As a civil society, every citizen’s freedom is important. And frankly, we don’t have the resources to keep every small and big offender behind bars. That’s why, for small offenses, there’s almost always an alternative to jail time. The most common alternative is bail. A defendant whose guilt has not yet been determined by the court has a right to apply for bail. The accused can offer a bail bond, money which is co-signed by an attorney and the defendant’s family or friends who take responsibility for his presentation in court at the time of hearing. In some cases the defendant himself can sign an affidavit to assure the court of his appearance at every trial date.
Bail is given to an accused based upon the nature of the accusations and the urgency of the hearing. The court sets the bail amount, which is usually an amount to make up for public costs and damages. The Bail Reform Act of 1984 governs the provision of bail. Granting bail is at the discretion of the court, as it determines the nature of the allegation, the flight risk and how much of a threat the accused poses to society if let free.
Pretrial release is the conditional or non-conditional release of a defendant before his case comes up for hearing. Pretrial release may or may not require bail money. Pretrial service programs determine the provision of pretrial release. They gather the necessary information related to the case and defendant, assess risks associated with the release and provide supervision to ensure that the defendant complies with pretrial laws and reports regularly to the officers. Judges consider the following while making pretrial decisions:
– The arrested individual’s employment status
– Monetary and residential property
– Family history
– History of substance abuse
– Mental health
– Criminal record
– Punctuality in previous cases
Money bail is a less safe option for hardened criminals because they can get out of custody by offering a few hundred bucks. On the other hand, defendants who cannot afford the bail can languish in jails for years. That’s why bail bonds are so helpful. They let those who may not be able to afford it go free. As Dostoevsky states in Crime and Punishment, “If he has a conscience, he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment, as well as prison.”