How a Judge Sets a Bail Amount

Many people understand the basic concept of bail. A judge will set an amount that allows a person accused of a crime to go free prior to their trial, rather than spending the entire period from arrest to trial in jail. But how does a judge choose bail? Here’s a brief guide outlining how bail is determined.

Who sets bail?

A judge typically sets a bail amount at a suspect’s first court appearance following an arrest. This appearance is typically called a bail hearing or an arraignment, and a lawyer doesn’t need to be present for a judge to arrange bail. Judges usually adhere to a regular “bail schedule,” an outline of fees based on the type of crime.

However, judges don’t need to strictly adhere to a bail schedule. They’re able to raise or lower the standard bail for the crime, and they can even waive it entirely and grant a defendant a release on their own recognizance. It all depends on the unique circumstances of each individual case.

What factors affect bail amounts?

While judges typically follow a general bail schedule, they’re free to make adjustments if they deem a particular defendant more or less of a risk if they were to be released from jail prior to their trial. There are a few key factors that influence the bail amount for those charged with a crime. They include:

  • Type of crime: The seriousness of the crime charged is the primary factor that determines how a judge chooses bail. Misdemeanor crimes are the lowest level of criminal offenses, but they vary in degree, and bail can range from $1,000 to $50,000 or more depending on the severity of the crime. Felonies, on the other hand, are high-level crimes, and bail amounts are usually five to 10 times higher for these crimes compared to misdemeanors.
  • Criminal history: Repeat offenders are faced with higher bail amounts compared to defendants who have little or no criminal history. A judge will look closely at a defendant’s criminal history when setting a bail amount, weighing the odds of an individual staying out of trouble if they’re released before a trial date.
  • Flight risk: Judges want defendants to show up to their trial. Defendants who pose a flight risk are generally given higher bail amounts, or bail may be denied entirely. Defendants who hold a stable job, have family nearby and are typically upstanding members of their community are more likely to appear at their court date, and usually are given lower bail amounts.

How do algorithms affect bail amounts?

In some cases, bail isn’t decided by a judge at all. In areas where the court system is simply far too busy to handle pretrial procedures, information about the defendant is entered into a program and a bail recommendation is made by algorithm. Essentially, the program suggests an appropriate bail based on an assessment of risk.

There’s a lot to know when it comes to bail bonds, and it can be difficult to understand how bail is determined in your particular jurisdiction. Reach out to Brazoria County Bail Bonds today to learn more about the bail process should the need to post bail ever arise.

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