If you’re a criminal defendant in California, bail can be set on your arrest warrant, the county bail schedule or it can be determined by a judge within after your arrest. The judge has wide discretion to determine the amount of bail, but you have the right to contest it and to argue that you should be released without bail. Bail reduction motions are usually only accepted at your initial arraignment, but it’s sometimes possible to reduce bail later in your case if some of the charges against you are reduced or dropped. Until your bail is posted, you’ll need to remain in jail, so it’s important to contact a reputable California bail bond agency as soon as possible to expedite your release.
Setting Bail In California
California Penal Code 1275 prescribes the criteria that judges must use to assign bail to particular defendants. These are the factors that most judges use to make this determination:
- The severity of the crimes alleged;
- The criminal history of the defendant;
- Whether a gun or other weapon was used;
- The existence of aggravating factors;
- Public safety concerns and
- Flight risk potential.
Counties in California each have their own bail schedule, but judges have the discretion to increase bail above these recommendations or to deny bail completely if they believe the defendant is a danger to the community or will cause further injuries to the victim.
When Is It Possible To Reduce Bail?
Judges also have the discretion to reduce bail during an arraignment when a defendant pleads not guilty. Typically, motions will be made by the prosecutor to increase or deny bail and motions will be made by the defense to decrease bail or to release the defendant without bail. These are the factors that judges consider when deciding whether to reduce or not require bail:
- The defendant’s financial status and ability to pay;
- The defendant’s criminal record;
- Whether the defendant lives locally;
- Whether the defendant owns property in the community;
- Whether the defendant has family and friends in the area and
- Active membership in houses of worship, community projects and volunteer groups.
At a bail reduction hearing, a judge may also consider ordering a conditional release of the defendant with reduced bail or in lieu of bail. For example, the judge could order the defendant to enter inpatient treatment, surrender their passport, wear a SCRAM remote alcohol detector or house arrest.
The Humphrey Decision in California
In March 2021, the Supreme Court in California ruled that criminal defendants cannot be held in jail due to bail amounts that are unreasonably high. This decision arose from the case of Kenneth Humphrey, a 66 year old African American man that sat in a jail cell for close to a year until being found innocent. He waited so long in jail because he could not afford to pay $350,000 to obtain his release. Humphrey was charged with elder abuse and the robbery of a five dollar bottle of cologne and bail was initially set at $600,000 and later reduced to $350,000. After his exoneration and release, Humphrey’s public defense attorney and Civil Rights Corps appealed his case to the California Supreme Court resulting in a new standard for bail in California. The court’s opinion that “the common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional.” Judges in California must now give much greater consideration to a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail.
California Bail Bonds
There’s no penalty for trying to reduce or eliminate your bail requirement, but if getting out of jail quickly is your priority it’s important to contact a reputable California bail bond agency as soon as possible after your arrest. The best California bail bond agencies are open 24/7 and can usually get you bailed out within hours. In some cases you’ll only have to pay a small part of your bail amount to obtain a release with flexible payment plans that fit your budget.