If you or a loved one is ever arrested, chances are, the first thing you’re going to want to know is how much the bail is. It can be disheartening to hear that the bail is too high for you to afford. If you don’t have much money or collateral, even a minor charge can result in unaffordable bail.
Luckily, there is still the possibility that bail can be reduced. You and your attorney can request a lower bail at your arraignment or at a bail reduction hearing. Look at a few things that you should know about bail reduction hearing.
You Could Be Released Without Bail
Depending on the charge, it’s possible that you could be released without having to pay any bail money after your bail hearing or arraignment. This is called being released on your own recognizance. The judge has wide authority to set bail at whatever amount they think is appropriate. Sometimes, that amount can be zero.
Whether or not the judge will consider releasing you without bail depends on several factors. The crime that you’re charged with is one factor. You’re much more likely to be released on your own recognizance if you are charged with a misdemeanor than if you’re charged with a felony.
Your chances are also better if the crime you’re charged with is non-violent. The judge has a responsibility to consider whether you’re a danger to the community, and it’s easier to make the argument that you are not a danger if your crime didn’t physically injure anyone.
Your past criminal history matters as well. First-time offenders have a better chance of being released on their own recognizance. It’s not impossible to be released on your own recognizance if you have previous charges, but it does make it harder.
Your ties to the community factor in as well. If you are from another area or if you don’t have a family, a job or other ties to the area, a judge may consider you a flight risk. Someone who has many reasons to stay in town has a better chance of being released on their own recognizance.
Your Bail Could Be Reduced
Even if you’re not released on your own recognizance, you could be granted a reduction in bail. Again, judges have great latitude when it comes to setting bail amounts, so your chances of a bail reduction depend largely on whether you and your attorney can convince the judge that it’s a good idea.
You May Have to Meet Conditions Other Than Bail
In addition to setting your bail, the judge can set other conditions that you have to meet to qualify for a bail reduction or release on your own recognizance. It’s important to pay attention to these conditions because, if you don’t meet them, the court can revoke your bail and send you back to jail, add more restrictions, order you to pay a higher amount of bail or hold you in contempt of court.
Some common conditions include refraining from drug and alcohol use, staying away from known criminals or specific people involved in your case, seeking employment, keeping a job and staying within a specific area.
You could also be required to follow a curfew, check in with your bail bondsman or a parole officer regularly or wear a monitoring device.
As with bail amounts, the judge has wide discretion when it comes to setting these conditions. However, there are limits. For example, requiring you to submit to random searches of your home for a minor charge may be an unreasonable condition.
Don’t assume that you must stay in jail just because the original amount set is unaffordable. You may still be able to get out after a hearing, and you should contact a local bail bondsman for information that may help.