Bail is the money a defendant pays to the court to be released from custody before the trial. Bail serves as an assurance that he will return to the court on the date of the trial. If the defendant does return to the court on that date, the court will refund his bail.

How Is Bail Set?

Judges are responsible for setting bail. In determining the amount, judges consider several factors:

  • The type and severity of the crime: people accused of murder, rape, and drug crimes often receive very high bail
  • Criminal record: a person with a history of committing crimes may receive a higher bail. However, if a person has a history of being charged with crimes and appearing at court as required, his bail may be set lower.
  • Likelihood of flight: people who are less likely to flee may receive lower bail

How Do I Post Bail?

If you wish to post bail, you have several options:

  • You can pay the amount specified
  • You can offer property that is worth the full amount of the bail
  • You can pay with bail bonds (to get a bail bond, you pay a certain non-refundable percentage of your bail to a bonding company. The company then offers assurance to the court that they will pay the full amount of your bail if you fail to show up on the date of your trial).

Can I Get out of Jail without Posting Bail?

Possibly. A judge will sometimes release a person "on his own recognizance," meaning that the person simply must sign a promise to show up in court. People who are released on their own recognizance are generally people who do not pose a high flight risk. Thus, a judge will be more likely to release a defendant on his own recognizance if:

  • The defendant has strong ties to family members living in the community
  • The defendant has lived in the same community for many years
  • The defendant has a steady job
  • The defendant has little or no criminal record, or has a history of appearing in court as required

Should I Speak to a Criminal Defense Lawyer about my Bail?

If you have questions regarding your bail, you may want to discuss them with a criminal defense lawyer. A good criminal defense lawyer will let you know what options are available to you. Further, criminal defense lawyers that practice in your location know what the standard bail setting practices are for particular judges.