When someone posts bail, they can pay a certain amount of money to the court so that they don’t have to stay in jail until their trial. They can go home or to another location. They still have to come back for the trial (or an alternative hearing if they choose to plead guilty or no-contest), or the court is going to keep the money. If someone skips their proceedings, they could also be re-arrested.
Posting bail means that you have incentive to return. You’re going to come back to court, partially because you want to get that money back. As such, the state doesn’t need to hold you in jail. If someone doesn’t post bail, however, then they may not be released due to the heightened risk that they won’t return to court.
What factors are considered?
When determining how much to charge someone for bail, or if it will even be offered, the court is going to consider numerous factors. Four of the most important are:
- The odds that more crimes would be committed while the person was out on bail
- Any potential risk to the public or the community at large
- The odds that the defendant will return
- The general integrity of the justice system
Some defendants are told that they can’t post bail because they haven’t met one of the qualifications above – for instance, the judge believes they will commit another crime, that they will flee the country or that they would pose a serious risk to the public.
Do we need reform?
There are those who argue that bail reform is needed. After all, many people cannot afford it. They have to spend time behind bars simply because of their financial standing, whereas a more affluent person in the same situation would be released. That said, this is the system that is in place right now. It may need reform, but it’s also important for defendants to understand how it works for them in its current setup. Seeking legal guidance can help them to better understand their rights and options in the here and now.