A bail bond hearing is a court appearance during which the defendant asks the judge to release him from police custody pending the outcome of a criminal case. A first bail hearing may be part of an initial hearing in which formal charges are presented -- also called an arraignment -- or be separate from other legal proceedings. For example, a judge might only schedule bond hearings on Wednesday and Friday mornings each week. If the hearing is included in arraignment proceedings, state laws vary on the exact time frame, but typically require that it take place within 48 to 72 hours following an arrest.
Procedures and Bail Considerations
A bail hearing starts with a defense attorney making a request to release the accused either on his own recognizance or for a specific dollar amount, and offering evidence to support the request. The prosecution will then either agree with the request or offer an alternative request along with supporting evidence. Finally, the judge will render a decision and set the amount if bail is granted.
The burden of proof is on the accused. In considering whether to grant or deny the request and set an appropriate bail, a judge will look at a number of factors, including
- The type and severity of the pending charge or charges
- The defendant’s prior criminal history
- Whether the defendant has close family and community ties
- The defendant’s employment situation and financial resources
A judge doesn’t set bail randomly. Instead, she uses a bail schedule as a reference point. According to Nolo, the starting point for felony offenses is usually about five to 10 times the standard bail required for misdemeanors. For example, if the standard bail for misdemeanor possession of marijuana is $1,000, a starting point for setting bail for possession of marijuana with intent to sell might range from $5,000 to $10,000.
In addition to setting a dollar amount, a judge often imposes certain restrictions as conditions for bail. Curfew is a common restriction. Others include refraining from possessing firearms, using alcohol or drugs, or contacting the plaintiff. The defendant might also have to check in regularly with a legal authority.
Common Issues with Bail Bonds
Amendment VIII of the U.S. Constitution protects a defendant against excessive bail. Even so, a judge might intentionally set excessively high bail to keep the defendant in custody. In a case such as this, or in a case where bail is not excessive but still unaffordable, a defendant can request a bail reduction hearing. In the same way, the prosecution can file a motion to appeal a bail decision and increase the amount or increase bail conditions.
Again, the burden of proof is on the defendant. Evidence must show that the charges are not as severe as originally alleged or that the current bail is unaffordable.