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How Do Judges Determine A Bail Amount?

When a person gets arrested, there’s a timeline of events that occur. If the crime is serious enough, they can be booked into jail where they’ll wait until a court hearing where the judge will set the bail amount (if the person qualifies for bail). There are a number of factors that determine a person’s bail amount:

The severity of the crime

Not surprisingly, the more severe the committed crime, the greater the bail amount will likely be. Small crimes, usually in the form of misdemeanors, typically have lower bail amounts. Bail amounts are set in order to help guarantee the defended will appear for all future court appearances. A person can be released once their bail has been posted. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail agent will be required to pay the full bail amount. When this happens or when the defendant violates the bail conditions, the bail agent will locate the defendant and take them back to jail. Keep in mind that if the defendant does not make their court date, they could lose any collateral that was signed over with the bond.

Past Criminal History

If a person has a long history of criminal activity, the judge will likely set a higher bail amount for each subsequent arrest. This is because of the potential risk that additional crimes could occur before the defendant returns to their scheduled court appearances.

Past Failures to Appear in Court

The purpose of posting bail is to provide assurance of the defendant’s appearance at future court hearings. Therefore, a person who has a history of missing court appearances will have a more difficult time convincing the judge they will appear in the future. In this case, the judge will likely set a higher bail amount or deny bail entirely.

Outstanding Warrants

In the case the defendant has outstanding warrants (valid arrest warrants originally issued months or years previously) the judge can legally deny bail until the court investigates the outstanding charges.

Risk of Flight

A person’s flight risk can be determined by a number of ways. Having local family ties ensures the defendant is less likely to leave town. If, however, the judge suspects the defendant could be leaving the state or country, a higher bail amount could be ensured. A person’s length of residence is also a determining factor. The longer a person has lived in their community, the less risk associated with flight. A person’s financial position also determines their flight risk. Not having the money to travel shows assurance that the defendant is low risk of flight.

Career and School

Finally, the judge will place considerations on whether the defendant is employed or attending college. If, for example, the defendant is in the middle of a semester with no record of criminal activity will likely receive a light bail amount (depending on the severity of the crime).

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