Everyone doesn’t want to go to jail. That’s why as soon as suspected individuals arrive at a police station, they immediately think about getting out of jail. Bail is a property granting those individuals the right to be released from jail.
The basics of bail
According to Nolo.com’s page about posting bail after an arrest, bail is a type of ‘cash, bond or property that an arrested individual gives to a court, ensuring that they’ll appear in court when ordered to appear.’
While a fair exchange, defendants who fail to show in court receive a warrant for their arrest, issued by the court after they keep the bail. In some cases, the bail money may be returned after the end of the trial or if the defendant makes all of their court appearances, despite their verdict.
How bail gets set
It’s a judge’s responsibility to set bail. Most jails also have bail schedules for common crimes that allow arrested individuals to have bail posted as soon as possible.
Some jurisdictions may allow suspects to request judges to lower their bail by a certain amount; this usually applies to suspects who can’t pay the bail amount required by a bail schedule. Depending how the jurisdiction operates, the request for a lowered bail may be handled in a special bail hearing or when they appear in court for the first time.
The Eighth amendment of the United States Constitution protects bail amounts, requiring that no bail should be too excessive. The government can’t use bail to raise money for their purposes or for punishing a person suspected of a specific crime. Therefore, the bail can only be as high to allow the suspect from fleeing a jurisdiction before their case sends.
On an interesting note, some judges have set excessive bail amounts for specific types of cases, which more or less helped keep the suspect in jail before their case ended. Although not entirely constitutional, this form of preventative detention keep high risk suspects (such as those involved in drug crimes or battery) from fleeing early.
The conditions of paying for bail
Bail may be posted as cash or a check written for the full bail amount. Bail can also take on the form of property, usually worth the full bail amount or bonds of the guaranteed full bail amount. Sometimes, a suspect may post bail as a waiver of payment in exchange for their appearance in court (also known as ‘getting out of jail free,’ in some cases).
As soon as they post bail, suspects need to comply with their conditions of release. If they do violate a condition, a judge has the right to revoke their bail and rearrest the suspect, returning them to jail. The conditions of release vary between suspects; some may get conditions as broad as ‘obey all laws’ or as specific as warning them to not contact witnesses.