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Appleton Criminal Attorneys

How Bail Works

In United States law, bail is some sort of money or property given to a court of law to serve as a guarantee in exchange for allowing a suspect to be released from jail until his or her trial date. This bail property is pledged to the court, and is forfeited, should the defendant fail to appear at trial. Though judges have fairly wide discretion over the setting of bail amounts, the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution provides that “excessive bail shall not be required,” a rather vague stipulation that the Supreme Court has never truly clarified.

Eligibility for Bail

Most crimes in the United States are considered “bailable,” with the notable exception of capital crimes – offenses which carry the death penalty or life in prison. Current US bail law in the United States Code also allows individuals which fit the following criteria to be denied bail:

  • Individuals who have been convicted of multiple felonies
  • Individuals who are charged with a violent crime
  • Individuals charged with drug offenses with sentences in excess of 10 years

The law also permits judges to consider a suspect’s character as far as it impacts his or her danger to the community or risk of flight. If a judge determines that no amount of bail or restrictions will be a sufficient deterrent to the suspect, bail may be denied.

Release on Own Recognizance

In some cases, a judge may allow a defendant to meet bail requirements by signing a waiver of payment conditional on his or her appearance on the scheduled court date. This is known as release of a suspect “on own recognizance.” This type of “bail” is usually only granted to defendants who have a low likelihood of flight and also pose a low risk to the surrounding community. A lack of criminal history, for example, might be a compelling argument for a judge to grant such a waiver. For more information, contact Appleton criminal attorneys Hart Powell, S.C. at 414-271-9595.