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California Bail Bond Statistics

The bail system is an important part of the judicial system in California. It can also be very complicated, in some ways, and isn't always easy to understand. The system is designed to give people a chance to be released from jail before they must attend court for their trial. However, the reality is that there are many people who are unable to post bail and end up staying in jail. There are some interesting and sometimes shocking statistics that relate to California bail and bail bonds. From how many people are able to post bail to the average bail amount, these statistics can help you to understand bail, bail bonds, and even the effect the system has on the people of California.

The Average Bail Amount

Bail amounts in California are based on the bail schedule, which all judges and magistrates use to set bail. This uniform bail schedule provides guidance on the minimum bail amount and which factors increase the amount, as well as by how much. Bail can be increased due to the defendant's flight risk, the crime they are charged with, and other important factors.

The average bail amount that is set in California is $50,000. Compared to the national average bail amount, this is five times higher. The average bail amount in California has been increasing and could continue to rise. These high bail amounts often have consequences for people who are arrested and charged with crimes in California. Higher bail amounts mean that more people may have difficulty posting bail and may have to remain in jail until their trial is over.

The Highest Ever Bail Amount

There have been some eye-watering bail amounts set across the United States. Outside of California, an amount of $3 billion was set for Robert Durst in Texas, although it was later much reduced. In California, bail amounts might not have reached that high, but there have been some pretty huge sums. In 1992, Otoniel Urrego was charged in one of the state's largest drug money laundering cases and bail was set at $500 million. This was later reduced to $1 million. More recently, in 2010, Kenning Ma had bail set at $150 million and his wife at $75 million. They were both accused of violating California Air Resources Board regulations, as well as felony counts of grand theft, conspiracy, possession of fake documents, and money laundering.

Highest and Lowest Amounts in the California Bail Schedule

The California Bail Schedule is updated annually and provides fixed amounts for misdemeanors and felonies, although the judge in any case can use their discretion to set the final amount for bail.

For misdemeanors, bail amounts are as low as $1,000 for 2023, with the highest amount at $15,000. However, for felonies, bail amounts start at $20,000 and reach as high as $5 million. Actual bail amounts can be higher or lower than these figures, depending on different factors and the opinion of the judge.

What's the Industry Worth?

The bail bond industry in the US is worth $1.9 billion. In total, there are approximately 15,000 bail bond agents across the country, and they help to bail out more than 2 million people each year. There are several large bail bond businesses with a significant share of the market, but there are also many independent services in California to choose from too. 

The Number of People Able to Post Bail. Being able to afford to pay bail is a significant problem in California. Only about 60% of people arrested in the state can afford to post bail, meaning that the remaining 40% must remain in jail until their trial. Many of these people will be innocent of the crime they have been accused of. If people are unable to pay the bail amount that is set, it means that they are effectively denied their right to conditional release before trial.

In 2021, the California high court ruled that judges would have to consider the ability of the defendant to pay when setting bail. It was decided that conditioning freedom only on whether the arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional. However, this doesn't mean that bail has been eliminated for anyone who can't afford it. In fact, a 2022 study showed that the ruling has had no effect on bail amounts in several California counties. Additionally, the number of people held in jail before trial has risen. This disproportionately affects some communities, with Black people 3.5 times more likely to be held in jail before trial.

When people are unable to post bail, it can have several negative consequences for them. They may lose their job and income, housing, and more. It may also be more difficult for them to receive a fair trial.

The Percentage of People Who Skip Bail

The majority of people follow their bail conditions and appear in court when they are required to. However, there is a proportion of people who skip bail and don't make their court date. Across the United States, approximately 25% of defendants are arrested for failure to appear after missing their court date. 17% of people on bail over a period of 14 years were arrested for a new offense.

Of those who fail to appear in court, many of them will never personally meet a bounty hunter face-to-face, despite what some TV shows might suggest. Most bounty hunters will find out someone's location before passing the details to law enforcement and leaving them to make an arrest.

People in California Jail without Conviction

In 2021, more than 44,000 people were held in county jails in California without being convicted or sentenced. That amounts to three-quarters of all inmates. Of those, more than 1,300 had been waiting in jail for more than three years and 332 had been waiting more than 5 years.

Number of People Released without Bail

When someone is arrested and charged, three things could happen. They could be given no bail, which can happen in the case of some serious crimes, a bail amount can be set, or they can be released with no bail. One study showed that 41.5% of people booked on misdemeanors or felonies are released pre-trial. Of these, 46.6% cite and release after booking cases, 27.8% who are released on bail, and 15.9% who are released on their own recognizance. In other words, about 16% of people are released without having to pay anything to get out of jail. Cite and release is when the person isn't taken into custody, but instead receives a citation to appear at the jail at a later date.

Pretrial Release for Misdemeanors vs Felonies

Pretrial release is more common for people arrested on less serious offenses. About half of those arrested on misdemeanor charges secure pretrial release, compared to less than 30% of those arrested for felonies. Those who secure pretrial release for felonies and serious offenses generally do so through posting bail. Cite and release is much more common for people charged with felonies. It's also less common for people with active warrants, holds or supervision violations to be given pretrial release.

Differences in Pretrial Release for Different Demographics

There are some differences between rates of bail and other types of pretrial release among different demographics. 38% of Latinos and 33.7% of Black people are released pretrial, compared to 48.9% of white people and 54.6% of Asian Americans. However, these disparities change when accounting for other factors, such as offense, booking status, location, and booking date. These statistics may still be important to consider in terms of discrimination or disadvantage, but further study is required.


Statistics on bail and bail bonds in California can often be surprising and sometimes shocking too. Many of these figures show how important it is for defendants and their families to have access to bail bonds so that they are able to post bail and secure their release. Although being released without the need to pay bail is a possibility, it's not particularly common and is usually reserved for minor crimes. Although there have been several attempts at bail reform in California, things are slow to change. Even after the important ruling in 2021, things haven't changed as much as many would have liked them to.

Secure Bail With Mr. Nice Guy Bail Bonds

Although the bail system may not always seem fair, being able to secure bail with a bail bond can help to level things somewhat. At Mr Nice Guy Bail Bonds, we can help you to ensure you are able to post bail and secure the release of yourself or a loved one. With low rates and easy repayment plans, our friendly bail agents can make it easier to secure release from jail as quickly as possible. Call us in San Diego, Orange County, or San Bernardino to speak to a friendly member of staff and receive advice on the next steps you should take.

About The Author

Jesse Kleis is a seasoned California Bail Agent, boasting over a decade of comprehensive experience in the bail industry. He earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Sociology from California State University. In addition to his work as a bail agent, Jesse is also an active Sociology Instructor, furthering his commitment to professional education.