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What is Bail?

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The purpose of bail is twofold: to secure future attendance in court and to allow a presumptively innocent person to avoid pre-trial incarceration.

Four men in prison cell, one leaning against bars

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

The purposes of bail are to secure the accused's attendance, and avoid the imprisonment of persons still entitled to a presumption of innocence, among others. Since it is not the purpose of the criminal law to confine a person accused of crime before conviction, bail is allowed in recognition of the presumption of innocence until guilt is proved, and is a necessary corollary to the constitutional concept that persons may be imprisoned only after conviction.  Bail is intended to enable an accused to remain out of jail until the next proceeding in the case, or until there has been a final disposition of the accusation, and to prepare a defense.

Another object of bail is to secure the presence of a person charged with a crime at trial, or at any other time when his or her presence may lawfully be required, and to provide adequate assurance that the defendant will stand trial and submit to the sentence if found guilty.

What do the courts look at when determining what the bail amount will be?

Among many factors, the courts will often review the following when determining how much the bail amount should be:

  1. The nature of the crime(s) charged.  Certain crimes, such as murder, may not allow for bail to be established.  Charges with more serious consequences or mandatory jail terms will have higher amounts.
  2. The criminal history of the accused.  Although bail is not to be punitive in nature, the courts will often review the criminal history of the defendant.  Certain crimes, such escape or fleeing and eluding police will militate against a low bail amount. 
  3. The defendant's ties to the community.  Do they have a family, a job, a home in the community?  A person is less likely to flee the jurisdiction if so.
  4. The position of the Commonwealth.  The police or prosecutors may indicate to the court that they do not oppose low monetary bail for many reasons, the least of which is cooperativeness of the defendant.
  5. Any other factor that the court deems relevant to establish that the defendant will abide by the terms and conditions of their bail.

If you've been arrested and charged with a crime, you have the right to bail in your case.  If you've been incarcerated pending trial, you may wish to file for a bail reduction.  At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC we have experienced attorneys ready to assist in this process.  You may call us toll free or email us today.

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