Bail Basics: What is Bail | How it Works

Bail Basics: What Bail Is, How It Works

Bail is the act of giving money to the government in a criminal court until that case is completed or closed. The person who pays the bail gets their money (bail) back as long as the person never misses a court date.

Bail at the Local Police Station—After an Arrest

If someone is arrested (handcuffed) by state or local police—they are brought to the local police station and booked. During this process the police will take the accused biographical information, allow them to make a phone call, fingerprint them and possibly interview them. They will also call the clerk magistrate. The clerk magistrate is the person that will decide if bail is required and if so how much.

How Does the Clerk Magistrate Decide How Much Money?

The clerk magistrate takes several factor into consideration to decide how much money the “bail” will be.

It’s important to remember that the amount of bail set does not indicate a defendant’s innocence or guilt, merely that they appear in court. However, the severity of the crime may play into the determination of whether the defendant will appear in court.

Bail Factors: When the Magistrate comes to the Police station they will review:

  1. Type of Crime
  2. Possible penalty or Sentence for that Crime
  3. Description of the Incident
  4. Flight Risk (will they return)
  5. Prior Criminal Record
  6. History of Not Showing up for Court (Defaults)
  7. Board of Probation (BOP) Record or other Criminal Record
  8. Currently on Probation
  9. Employed
  10. Family in Area
  11. In domestic violence cases, if a defendant’s release will harm the community and/or the victim. This is in addition to determining whether or not a defendant is likely to come to court on their court date.

If a cash bail is set, the defendant or the defendant’s surety must pay that amount over to the bail magistrate before they are released from jail. A surety is a person who posts (pays) the bail on the defendant’s behalf, usually a family member or friend of the defendant.

The bail magistrate also collects a separate fee of $40 from the defendant at the time bail is paid. That $40 fee is payment for the Magistrate to travel from their home to the Police Station as payment for their time. ###

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