The United States criminal justice system is set up in such a way that those who are accused of a crime are afforded certain rights. This is necessary since the assumption of innocence is an inherent belief within the system. Bail is one of these rights, but it’s important to recognize that the right to bail isn’t necessarily granted to every individual. Understanding bail is essential to understanding the system as a whole.
What is Bail?
Bail is the deposit of either money or property, in order for a court to allow a person suspected of a crime to be released from jail. This deposit is given as collateral and as a guarantee that the person accused of the crime will show up to all of their court dates. If the suspect absconds or doesn’t attend all court dates, the deposit is usually forfeited. Most generally, a bail bond is secured through a bail agency such as family-owned and operated Bail Hotline, a California company.
The amount paid for a defendant’s bail is returned to the person who posted the money – after the conclusion of the trial. This is usually true regardless of the outcome of the trial. Bail can be paid in full to the court, or a bail bonds agency can sign off on the person’s release for a fee. These fees can vary, but in California it amounts to 10 percent of the total bail amount, and must be paid to the bondsman to secure a release.
The History of Bail in the United States
Before America gained its independence, its colonies used Britain’s long existing bail system. That system had laws, such as the Statute of Westminster, regulating bail that went back as far as the year 1275. Once America was freed from the British monarchy, states began passing their own laws relating to bail.
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which outlaws excessive bail, was modeled after Virginia’s state constitution. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also requires that suspects be made aware of the crime that they’re charged with. This allows them to request bail if they’re arrested for a bailable offense. Further laws, such as the Bail Reform Act of 1966, allowed accused persons to be released on personal bonds or on their own recognizance.
Does Everyone get Bail?
Though the Eighth Amendment protects against excessive bail, there is no law that gives the absolute right to receive bail. Bail is meant to be an incentive for a person to return to court. If a judge believes that no amount of money can guarantee a suspect’s return, he or she has the right to remand the defendant to custody until the trial.
Reasons that a judge may believe a suspect’s return is unlikely could be based on the degree of severity of the crime, or the finality of its possible punishments. Additionally, if a judge believes that a suspect is a danger to themselves or others – if they were to be put back amongst the public citizenry – he or she will likely deny bail. Bail is all about risk, and if the risk seems too great a suspect may have to wait out their trial behind bars.
Bail is a way to ensure that people aren’t detained unnecessarily in jail while awaiting trial. Bail laws will vary by state, so anyone facing a trial should do a little research into their state’s specific laws. The majority of Americans are allowed to post bail, and if they can’t afford it, there are bail bond agencies that can assist. Between the bail system and bail bondsmen, there is no reason for any American not being held on severe charges to be confined to jail while awaiting trial.