How Does Bail Work?


Bail is cash, a bond, or property that people accused of a crime give to the court to guarantee they will appear for their trial when ordered to do so. If the defendant fails to show up, the court can keep the bail and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

When a person is arrested, a judge will determine whether to set bail for the accused and how high it should be. Many jails have a standard bail amount that specifies how much a person must pay to get out of jail before even seeing a judge. If a person can wait, he or she will appear in front of a judge, where the court will determine the amount usually needed according to mathematical algorithms. Select information about the person will be entered into a program, and a score or recommendation comes out. These algorithms assess the likelihood the person will commit another crime or fail to show up in court.

The 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from excessive bail amounts, which means the government can’t use your bail primarily to raise money. The payment is also not a punishment. The purpose of bail is to prevent an arrested person from trying to avoid a fair trial while allowing him or her to go home. However, many judges might set impossibly high bail in particular cases, knowing the bail will effectively keep the suspect in jail until the case is over. This action is constitutional if a judge believes the defendant is a danger to himself or others.

Bailed-out suspects must also comply with different conditions of release. If a defendant violates a condition, a judge might revoke bail and order the suspect to be arrested again and returned to jail. Some bail conditions are simple, such as obeying all laws. Others might reflect the crime for which a person was arrested, such as not contacting the alleged victim in a domestic violence case.

After the trial is over and all required court appearances have been made, the court returns the bond in full to the suspect. However, if he or she used a bond seller to raise money for the bail, the seller will usually take a percentage of the bail amount.

Last, sometimes people are released on their own recognizance. This condition means the defendant only needs to sign a promise to show up in court and is not required to post bail. Usually, a defendant will ask for release on his or her own recognizance when they make their first court appearance.

If you’ve been arrested and are accused of a crime, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our Austin criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to defending the rights and freedom of our clients. Let us see what we can do for you.

Contact us at (888) 907-8994 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation today.

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