How does a bail hearing work?
Bail exists solely to secure your presence at future court hearings. The bail hearing is always your first court appearance, after your arrest. A judge or other judicial official will be present at this hearing, along with the prosecutor. You always have the right to have an attorney with you, present and there on your behalf. The prosecutor often makes a recommendation on what your bail should be to the judge. You or your attorney will then make a recommendation for what your bail amount should be, if any. The judge, in their own sound discretion, will determine the type and amount of bail after both sides have made their recommendations.
Forms of Bail
A judge takes many factors into account when determining your bail. Sometimes, for crimes of less severity, bail may take the form of a written promise to appear in the future with a cash bail, should the conditions of your release be violated. You may be required to post cash, or some form of property, as your bail with the court before you can be released.
Factors that can Determine Bail Amount
In order to determine your bail, the judge may ask you questions about the following factors:
Seriousness of the alleged crime
If the alleged crime is a misdemeanor, the usual solution is a signature or lower-cash bond. Allegations of violence, drug crimes, or other threats to the community will be examined much more closely, and generally are never granted release with a signature bond.
Outstanding warrants for previous crimes will results in your release being postponed. You will be detained until the jurisdiction that issued the outstanding warrant can respond. If the warrant is for a “failure to appear”, your bond hearing might be discontinued for a short time to allow the issuing jurisdiction to respond.
Family ties in the area
Your judge might want to know where you will be staying, and who you will be with throughout the duration of your case. These might be the people you will rely on to help you stay out of further trouble with the law.
You will be asked if you have a job. You must be prepared to tell the judge where you work, how long you have been employed there, and what hours you work. You might also be asked about your prior work history.
Property that you own
In more serious cases, the court will ask about your ownership of real estate, vehicles, or other types of personal property. A home, vacant real estate, or other personal property will sometimes be pledged to fulfill your bail.
Prior criminal history
A lack of prior arrests may operate as a mitigating factor with regards to the amount of your bail. prior convictions will almost always influence the judge to set a higher bail. The judge almost always has your record on their desk, and they will know if you lie. If you make that mistake, you may end up in jail until your next court appearance, with no hope of release until then.
History of drug or alcohol abuse
Substance abuse can impair judgement, even to the extent that a person may ignore future court dates. Prior drug or alcohol convictions often results in a higher bail amount. If you do post bail, you may be required to periodically text while on your pretrial release.
What if I cannot post my bail?
If you cannot post a bail bond, you can bring a motion to reduce the amount. Any reduction is entirely within the judge’s purview (their discretion). Be prepared to fully comply with any conditions the judge may order, so that your bail might be reduced.