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How Bail Works

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According to the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the California State Constitution, a judge cannot require you to pay “excessive bail.” The purpose of allowing your release from jail while you are awaiting trial is to allow you to participate and fully prepare in your defense, to ensure a fair trial.

In most cases, the court requires you to post bail in the form of a set amount of money or property of comparable value. Each county in California has a bail schedule, which lists the minimum amount of bail required to secure your release for a particular crime.

While some crimes are so serious that the law does not allow bail, the judge has some leeway in determining the amount of bail, or even to deny bail if a person is deemed a high flight risk.

The amount of bail required by the court to secure your release is usually in the thousands of dollars. Since most people do not have ready access to that amount of funds, the law allows a bail bondsman to pay the full amount of your bail in exchange for a fee.

In order to ensure the court returns the bail to the bondsman, he will take steps to ensure you are in court on your trial. If you skip bail, then the court does not refund the bail money he posted to secure your release.

Bail serves as an assurance to the court that you intend to appear on the date of your trial. In the event you do not appear in court on the date specified for your trial, the bail money is forfeited and you have another strike against, which further endangers your freedom when you do face trial.

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