How Bail Is Set


How Bail Is Set:

Judges are responsible for setting bail. Because many people want to get out of jail immediately (instead of waiting up to five days to see a judge), most jails have standard bail schedules that specify bail amounts for common crimes. An arrested person can get out of jail quickly by paying the amount set forth in the bail schedule.

The Eighth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution requires that bail not be excessive. This means that bail should not be used to raise money for the government or to punish a person for being suspected of committing a crime. Remember: The purpose of bail is to give an arrested person her freedom until she is convicted of a crime, and the amount of bail must be no more than is reasonably necessary to keep her from fleeing before a case is over.

So much for theory. In fact, many judges set an impossibly high bail in particular types of cases (such as those involving drug sales or rape) to keep a suspect in jail until the trial is over. Although bail set for this purpose — called preventative detention — is thought by many to violate the Constitution, courts have uniformly rejected this argument (the issue has never been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not constitutional).

If a person can’t afford the amount of bail on the bail schedule, he or she can ask a judge to lower it. Depending on the state, this request must be made either in a special bail setting hearing or when the person appears in court for the first time (usually called the arraignment). Attorney Jesus R. Lopez is experienced at making arguments in bail reduction hearings and can often help reduce bail to a reasonable amount.