To ensure a defendant's appearance in court at a future date, law enforcement may set bail as a condition of releasing that defendant from police custody. Bail is a matter of right except in cases punishable by death, probation or parole violations, and in certain public safety offenses. It can be paid in cash, personal check, money order, or even a traveler's check.
The basic concept behind bail is to allow a person otherwise in custody to be released from custody until a court appearance. If the defendant fails to appear in court as ordered, he or she forfeits the amount of bail posted as a guarantee for the appearance, meaning it must be paid to the court clerk.
Bail is first set either according to an amount set forth on a warrant or according to a 'bail schedule,' depending on the county, and based on the offenses or offenses charged. A defendant has the ability to ask the judge hearing the case to reduce bail (Penal Code § 1275). Some things considered by the court are the safety of the public, the seriousness of the charges, the defendant's prior criminal record, and the probability of defendant appearing in court in the future.
Ties to the community, length of residency, employment history, extended families in the area/county, and whether defendant has a passport or visa are also taken into consideration and pointed out by our attorneys. When a defendant has a passport and/or visa, it is prudent for defendant to offer to tender it to the court to clear any fears of defendant being a flight risk.
There are two ways to 'post' bail. The most common way is to contact a bail bond company, who will post a bail bond with the jailer or court for a non-refundable fee from the defendant. The customary fee is ten percent of the bond amount, however, it often is lower. The second way to post bail is for the defendant to simply deposit the full bail amount with the jailer or court. At the conclusion of the case, if defendant makes all appearances, the full bail amount is returned to the defendant.