Defendants usually assume that the first bail figure they receive from a judge is the final one. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Judges have the legal right to raise bail even after defendants pay the initial sum.
In this post, we explain how bail is set. We then explore when judges raise bail amounts and why it happens.
How Judges Set Bail
The law requires judges to follow a process when setting bail for a defendant. They must take into consideration:
- The severity of the charges
- The defendant’s criminal record
- Whether the defendant skipped any court dates in the past
- Their general conduct and character
- Whether they have links in the community, such as a family or job
In California, judges collect this information and then consult a bail schedule. This document sets out standard bail charges for specific types of crime.
When Judges Raise Bail
Even after consulting the bail schedule and posting an initial bail amount, some judges will proceed to raise bail. For defendants, such action can be distressing, particularly those who have already secured release.
Judges raise bail when there is a change in the defendant’s circumstances. From their perspective, it is a way to reduce the risk of the arrestee skipping their court date.
Examples of when judges may raise bail include:
When the defendant is charged with additional crimes
After arresting a defendant, police will often carry out additional checks on their car, home, and person. They may also subject them to drug tests and interrogation. As they do so, they may uncover evidence of additional crimes which judges then use to raise bail.
For example, suppose a defendant awaiting trial on assault charges. Police might get a warrant to raid the defendant’s home and find evidence of drugs on their property. Judges may then use this new information and raise the bail amount, based on the additional charges levied against them.
When the defendant’s personal circumstances change
Changes in the defendant’s personal circumstances can also lead judges to raise bail because of the increased risk of “flight.” For instance, if the defendant’s family moves out of the area or they lose their job, judges may conclude that there is a higher chance they will flee.
For this reason, defendants should be careful with the information they disclose to law enforcement and should only communicate through a trusted attorney.
When charges move from misdemeanor to felony
Under U.S. law, misdemeanors are less severe crimes than felonies and carry lighter penalties. Defendants convicted of misdemeanors typically receive short jail terms (less than a year), community service, fines, rehabilitation, or probation. Felonies, on the other hand, almost always come with significant jail time.
Because the practical difference between misdemeanors and felonies is often small, law enforcement may upgrade charges against you. In response, judges may raise bail, according to the California bail schedule.
Unfortunately, when moving from misdemeanors to felonies, increases in bail amounts can be dramatic. That’s why defendants should always work with trusted bail bondsmen to secure their release.
When the judge discovers that the details of the crime are more violent or complex than originally understood
Judges may also raise bail when the circumstances of an alleged crime are more violent or complex than originally understood. For instance, they may upgrade charges from regular to aggravated assault, claiming that the defendant had the intent to murder, rob, or rape another person
When the health of the defendant’s alleged victim deteriorates or they die
The penalties for allegedly assaulting someone without causing injury are less severe compared to when the defendant causes injury or death. Therefore, judges may also raise bail if the victim’s health deteriorates or they die.
When the defendant appears to be a danger to themselves
In rare cases, judges may raise bail when a defendant appears to be a danger to themselves. For instance, if they discover evidence of heavy drinking or suicidal behavior, they may increase the bail amount to encourage the defendant to return to detention.
When the defendant is charged with subsequent crimes committed following their initial release
Even after release, law enforcement may charge defendants with additional crimes before their trial date. In these circumstances, police will usually hold them in detention for a second time and judges will post a new bail amount reflecting the combined charges against them.
Rules That Determine When Judges Can Raise Bail
Judges cannot increase bail just because they feel like it. Rather, they must show legally permissible reasons for demanding more from the defendant. And they should be able to defend any increase in court. Under current California rules, judges must inform defendants at least three hours before raising bail. Arrestees then have time to arrange additional funds, either privately or through a bail bondsman. Once the defendant pays the new bail amount, they can return home, as before.
Paying Bail Through A Bail Bondsman
Most defendants expect judges to set fair bail. However, that doesn’t always happen. Many set bail so high that it’s impossible for arrestees or their families to raise the required cash.
That’s where a visit to a professional bail bondsman can help. Instead of paying the full amount in cash, we charge a small non-refundable fee to secure the full bail amount. Clients pay 10% of the total value of the bail upfront or less.
If defendants require collateral, we can help there, too. For instance, defendants may be able to use their home, car, line of credit, or other possessions to bust out of jail. (In most cases, we don’t require any collateral at all, so it’s always best to call us first).
If defendants show up to their court dates as instructed by the court, there should be no additional fees to pay. We will receive the bail back in our account and you won’t be liable for any additional debt.