If you or a loved one has ever awaited the determination of bail after being arrested, you know just how nerve-racking that can be. While you’re waiting to hear the determined bail amount, many things may cross your mind: will the bail be waived? If not, how much will bail be? What if I can’t afford it? In addition to these thoughts, you are also likely to wonder how the amount of bail is determined. At Future Bail Bonds, we’re well-versed in the California bail bonds industry and procedures. Today, we’ll share some insight into possible ways your bail amount may be determined. We’ll also take a look at the pros and cons of each method. Read on to learn more!

Bail Hearing / Arraignment

When most people think of bail being set, they likely picture a judge hearing the facts of a particular case, gavel in hand, ready to declare the amount of money to be paid for the defendant’s release. This is often the picture that movies and TV shows have painted for us. While it may seem dramatic and theatrical, this is a common, if not the most common, method of determining the bail amount necessary for pre-trial release of the accused. Since this tried-and-true method has been a standard for so long, let’s take a look at the ups and downs of it.

Pro: Flexible and Personal
Judges often have a set of standard procedures and practices to adhere to in the process of determining the bail amount. For example, being arrested in Rancho Cucamonga (San Bernardino County) will require you to contact a Rancho Cucamonga Bail Bonds agency, but this agency will not be able to post bond until the jailers have processed the inmate and determined the bail amount. Fortunately for some defendants, judges get the benefit of listening to the charges presented and seeing the defendant before them. This can allow the judge to deviate from the standard bail amount usually prescribed for certain offenses if he or she deems fit. It also gives the defendant the sense that he or she has been heard. In other words, there can be an element of humanity, empathy, and compassion for the accused that other methods may not afford.

Con: Potential for Bias
On the flip side of the beneficial humanity that comes from being face to face with the defendant, the judge may also set a bail amount higher than the standard processes suggest based on the impression given by the accused. Additionally, because judges are human beings with backgrounds and experiences as unique as the case in front of them, there is a potential that personal bias can creep in while they are trying to determine the bail amount, rendering the process fundamentally subjective.

Bail Algorithms

Everyday, our world is becoming more dependent on technology for making processes and procedures more efficient and the judicial world is no different. As more and more dockets are slated for each day in the court system, it’s not surprising that many courts are utilizing algorithms in an effort to streamline activities such as setting bail. As you might expect, bail algorithms are formulas that utilize statistics relevant to the defendant’s demographics and criminal history in order to to assess his or her overall flight risk and help the judge determine an appropriate bail amount. This method of determining bail amounts is being used in many states, including parts of California, and comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Pro: Reduce Bias and Promote Consistency
As mentioned previously, bias can play a role in bail amounts determined solely at the discretion of the presiding judge. Another downside to relying only on the judge to set bail amounts is that inconsistency can creep in. For example, it’s well-known that not all judges handle cases in the same manner. Some have a more lenient reputation, while others can be seen as more strict. When judges are required to consider factors about the defendant that are strictly based on factual information, it can help reduce bias and inconsistency in the resulting bail amounts.

Need assistance with understanding how bail works? Contact us for more information.

Con: May Not Consider All Factors
When used in the criminal justice setting to aid in determining the flight risk of a defendant, algorithms will consider objective factors, meaning things that are factual, impartial, and supported by documentation. These factors include things like the defendant’s age, criminal background, current charges, and any records of failing to appear in court previously. The downside to only considering these objective factors is that other important, subjective factors such as substance abuse history and employment history are not considered in the algorithm. This can lead to a skewed overall picture of the defendant.

Bail Schedules and Duty Judges

Many areas in the United States, including California, have what is referred to as a bail schedule. Bail schedules are what you might expect them to be: a list of offenses and the respective bail amounts required to be paid by a defendant. In addition to, or sometimes instead of, jailhouse bail schedules, some areas of the country employ duty judges. These judges are available to determine bail amount by telephone in lieu of a delayed, formal court hearing. What are the ups and downs of bail schedules and duty judges?

Pro: Efficient and Fair
With a pre-set list of offenses and correlating bail amounts, determining a specified bail amount is very easy for jails and offenders alike and allows for expedited release of defendants. This ease lends itself well to efficient jailhouse operation and can reduce the court’s pending docket. Additionally, having a prescribed bail amount for certain offenses removes potential bias that may come into play from the deciding judge.

Con: Inflexible and Impersonal
Although they can seem to be a convenient alternative to awaiting a bail hearing, bail schedules and duty judges are typically not very flexible. Usually, jailhouse bail schedules are what they are, and there is no room for deviation from the schedule. Generally speaking, the schedules only take into account the actual charge or offense itself and do not take into consideration the subjective and objective factors that other methods do. If a defendant wishes to plead his or her case in hopes for a lesser bail amount, he or she will have to present themselves before a judge.

When it comes to understanding how the courts determine bail amounts, these three methods tend to be the primary means by which bail is determined. As you can see, each comes with its own individual set of advantages and disadvantages. While you may not get to choose how your bail amount is determined, you can choose to be informed about the bail process, including what bail bond options are available to you.

Future Bail Bonds is proud to offer leading bail bond services to southeast San Bernardino County and we’ll gladly answer any questions you might have about the process. Our goal is to provide efficient pre-trial releases of defendants, reuniting them with their family, friends, and loved ones. If you’re looking for a professional and compassionate bail bond service, contact our team. We look forward to helping you out!