What Determines the Bail Amount?

After the bail amount has been set the bail bond process begins and that’s when you can help your friend or loved one “post bail.” Many people ask themselves, what determines the bail amount? Many times less serious crimes are bailable without going before the judge, and will be set from the “bail schedule” at the jail. The bail schedule is a guideline for common crimes and can include set amounts for traffic violations, misdemeanors, DWI (DUI) charges and even felony crimes like burglary or violent offenses. Each county has its own bail schedule that determines the bail amount. Here is an example, this is the 2012 bail schedule for the county of Los Angeles.

Ultimately, the judge has the last say as to whether or not bail is set and the amount of the bail. If the accused is charged with a minor offense, and they are employed and reside in the area, the judge may release them on their own recognizance with no bail required. Bail may also be lowered for a person with little financial resources.

The following background details about the defendant may affect the judge’s decision as to the bail and conditions that may be set:

1. Prior criminal record and their record of following court orders
2. Job and finances
3. Ties to family in the community
4. Length of time in the community
5. Property ownership in the community
6. Severity of the charges
7. Probability of conviction and potential sentence
8. Threat to public safety
9. Risk of flight and country of citizenship

Severity of Charges

Higher bail is likely if a serious crime is involved. If the crime was violent or severe (as in murder, kidnapping, drug sales, etc.) there is a low probability of bail; in this case the defendant will be remanded (no bail) to jail to await trial.

Prior Record or Warrants

If you have a criminal record the bail will be higher, but if the crime is serious as well then there may be no bail set. Things taken into consideration will be the number of your prior convictions, and their level of severity, as well as how recently they occurred.

If you have a record and have also had bench warrants, you are likely not going to have bail set. Since setting bail is all about your promise to appear as directed, bench warrants will send up a red flag about your reliability. If the warrant was for other reasons, or previously resolved legitimately, your defense counsel can argue the point during your arraignment to convince the judge to set bail.

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