There are many factors that go into the judge’s or court’s decision when setting bail for a defendant. although there are guidelines, they are essentially under the court’s discretion. A good defense attorney can explain the defendant’s particular circumstances, but here are some of the factors that they look at.
- Bail Schedule. There is a standard bail schedule for each crime depending on jurisdiction.
- Criminal Record. The court will look at the past criminal record of the defendant to determine bail and if there is a substantial record or serious crimes on it, bail will be higher. The court also looks into whether or not the defendant has any outstanding warrants and if there are, they may deny bail altogether to keep the defendant in jail to face the outstanding warrants.
- The Nature of the Crime. If the crime is serious, bail will be set higher. The more severe
the crime, the higher the bail.
- Risk to Public Safety. The court looks at whether or not the defendant will pose a risk to
the public at large.
- Probably of Showing for Court Appearances. If the defendant has missed court dates in
the past, the court may assume he will again and set a high bail or deny it altogether.
- Ties to the Community. If a defendant has family in the area, they are less likely to flee.
If they have none, they are a flight risk and bail may be denied or be set higher.
- Nation of Origin. If a person is from another country, they are at a greater risk of running
and returning to their nation of origin.
- Wealth. Wealth is taken into consideration because they could use their money to flee.
- Personal Status. If the defendant has a stable job and a good reputation in the
community, they are generally a lower flight risk.
Although it may seem unfair, the bail system is meant to be unbiased and begins by looking at the standards set by the state for each crime and may choose to customize it to fit the individual circumstance of the defendant. In face, more and more courts are relying on a mathematical algorithm that uses many of the factors about to assess the risk that the defendant will appear in court or will commit another crime.
The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution states that bail shall not be excessive, nor shall it be used as a main way to make money for the government. It is also not to be a form of punishment, merely for a way to get a person out of jail and motivated to appear at pending court dates.