How Judges Set Bail

Judges set bail based initially on a "bail schedule," but they can raise or lower the amount, based on the circumstances of the case.

Judges ordinarily set a bail amount at a suspect’s first court appearance after an arrest, which may be either a bail hearing or an arraignment. Judges normally adhere to standard practices (for example, setting bail in the amount of $500 for nonviolent petty misdemeanors). However, judges can raise or lower the standard bail, or waive bail altogether and grant release on the defendant's "own recognizance," or O.R., based on the circumstances of an individual case.


Defendants do not need a lawyer to to arrange for bail. They can either post cash bail personally, or phone a bail bond seller and arrange for a bond. Relatives or friends can come to a jail or court and post cash bail for an arrested person or purchase a bond from a bail bond seller.


Factors That Influence Bail Amounts


In addition to the seriousness of the charged crime, the amount of bail usually depends on factors such as a defendant’s past criminal record, whether a defendant is employed, and whether a defendant has close ties to relatives and the community.


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