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Posted on February 28, 2020 in Criminal Defense

Bail 101: How Does Bail Work?

Bail is a payment that is made to the court. This payment is given in exchange for releasing a defendant from prison. The money is held by the court until all of the court proceedings are over including the trial. The purpose of bail is to entice the defendant to show up for court appearances so they can recover the bail amount after their trial.

Once the bail has been paid, the defendant will be released from jail. If they refuse to show up for future court appearances, or if they leave the area, the court will keep the bail amount. The defendant can recover the full bail amount after their trial if they follow all of the court rules and show up for all court appearances.

The Basics of Bail

Bail is also important because it allows the defendant to wait for their court dates and trial outside of the prison system. This saves the state money by not having to provide housing, food, and safety for them. It also ensures that a person who has not yet been convicted of a crime, someone who could be innocent, is not forced to sit in a jail cell for weeks or months before their trial begins.

It also gives defendants the opportunity to work and attend family events. It allows them to get their life set up in case they are convicted and will need to spend time in prison. This can be making sure that their children have care, that all of their accounts are in order, and that someone is legally authorized to make decisions on their behalf.

Bail amounts are set by a judge. It usually depends on the severity of the crime, but the judge has the ultimate discretion on the final amount. Some jurisdictions have bail schedule recommendations that judge’s generally follow. These usually take into account the type of crime, previous convictions, flight risk, ties to the community, and whether the person is a possible danger to the community.

Posting Bail

When the judge has set a bail amount and someone pays that amount, it is called posting bail. The person that posts the bail can recover the bail money at the end of the court proceedings as long as the defendant follows all of the rules of the court. However, if the defendant makes a run for it or tries to leave town, the court will keep the full amount of the bail money paid.

Bail amounts can be substantial and the defendant may be unable to pay the full amount of money. If this is the case the defendant can turn to their family or friends. However, loaning someone personal money to post their bail can be a risky decision because the amount will be lost to the court if the defendant breaks any court rules. Another option is for the defendant to seek help through a surety bond company.

A surety bond company can issue bond funding through a bail agent or a bail bondsman. It requires the defendant to pay an amount of the bail, usually at least 10%. The company then pays the rest of the amount to the court. The bond company may seek other collateral to guarantee payment from the accused such as personal property like a car or expensive jewelry.

Bail in Arizona

In Arizona, bail is defined by the Arizona Constitution (Article 2, Section 22) and the Arizona Criminal Code, Article 12. These state that any defendant charged with a crime has a right to secure a reasonable bail to ensure their release from jail while they await trial.

The judges in Arizona courts must take certain factors into account when determining bail. Some of these include:

  •         The type of criminal offense
  •         The views or injuries of the victims
  •         Seeming threats to the public
  •         The criminal history of the defendant
  •         Weight of evidence in the case
  •         If illegal substances or drugs were involved
  •         If the defendant is a resident of Arizona or another state
  •         If the accused is a United States citizen. If they are not – did they enter the country legally?

In some cases, a judge may decline to set bail. If this happens, the accused will remain in jail until the conclusion of their trial. These cases usually involve felony offenses where the judge deems that the defendant is a threat to others, themselves, or the community. They may also be denied bail if the judge finds that they are a flight risk and it is easily possible for them to leave the country. The judge must meet the clear and convincing evidence standard to make this decision.