When you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, you may need to post bail in order to remain out of jail until your trial starts. Bail is money that you deposit with the court, giving them a form of insurance that you will show up for your trial. After your trial, the bail money will usually be returned to you. Bear in mind that the judge has the discretion to order you back to jail once your trial starts, even if you’ve posted bail.
If you don’t have enough money to pay the bail yourself, you can obtain a bond from a bail agent. He or she will pay your bail, but you will owe her 10% of the bail amount once your trial is
done. For example, if your bail was set at 50,000, you would owe $5,000 to the bail agent who posted your bond.
Criminal suspects have the option of requesting a bail hearing after their arrest, which is an opportunity to convince the court to reduce or even eliminate the bail requirement. This is why it’s important to hire a San Diego criminal defense lawyer as soon as you get charged with a crime. Your attorney can guide you through the pre-trial process and may be able to help you gain your freedom at a lesser cost.
Understanding How Bail is Determined in San Diego
In California, each county determines the bail amounts for the suspects of different crimes. Here are some bail amounts for common crimes, as outlined in the 2016 San Diego bail schedule:
- Battery — Your bail may be set at $8,000 or $10,000 for a second offense.
- Assault with a firearm — Your bail may be $20,000.
- Rape — You could face a bail payment of $100,000.
- Receiving stolen property valued at or less than $950 — The court may set you bail at $2,000.
- Vandalism resulting in $400 or less of damage — Your bail may be $2,000.
- Stalking — The court may set your bail at $20,000, and the amount doubles with each subsequent conviction.
- Unlawful possession of firearm or ammunition — Your bail may be as high as $10,000.v
- Refusal to obey peace officer — The court can set your bail to $5,000.
- Possession of marijuana on school grounds — Your bail will be $500.
- Driving with suspended license — Depending on the reason for which your license was suspended, you could face a bail amount between $150 and $5,000.
- Hit and run causing injury —The court can set you bail at $10,000.
When you’re facing multiple charges, the bail may be stacked, meaning that you will have to pay the sum of the bails for all of your charges. Bail stacking is permitted when:
- You allegedly committed offenses against separate victims or on separate dates
- You purportedly committed multiple illegal sex acts on a single victim
- Multiple offenses occurred simultaneously, but were in different classes—such as a drug offense committed along with a violent offense
Bail stacking is not permitted when:
- A lesser offense is charged along with a more serious offense
- A single offense is charged under several criminal statutes
- Your criminal conduct violates multiple statutes, but your acts consisted in a single, indivisible transaction
- Both the theft and possession of property are being charged
In cases where the court does not stack your bail for multiple offenses, the judge will set your bail to the most serious offense with which you’ve been charged.
How a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help at Your Bail Hearing
In some cases, you lawyer may be able to ask the court to reduce or even eliminate your bail, which is known as release on your own recognizance (O.R release). Many criminal defendants are unaware of the availability of bail hearings, but these are an opportunity to significantly reduce the burden of going through the criminal justice system. Indeed, the laws governing the bail hearing process gives the judge a lot of authority in deciding where to set your bail, and effective advocacy can result in a significantly lower amount.
A judge will consider the following in determining your bail amount for misdemeanors and non-serious felonies:
- The offenses of which you are charged, and the recommended bail amount
- Any aggravating factors
- Your criminal history
- The probability that you will appear at your court date
- The level of threat your freedom represents to the public
Making a positive impression with the judge during the bail hearing, and having evidence of your good will and good behavior can make a big difference. An attorney can also suggest bail conditions in exchange for a reduced bail or O.R. Release. Such conditions might include:
- Restricting your travel, such as surrendering your driver’s license or passport to the court
- Checking into an inpatient treatment facility
- Wearing Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM
- Submitting to house arrest and wearing a GPS tracking device
In Some Scenarios, Obtaining Reduced Bail Is Not an Option
When you’ve been charged with a violent or serious felony, the judge usually has to obey the scheduled bail amount for the offense, unless you show there is good cause or unusual circumstances justifying a reduction in bail. Such factors may include:
- You have attended all prior court appearances, AND/OR
- You haven’t committed any new offense, AND
- New evidence is available that shows a substantial change in your situation, in the facts of the case, or in the proceedings
Depending on your circumstances, requesting a bail hearing may even be a bad idea. This is because the judge might end up hearing reasons why he or she should actually raise your bail instead of reducing it. The prosecutor has the ability to present evidence at this hearing, and he or she may present damning evidence or testimony showing that you are a serious threat to the public.
When you get charged with a crime, speaking with an experienced lawyer can help you determine whether to request a bail hearing or not. Upon reviewing the facts of your case, it may or may not be in your best interest to request a reduce bail amount or an O.R. release. If you have more questions about bail hearings, you can call a San Diego criminal defense attorney at McElfresh Law today at (858) 756-7107 and we’ll give you a free case consultation.