What is the bail process?
It is commonly known that bail is an amount paid for the release of a defendant from jail, however the bail process is actually an intricate system containing a myriad of regulations and rules that can often cross state and federal lines. Many countries throughout the world offer bail in their court systems however the process for every country is different. In the United States we allow bail to be determined by the judge during a criminal trial based off regulations mandated by both the state and the federal government.
In the United States a defendant is deemed to be “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”. As such a defendant who has been detained and is involved in an ongoing trial has the ability to post bail in order to secure their release pending the outcome of the trial. The bail is used as a form of “insurance” to ensure that the defendant continues to appear in court for their pending trial. Failure to appear in court after bail has been made will not only lead to a loss in the financing put forth to secure the defendant’s release but will also lead to criminal charges of “failure to appear”.
The federal government sets forth regulations on some aspects of bail such as the nature of crimes that are not eligible for receiving bail. Some examples of crimes that are not eligible for receiving bail are capital crimes and treason. The state has legislation set forth as well determining the minimum and maximum amount that can be set by the judge for particular types of crimes. A judge will then use their discretion on the bail amount depending on the nature of the crime, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and the flight risk of the defendant. In some cases the maximum bail amount will be set to try to dissuade the defendant from securing their release pending the outcome of the trial.
Once a suspect is detained they are booked into a jail or police station at which point the bail process can begin. The booking process includes positive identification of the suspect typically using fingerprints, documenting the inventory found on the defendant’s person, and reviewing the criminal history including warrants and aliases that could lead to further charges on the suspect. In some instances, such as misdemeanor and minor felony investigations, bail can be posted as soon as the booking process is completed with law enforcement personnel. In more serious crimes the suspect may have to wait up to 48 hours to have a bail hearing with a judge to determine the amount that must be paid.
In the United States, a bail bonds company arranges an agreement with the defendant to finance the bail amount set forth by a judge. If the defendant fails to appear in court a warrant is issued for their arrest. At this point the bail bonds company is responsible for detaining their client in order to recoup the financing that was set forth. This amount will be lost by the bonds agent in the event that a law enforcement agent detains the suspect prior to a bounty hunter securing their capture.