What Is Bail? How Is It Determined In Pennsylvania?

What Is Bail, you ask? Bail is security they put on a person to ensure they appear for court and do not violate any conditions imposed. You can get in trouble if you do not show up or violate a condition. The penalties that you receive for violating a condition or for not showing up in court are your bail gets revoked, which means your bail is withdrawn and you go directly to jail. They can also ask for forfeiture of the bail. That means they can ask for either all of the bail money back, or part of the money. It all depends on what the district attorney and court system wants to do.

It is very important not only to show up but to stay out of trouble. If you pay a bail bondsman and the bail bondsman puts up the bond and you do not appear or violate a condition, the bail can be revoked or forfeited. If the bail is forfeited, the bail bondsman pays the court the amount of the money he put up or some portion of that money. Then the bondsman will come after you or the person who secured the bail to get the money back, which could include foreclosing a property or taking whatever collateral that has been put up. The bondsman has a contractual right to do so.

How bail is determined is totally up to the magistrate who sets the bail. The bail can be determined any way the magistrate sees fit as long as they follow the law. Bail can be unsecured or up to a million plus dollars. It all depends on the magistrate’s mood that day, what type of charges are filed and many other factors. There is no set amount per charge. It is totally dependent on what the magistrate wants to do.

Different Types Of Bail Available To A Criminal Defendant

There are three types of bail. Unsecured, released on your own recognizance, and secured. Unsecured bail means you sign your name and the magistrate assigns a monetary value. By signing your name, you get to go home. However, if you violate a condition or fail to show for court, they can put you in jail and then come after you for the amount of money that was set. No money needs to be paid when unsecured bail is set. Released on your own recognizance is just signing your name and walking away with no amount of money set. Secured means you have to post money to stay out of jail. If there is a violation of a condition or failure to appear in court, the government can take all or part of the money posted.

Conditions That Generally Accompany Bail In Pennsylvania

The general conditions are you have to show up in court every time. You cannot get charged with another criminal offense. You have to notify the bail agency within forty-eight hours of any change of address. You have to refrain from intimidating witnesses. The two things that get people in the most trouble on bail are getting charged again, and contacting witnesses.

Magistrates can set special conditions such as no illegal drug use, no drinking of alcohol and not appearing at certain establishments that serve alcohol. There are a lot of different conditions that he can set, but there are legal limits to them. A magistrate just can’t make things up. I once saw a person who was charged with his dog biting people. So, the magistrate said he had to give the dog to the police as a condition of bail. He refused and was put in jail. That was an illegal condition. Conditions can vary, but there are some limitations on the conditions. The general conditions are, again, show up, do not get arrested, and do not intimidate witnesses. If you change your address, you have to notify the court within two days.

Is Bail Available To Everyone Charged With A Crime?

Yes, except for homicide charges. The three types are either unsecured, released on your own recognizance, or secured bail.

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