What is bail?
I am asked this question by defendants and their families alike. Bail, the setting and posting of it, is what must occur between a person’s arrest and the ultimate outcome of their criminal case. Bail comes in two forms: monetary and non-monetary bail. Monetary bail is the posting of cash or property to release the defendant during the course of a criminal case. Non-monetary bail comes in the form of a recognizance bond or “I-bond” or in the form of conditions set by the court such as reporting to pre-trial services for monitoring during the course of a criminal case. Pre-trial services may require a defendant to take drug tests or adhere to a curfew.
A judge will set bond on a defendant’s case and the defendant must post that bond in order to be released while his or her case is being resolved. A judge will set bond based on the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history or lack of it and balance that against the defendant’s person situation: whether he or she has children, level of education, level of employment and financial situation. If a defendant cannot post his bail, he will remain in jail until his case is resolved and this poses numerous problems for the criminal justice system. For instance, if a defendant cannot post his bail and he is the primary earner for his family, he may lose his job and this can impact not only the defendant but also his family and the tax payers of the county.
Additionally, a defendant’s inability to post bail will affect his or her ability to negotiate a plea on their behalf. I’ve seen it hundreds of times where a defendant will plead guilty and accept a harsh penalty and conviction just to resolve his or her case and be released. Even if the defendant has a strong case to fight and win, he or she may have to sit in jail and wait until the prosecutors are prepared for trial and to avoid the weeks or months of sitting in jail, defendants will plead guilty simply to end their cases.
What can the courts do? The courts should increase the use of recognizance bonds or “I-bonds” so that non-violent and minor offenders do not take up space in jails and cost taxpayers money. Also, the use of citations and summons to appear in court can be increased. Being out on bail does not mean you do not have to appear at each and every one of your court dates, but it does mean that you can fight your case from the outside while working and having the support of your family.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense in Cook, DuPage, Will or Lake counties, contact The Law Office of Attorney Purav Bhatt at 773-791-9682 for a free consultation about your case.
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