Legal Resources and Books on Bail Bonds and the Laws on Bail (Legal Resources on Bail Bonds and Bail)
While they do say that ignorance of the law excuses no one, one does not often have the opportunity or the incentive to inform themselves regarding specific legal concepts just for the sake of knowing about it. A person does not usually inquire about bail, for instance, unless he or she or someone they know becomes involved in a criminal proceeding, and then bail becomes very relevant and important.
Then you may wonder what bail means, what it is supposed to do, and what your rights are under current bail laws. Do you have the right to bail, and if so, what defines your rights to bail? In this article, we take a brief look at all the relevant laws that define bail as a legal concept.
Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, there is a prohibition against excessive bail. (Click here for additional information about the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) There is no further definition of what bail is, or what “excessive bail” means. It does, however, build upon its origins in English law where citizens were protected against “excessive bail.” Before American Independence, some states such as Pennsylvania and Virginia included this provision against excessive bail in their state constitutions, further adding definitions on what is considered bailable and non-bailable offenses.
When bail as a legal concept was adapted under the American legal system, it was intended to serve the same purposes as it did under English law, which was to grant suspects release from detention before the case against him is tried, conditioned upon the payment of a certain sum of money. This sum of money was intended to serve as a guarantee to the court that a defendant can be released pending his trial because he will not leave or go into hiding. Bail then was often paid on behalf of the defendant by a person who had good standing in the community, to sort of vouch for the defendant’s promise to voluntarily submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court even when he has been granted freedom from pretrial detention.
The interesting thing is that bail is not defined per se, whether under the constitution or under separate laws. If you wish to understand what bail is, therefore, and what it was intended for, you would need to delve into its origins under English law. There seems to be an assumption that bail, as used in the constitution, is what bail is widely accepted to be – which is simply pledging something of value to guarantee your appearance in court so that there is no reason to detain you before your court hearing.
Since it was adapted and included in United States law, however, bail has since become an integral part of the legal system of the United States. There is still no legal definition in any federal law, and the only mention of bail in the United States Constitution is that which prohibits excessive bail. Since then, however, some of the finer points of the legal concept of bail has been further refined.
It may be stated right now that there is no such thing as a constitutional right to bail. This means that not everyone facing criminal charges is automatically entitled to be released on bail. Here we are given the idea that while some crimes are bailable, others are not, or are non-bailable. If a crime is classified as bailable, however, then a person has the constitutional right to be protected against “excessive” bail. The difficulty is that there is no definition of what makes a bail excessive, either.
Subsequently, the Judiciary Act of 1789 defined which crimes were bailable and non-bailable. This was later followed by the Bail Reform Act of 1966. This was a groundbreaking piece of legislation because defendants in non-capital criminal offenses were granted a statutory right to bail, thus addressing the void in the language of the constitution. Judges were also given the leeway here to select alternative conditions to money bonds, as long as the intention of guaranteeing the defendant’s appearance in court is met. Thus, you had the introduction of sureties, personal recognizance, and bail bonds.
Because the Bail Reform Act of 1966 provided a statement guaranteeing a person’s right to bail when that right was not expressly withdrawn, bail became a protected right of individuals. There was a shift in the perspective from keeping people in jail to ensure that they stand trial, to making sure that individuals, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, will not needlessly be kept in jail.
During the implementation of the law, further refinements were recognized in its interpretation, such that judges took into consideration other factors, such as whether or not a person was considered a flight risk, and whether they would pose a danger to the community if released on bail. These two factors went a long way to determine whether or not a person should be granted bail, even if the charges brought against them were bailable offenses.