What is Bail?
Under the United States Constitution, and under the California Penal Code, a defendants has a right to reasonable bail for most offenses. Bail is the monetary amount the defendant must pay before he can be released from custody while a criminal prosecution is pending. It basically ensures that the defendant will appear at all the court appearances, because failure to appear will “forfeit” the bail.
Who determines the bail amount?
California Penal Code section 1269b(c) requires the court judges of each county to prepare, adopt, and annually revise a uniform countywide schedule of bail for all bailable offenses. This is commonly known as the bail schedule which lists the bail amount for each crime. This bail schedule can normally be found on the court or county jail’s website. Click on the links below to find the bail schedules for counties in Central California.
What is a bail hearing?
The amount of your bail is determined first when you are booked into custody, and subsequently at your first appearance in front of the judge. When you are first booked into custody, the jail will generally have bail set pursuant to the bail schedule. At the first court appearance, the judge will also determine what the appropriate bail amount is.
The Judge has the discretion to deviate from the bail schedule, taking into consideration such factors such as the seriousness of the crime, propensity for absconding and your danger to the community. Penal Code Section 1275. Under Penal Code Section 1275.1, a special hearing is required if there is probably cause that the funds used to pay bail are illegally obtained. The burden is on the defendant to prove the posted bail is obtained from legal sources.
If the circumstances are appropriate, and the proper arguments are made, the judge may decide to release you on your own recognizance pursuant to Penal Code section 1270. Commonly referred to as an O.R., it allows for you to remain out of custody without posting any bail, with your promise to be present for all your court dates. A showing that you don’t pose a threat to the community, that your ties to the community are strong such that you wont abscond, and the offense was not a serious or dangerous offense will help the judge determine if you should be released on your own recognizance or have the bail reduced. All this evidence comes in at a bail hearing.
A skillful attorney will be able to make the appropriate arguments and provide all the facts helpful in securing a grant of O.R. or a substantial reduction in bail.
How to post bail
Once the bail amount has been set, the defendant must pay that amount to the court before he can be released. Many times it is unfeasible for an individual to post the bail amount since it is very common for bail to be set at $35,000 and higher. In these instances, a Bail Bondsman is used. They will post the bail in the form of a bail bond, and “assume” liability should the defendant fail to appear. The Bondsman will require a premium from the defendant for posting the bail. Here in california, the premium is required to be at either 8 or 10 percent of the actual bail amount. If the defendant fails to appear for his court appearances, the bond will be forfeited, and the bail bonds man has 180 days to bring the defendant back into custody, or he must pay the full amount of the bail. The Judge will also issue a bench warrant which allows any peace officer to arrest the defendant and bring the defendant back into custody.
Contacting a competent Criminal Defense Attorney and a Savvy Bail-bondsman are the first steps one should take when faced with a potentially life altering experience. Let us help you gain your freedom and fight for your constitutional rights.