How do judges know how much bail to set?
First of all, bail is an amount of money that a judge may set on a criminal case. If bail is set, then the bail amount must be posted to the jail before the accused can be released from custody. As long as the accused makes all of his or her court dates and abides by all conditions of release, then the bail money will be returned in full upon resolution of the case. However, fines and fees may be deducted from the posted bail money. If bail is unaffordable, there are a number of bonding companies that charge 10% to guarantee your bail.
When setting bail, judges consider two main factors:
- Risk to public safety; and
- Likelihood of reappearance in court.
First, judges look at what risk to public safety, if any, the accused may pose if he or she is released from custody. For example, someone with a long history of violent crimes and presently standing accused of another violent crime will most likely have bail set at a higher amount. On the other side of the coin, someone without any criminal history and standing accused of a crime with little public safety risk is likely to have little or no bail set.
Second, judges look at the chances someone released from custody with pending criminal charges will come back to court to resolve their case. For example, someone with a long history of missing court or someone who lives out of state or internationally will most likely have bail set at a higher amount. However, someone who has never missed court or lives and works in the area is likely to have little or no bail set.
Bail amounts are limited to double the maximum fine for the crime charged, but there are a few instances where a judge’s discretion regarding bail are limited.
- First, on misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges involving some auto accidents, DWIs, driving after cancelation inimical to public safety, and bringing stolen goods into the state bail may be set at four times the max fine for the crime charged. Judges are required by statute to impose max bail on those charged with DWI’s involving at least one aggravating factor (prior DWI conviction or revocation within 10 years, alcohol concentration of .16 or more, or having a kid in the car under 16 and more than 36 months younger than the driver), or else must impose an alcohol monitoring pre-trial release condition.
- Second, on misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges involving a fifth degree assault or malicious punishment of a child, bail may be set at up to six times the max fine for the crime charged.
- Third, on misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges of domestic assault, violation of an order for protection, or violation of a domestic abuse no contact order, bail may be set at up to ten times the max fine for the crime charged.
- Fourth, judges have the discretion to hold someone arrested for allegations of probation violations up to seven days without bail before their next hearing.