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Typically, defendants in federal criminal cases are given the right to pay for their freedom while their cases are pending. This fee is referred to as a bail, and allowing a person to secure his or her release is designed partially to prevent overcrowding in jails and prisons. It may also be granted in cases in which convictions are unlikely to result in jail time. Let’s take a look at the factors a federal judge may use to determine the amount a defendant must pay in his or her case.
How Serious Is the Crime?
It’s not uncommon for defendants to pay more to be released from custody if they are charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. This is because felonies are considered to be crimes committed by people who could be a danger to society. Alternatively, they tend to be crimes committed by people who show little remorse for their actions.
For example, an individual who engages in tax fraud may not pose a danger to your physical health. However, that person’s actions still represent an egregious violation of the law, and a lack of remorse for taking such an action may mean that he or she will do it again. Therefore, a judge will likely set a higher bail amount to highlight the seriousness of the crime the defendant is accused of committing.
Is a Defendant Likely to Flee?
When a person is released on bail, that individual promises to come back to court as needed. Therefore, a person who is considered to be a flight risk will likely have to pay more to secure his or her release from prison. Individuals may be considered flight risks if they have a private boat, jet or other modes of transportation that can make it easier to leave the country. Furthermore, individuals who lack ties to the country may also be deemed more likely to leave the country as opposed to standing trial.
Does a Defendant Have a Criminal Record?
A defendant who has a criminal record may need to pay a higher amount to obtain a conditional release. This may be especially true if an individual has committed the same crime multiple times. Someone who has a history of violating the law multiple times could be more likely to reoffend while free on bail as opposed to someone who doesn’t have a criminal record.
A Judge May Impose Conditions on Someone Who Is Released on Bail
As a general rule, a person who is able to make bail is technically free until the resolution of that individual’s case. However, this doesn’t mean that a defendant won’t face restrictions of any kind. For example, a judge may require that a defendant come home by a certain time each night or refrain from using a cellphone.
While out on bail, an individual may be barred from living within 1000 feet of a school, daycare facility or other locations. This is done to minimize the likelihood that someone who deals drugs, is charged with a sex crime or might otherwise be a menace to society is able to victimize another person.
If a defendant ignores a judge’s instructions, that person might have his or her bail revoked. It’s also possible that the judge will increase the amount that person must pay to remain free pending the outcome of a trial. In some cases, violating a court order could result in additional charges.
Your Attorney May Help You Understand How Bail Works
If you are charged with a federal crime, your attorney may be able to provide more insight into how the bail system works. Your attorney’s words should give you a better idea as to whether you’re eligible for bail, how much you’ll likely pay and what restrictions you might face while free. A legal adviser may also work to convince a judge to reduce your bail or remove conditions related to your release.
It’s generally in your interest to make bail as quickly as you can. Typically, the ability to stay out of jail while your case is pending alleviates the need to accept the first plea deal that you receive. If you are denied bail at an initial hearing, it may be possible to appeal that decision with the help of your legal adviser.