone Who is Arrested?

When someone is arrested and booked into the police station, there is a possibility that they may be released prior to a trial based on certain criteria. Depending on the severity of a crime, some people may be eligible to post bail and be released, while others will be required to wait behind bars before they have a trial for the crime they are accused of committing. The process of assigning bail and what it means for an accused person differs by individual, and will be outlined below in more detail.

What is bail?

Bail is money that is held by the court system in exchange for someone's release from jail. Usually, bail is set by a judge at a bail hearing around 48 hours after someone is arrested, but occasionally for very minor crimes, bail is assigned at booking.

At a bail hearing, the judge takes into consideration the severity of the crime committed and if the person is a flight risk or a danger to society. For more serious crimes, bail is usually higher, or may not awarded at all for violent crimes. If a judge deems that someone may flee the country, or that they may commit a crime again if released from jail, he/she may require the defendant to stay in jail until the trial date. Bail is held until all proceedings and trials surrounding the accused person are complete.

How to Post Bail

If bail is awarded to someone who has committed a less serious crime, and who is not at risk to flee, the person has several options as to how they can post bail. The first option is to pay cash for the bail. As you can imagine, not everyone has extra cash to pay to the courts, and bail is often quite high. In the case that someone does not have cash, they may enlist the help of a relative to contact a bail bondsman.

A bail bondsman is backed by a special kind of insurance company called a surety company that gives them the ability to pay higher amounts to the courts. They will typically charge the accused a premium, as well as ask for some kind of collateral, such as a property title or other valuable collateral to ensure that the accused will show up to trial and repay the bail. If the defendant does not show up for trial, the bondsman may hire a bounty hunter to find the defendant and ensure that he/she shows up to the court and repays his/her debt.

Issues with Bail

Many people see the most obvious issue with the bail system being the fact that it tends to keep poorer individuals in jail, regardless of guilt or innocence. Many folks have been required to stay in jail prior to their trial due to the fact that they cannot afford to post bail. Many of these people have later been acquitted of the accused crimes. For those who are accused of less serious, non-violent crimes, and who are required to stay behind bars, it can mean that they lose jobs, their families, and endure additional negative repercussions in their personal lives. 

If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, it's extremely important that you contact an experienced criminal attorney who may be able to help you find the resources to avoid spending additional time behind bars. Your attorney will help you navigate the criminal justice system, and will be able to assist you through hearings and trial.

References:

Arrest, Booking and Bail. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/arrest-booking-bail.html

22, 2. M. (n.d.). Bail System Unfair, Former White House Counsel Says. Retrieved April 06, 2017, from https://www.bna.com/bail-system-unfair-n57982085547/

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