If you have been arrested, the potential to get out on bail is all-important. It's far more difficult to work toward justice and innocence when you are trying to do so from behind bars. Bail allows those charged with a crime to make a pledge, usually money or property, that insures they will return to court to face their charges. The question of whether or not you will be offered bail and the amount depends on several factors, so read on to get a better idea of how bail is set.
How Bail is Set: the Factors
The judge assigned to your case makes the bail decision, which is a decision that uses the following information:
- Your current charges
- Your past criminal history
- Demographics (age, marital status, job, education, length of residence, etc)
- Testimony from friends, community leaders and family (if needed for more serious charges)
It should be noted that there are no real guidelines in place to determine bail and the amounts, so judges use the information above. If you and your attorney disagree with the ruling, such as a punishingly high bail amount or even the no-bail decision, you will be given a chance to argue against the ruling at a future hearing Unfortunately, you must remain in jail until the bail issue is resolved.
Algorithms and Bail
As you can see, the manner that bail is set is quite arbitrary and can cause uncertainty and the potential for abuse and errors in judgment. Because of this, a more scientific method of setting bail has emerged. Several factors are evaluated and the defendant is assigned a number that corresponds with the potential for them to:
1. Show up for their next court dates
2. Stay out of trouble while out on bail
This rating is based on the correctional data that correlates certain behaviors with bail compliance. For example, the defendant could get a better rating if this is their first offense, they have a good job and a lot of family support. Behaviors like previous instances of failure to appear, a long rap sheet and being a resident of another county could mean that the likelihood of the defendant complying with bail terms is lower. Those with better ratings get lower bail amounts, those with lower ratings get no bail or high bail amounts.
How the Algorithm Helps
Many people believe that the jails are disproportionately packed with minorities awaiting trial due to their inability to be offered reasonable a bail amount. The algorithm ignores issues like race and income level, so many believe it creates a more fair approach to setting bail.
If you have been arrested and are seeking bail, be sure to have a criminal defense attorney to advocate on your behalf not only at your bail hearing, but throughout your case.