Most Americans are familiar with the basic concepts of bail and how it works. There is a lot more to a bail bond than meets the eye. Bail Bonds exist for a very important reason, namely the idea that in America people are innocent until proven guilty. The US Justice system is built on that concept, and while flawed, it affords citizens more rights than in most other countries. When someone is accused of a crime, bail may be necessary.
What is Bail?
Bail, at its simplest form, is a guarantee backed by money or property to ensure that someone accused of a crime will appear in court. Posting bail keeps the accused out of jail until a judge or jury has found them guilty or innocent. Dating back hundreds of years, bail has been reformed many times over the centuries. In America, bail policy is a balancing act, where legislators want to ensure protection of civil liberties as well as public safety.
Since bail reform in the 1960s, laws have afforded the opportunity for nonviolent criminals (or those unlikely to flee) to pay a deposit, allowing them to live their lives in the public while awaiting their trial. Often, friends or family pays the court-defined bail within hours of an initial arrest. A judge will post a bail amount based on the scope of the crime that the defendant is being accused of. These amounts can be significant, with some crimes carrying thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Bail bondsman make things easier on defendants and their loved ones, by offering a loan to post bail, only requiring a fraction of the total bail amount. These loans allow people to avoid jail time without ruining their personal financial situation.
The reforms of the 1960s also made it possible for judges to deny bail when there is likelihood that the accused is a serious threat to the public, usually when the nature of the crime is violent. Bail is also denied for defendants who are labeled as a “flight risk,” someone who will leave the jurisdiction.
Bail exists to afford good people the opportunity to continue living normal lives after being accused of a crime while waiting for a trial and judgments. Modern reforms protect the public by not offering bail to violent offenders or those unwilling to stand up to their accusations. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best that we have.