What Goes Into Determining the Bail Amount?
Many factors help determine bail amount, especially at a bail reduction hearing.
Bail amount determinations have changed significantly over the past few years, as the number of unsentenced inmates in county jails has increased significantly, as well. Georgia has one of the highest percentages of unsentenced inmates in the country.
As a result, some jurisdictions have eliminated cash bail altogether. These reforms have had mixed results, at best. Furthermore, no cash bail adversely affects police officer morale. It’s hard for these men and women to see people whom they believe are dangerous be released after only a few hours in custody, as if arresting the person was a mistake.
The uncertain and changing jail release environment gives an Atlanta criminal defense attorney multiple opportunities to advocate for defendants during this process. Pretrial release is very important not only for personal purposes but also for legal purposes. Most people, including most Judges and jurors, at least subconsciously assume that people who are in jail did something wrong.
Defendants arrested in Fulton County and surrounding jurisdictions usually have three jail release options. Exact program rules vary in different jurisdictions.
Own Recognizance (O.R.):
This method allows you to sign a form instead of making a payment. In this situation, the Judge has taken your word that you will show up for all court appearances. This is usually available for minor misdemeanor offenses and misdemeanor traffic offenses. It is very rare to have an O.R. Bond in a felony case of high and aggravated misdemeanor.
Another option is a cash bond. This option is always available. If you choose this option, you must pay the entire bail amount. The benefit is that as long as you do not miss a court date, you get your money back at the end of the case, regardless of the outcome.
For those who do not wish or cannot afford to put up bail money, a bail bondsman is usually the right choice. A bondsmen is in the business of posting bonds for criminal charges. The bonding company will charge a fee, usually between 12% and 15% of the bond amount. Unlike a cash bond, this fee is non-refundable. What is paid to a professional bonding company is their fee in exchange for the risk of a person not appearing in court.
Some bonding companies also ask for a deposit to limit their risk. Usually, a deposit is required for out of state people or non-citizens. However, if a professional bondsman requires a deposit that is equal to the amount of the total bail, there is no reason to use a bondsman. If you are being asked to pay the full amount plus a fee, it is less expensive to use a cash bond.
Alternatively, you (or someone on your behalf) may post a property bond. To do so, most jurisdictions require a warranty deed, a current tax statement (showing the property's fair market value.) Additionally, all taxes must be current, a current mortgage statement (payments must be current), and the presence of all those whose names appear on the deed.
Attorneys advise families about these options and connect families with the proper provider. Additionally, if things go sideways, attorneys advocate for defendants and help ensure that they stay out of jail before their trials.
Atlanta criminal defense lawyers expand OR eligibility, but it is still limited. Additionally, in terms of cash bonds, for many families, $500 might as well be $5,000,000.
At a bail/bond hearing, which usually happens about 72 hours after an arrest (48 hours if the arrest was without a warrant), Judges will only consider 5 factors when determining whether or not to grant bail. These factors are known as the Ayala factors, from a 1993 United States Supreme Court case, Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704, and they are whether:
- The Defendant poses a significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction or failing to appear in Court when required;
- The Defendant poses a significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;
- The Defendant poses a significant risk of committing any felony pending trial;
- The Defendant poses a significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice; and
- The Defendant has significant ties to the community.
The Eighth Amendment requires reasonable bail in all criminal cases. A full hearing helps Judges determine what is “reasonable” under the circumstances.
Reach Out to a Diligent Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Prompt jail release jumpstarts a criminal defense. For a free consultation with an experienced Norcross criminal defense lawyer, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law.