One of the first questions a person has when arrested on a criminal charge is how and when he or she can I get out of jail. The U.S. Constitution, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, both contain provisions guaranteeing a person charged with a crime the ability to post a reasonable bond (or bail) for release in most cases. With that understood, there are some basic factors associated with bail in Pennsylvania that a person facing criminal charges – or his or her family members – need to understand. Here is an overview of bail in Pennsylvania:
Purpose of Bail
Bail is not a punishment. It is not designed to be punitive. Time and again individuals jailed after being charged with a crime can be heard complaining about how the amount of bail set in their case is nothing more than a punishment.
Bail is designed to permit a person to remain free while a criminal case is pending. In addition, bail is designed to ensure that a person appears at future court proceedings.
Bail is to be set at a reasonable amount. The reasonableness of a bail amount is based upon the crime or crimes charged, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s ties to the community and the likelihood that the defendant will appear in court for future proceedings. Courts in Pennsylvania have designed standardized charts that set forth the presumptive bail amount in many cases.
Oftentimes, a bail amount is automatically set in the immediate aftermath of a person’s arrest. This permits a person the ability to get out of jail promptly, if that individual is able to make arrangements to post bail. In some cases, a bond amount is not established immediately. The person charged with a criminal offense must appear in court to have bail set. The hearing on this matter typically is held within a day or two of arrest.
In a good many cases, a defendant is now able to make the bail amount initially established by the court. A defendant can retain the services of a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, who can request a bail hearing. At a bail hearing, the court can be presented with evidence as to why the bail amount should be lowered in a particular case.