Judges release suspects on bail with the agreement that they will appear for further court proceedings. This process protects individuals’ right to the presumption of innocence while reducing prison overcrowding.
In addition, individuals out on bail can work and maintain family responsibilities. However, they must also check in with pretrial service officers.
Presumption of Innocence
The legal maxim “innocent until proven guilty” is a phrase many hear in movies and TV during a courtroom drama or when a criminal case captures national attention. It is a vital part of our Constitution’s due process requirements.
However, in reality, the presumption of innocence is rarely respected. An arrest can be made based on probable cause or even just the suspicion of a crime, with very little physical evidence. The government has enormous resources, such as professional witnesses and investigators available to make a case, and the prison system is used for warehousing those accused who cannot afford bail.
Bail is supposed to be set in cases where the judge considers it an undue burden on the accused or their family to stay in jail while the case is pending. But most courts rely on preset bail schedules that are often higher than people can afford, and bond agents require people to put up property or their families as collateral to get out of jail.
Law enforcement is made up of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and criminal investigators who work to enforce laws and protect citizens. When an individual is arrested, they will enter the court system to be arraigned on their case and can request release from jail through bail.
The judge will set a bail amount at this hearing, which typically considers factors like the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal and court history. The court will also look at flight risk, whether they are likely to flee. If they believe a person threatens their community, the court may refuse them bail altogether.
Men working with bail bonds are used to get people out of jail, but the criminal justice system has rules that limit their power. They shouldn’t be able to exploit people and force them into plea deals, especially when they don’t have the money to pay their bond.
A person’s ability to pay bail can determine whether they spend time in jail while waiting for their trial. The court should consider whether the amount of money required to make bail will pose an undue burden on the defendant and their loved ones. Unfortunately, the courts often ignore this provision.
Individuals can use property or cash as collateral to secure their release from jail before their trial through a property bond or surety bond. In the case of a surety bond or bonding, a bail bond agent will take out a security against the defendant’s assets or even mortgage their home to cover the amount owed to the court.
In cases where a defendant fails to show up for court proceedings, the bail agent will have to pay the entire amount of the bond to the court. They will then hire a bounty hunter to track the defendants and return them to jail.
People who are arrested for an alleged crime can be released from jail if they can pay a lump sum. A person’s ability to pay bail depends on their socioeconomic status and is often determined by a criminal record check, which can be challenging in certain circumstances. The for-profit bail industry thrives on this inequity.
During the past year, we have witnessed protests across the country related to police brutality and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. These incidents focus attention on a variety of issues, including surveillance and policing, arrests and detention, plea bargaining, conviction, and incarceration.
Civil rights advocates know that highlighting these shocking statistics can motivate people to take action. But if we are not careful in how we frame them, stand-alone numbers can reinforce the myth that racial inequalities are inevitable or due to fixed, stereotypical traits. They can also give credence to the belief that some people are more likely to commit crimes.