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Understanding the Point of Bail: Exploring Its Purpose and Importance

Posted on Mar 15th, 2024 by Jesse Kleis 247 Views

When an individual gets arrested, they’re charged with a crime and kept in jail. At this point, bail is set, giving the individual an opportunity to get out of jail and go home. Many people ask the question, what is the point of bail in this situation? Why are people who have been charged with a crime given the opportunity to get out of jail? 

In short, bail is a critical part of the criminal justice system. It’s one of the most important aspects of the legal infrastructure and serves a big purpose. In this guide, we’ll explore the main reasons bail exists and why it’s so beneficial. 

The Purpose Of Bail - What Is The Point?

The primary purpose of bail is to give defendants a chance to leave custody as they await trial

Moreover, as stated by the 2024 California Rules of Court, bail is used as an assurance that the defendant will attend all court proceedings until the conclusion of their trial. It’s seen as a legal form of security; a promise, if you will, between the defendant and the judge that they will appear at every court date throughout the trial. 

By giving individuals the opportunity to post bail, it allows them to prepare better for a trial. Additionally, many believe that bail is essential for protecting a person’s mental health following an arrest. People can be wrongly accused or arrested all the time, so it’s fundamentally unfair for them to be forced to stay in jail. It can take weeks or months for a trial to conclude, and spending all of this time behind bars can have long-term debilitating effects on one’s mental well-being. 

What Does Bail Do and How Does It Work?

You’ve seen the core purpose of bail, but what exactly does it do and how does it carry out this function? 

Many people aren’t aware of this, yet there are multiple bail types you can explore when arrested. The most common ones are listed below: 

  • Cash Bail - In this scenario, cash is paid by the defendant or someone on their behalf to the court. The full bail amount is paid and the defendant must appear in court. When the case ends, the entire cash amount is returned to the defendant (not including any fees or fines, depending on the trial outcome). 
  • Bail Bonds - This is the most popular way to post bail in California. A bail bond is a surety bond that operates as an agreement between the court and a third party, stipulating that the defendant will attend all of their court dates. The “third party” will be a licensed bail bond agency like Mr. Nice Guy Bail Bonds. We will obtain a surety bond from an external provider and the defendant will pay a non-refundable fee for our services. The full bail amount is posted to the court via this surety bond and it will be returned following the trial. Most defendants opt for this method as it means they don’t have to pay the full bail amount in cash and can save money. 
  • Property Bail Bonds - Sometimes, the defendant can post bail by offering their property as a bail bond. Their home becomes collateral to ensure they’re released from prison. As long as the property value matches that of the bail amount, the court will allow this. Should the defendant attend all their court dates, their property will be released as collateral and they retain full ownership. If they miss court appearances, the court can seize the property. 

In any of these circumstances, bail is used to secure the defendant’s immediate release from prison. More importantly, there’s an agreement in place that forces the defendant to go to court and follow the trial proceedings. 

Generally speaking, people who have been released on bail are required to follow these rules while awaiting the end of their trial: 

  • Must go to all pre-agreed court dates
  • Must not travel outside state lines
  • Must avoid committing any other felonies

Each case can be different and there may be other stipulations relating to the severity of the crime or the person involved. For example, repeat offenders may be required to wear an ankle bracelet that puts them under house arrest. Should their movements be detected outside of their home boundaries, bail can be revoked and they’ll be put back in prison. 

That right there is one of the main things bail does: it ensures the arrestee complies with the court so a natural conclusion can be found. Failure to comply will result in the full bail amount being charged and a warrant for the individual's arrest. It may be possible to have bail reinstated after this, though in most cases someone who skips bail will be charged and arrested with a much higher bail amount - or none at all. 

The Importance Of Bail In The Legal System

We’ve explained the purpose of bail, what it does, and how it works - but why is it an important part of our legal system? 

Bail plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice system as it aids with these crucial points: 

  • The Right To A Fair Trial - Every person is given the right to a fair trial and this revolves around the presumption of innocence. This is a legal term that states everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It exists to prevent innocent people from being wrongly incarcerated without going to court and having a fair trial in front of a judge and witnesses.

    Bail is crucial for letting this happen. It gives defendants the chance to get out of jail and prepare for their trial. In essence, by being released on bail, the defendant assumes the title of “innocent until proven guilty.” This would not be possible without bail existing and individuals wouldn’t get a fair trial. 
  • Maintaining Public Safety - Remember, bail acts as a guarantee that the defendant will attend court appearances and be on their best behavior while awaiting trial. If they break the rules, they’ll be arrested and forced to pay bail in full. As such, bail is vital for maintaining public safety when a defendant is released after being arrested. Without it in place, there’d be nothing stopping someone from leaving the country and fleeing before their trial begins. 
  • Protect Valuable Resources - An underappreciated benefit of bail is how it helps the legal system as a whole. It’s estimated that around 780,000 people are arrested in California every year. If all these people were put in jail, it would put an immense strain on public resources. We’d see even more jail overcrowding than already exists, so bail helps prevent this.

    Giving defendants the chance to be released from custody pending a trial means valuable resources are protected. Police officers, prison staff, and detention center workers aren’t stretched too thin. Remove bail from the legal system and everything crumbles under immense pressure. 

The Benefits Of Bail For Defendants

By all means, bail exists to help the legal system - but it’s also highly beneficial for defendants. That’s part of the reason why it exists; defendants deserve basic rights after being arrested, especially if they’ve not been proven guilty yet. 

The benefits of bail for defendants are lengthy and include: 

  • A Chance To Prepare For Trial - It’s not possible to properly prepare for a legal trial when stuck in prison. Bail lets people go home, talk to legal counsel, and put themselves in the best position to make a case to the court. 
  • Limit Disruptions To Family Life - When a member of the family is incarcerated it has drastic consequences on that individual’s family. Being released on bail lets the individual go home and limits the disruptions to their family life. In some circumstances they can carry on with employment to ensure their family still earns an income. 
  • Be Released From Jail Without Spending A Fortune - This isn’t so much a benefit of bail in general as it is about bail bonds. Someone can apply for a bail bond to post bail without spending a fortune. Only 10% of the bail amount must be paid, so anyone can afford to get out of jail. 
  • Help Get The Right Outcome - Look, people are arrested for the wrong crimes all the time. Bail opens the door for wrongly accused individuals to fight for their innocence without spending time behind bars. Having an opportunity to prepare a case can be the difference between someone being wrongly sent to prison and proving their innocence. 

Summary

So, what is the point of bail and what does bail do? The key purpose of bail is to let defendants get out of jail as they await trial. It acts as an agreement between the defendant and the court that they’ll go to all the court dates and be on their best behavior. If you need help posting bail, feel free to contact us today. We provide online bail bonds in California to ensure you or your loved one are released ASAP. 

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About The Author

Jesse Kleis is a licensed California Bail Agent for Mr. Nice Guy Bail Bonds with over 10 years’ experience working in all aspects of the bail industry. He holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Arts in Sociology from California State University. Alongside his role in the bail industry he continues to hold a formal role in professional education as a Sociology Instructor.

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