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Understanding Bail in Criminal Cases

Posted by Nathan Hitchcock | Dec 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

When people face criminal charges, especially more serious charges, they will likely find themselves needing to address something called “bail”. Bail is a judicial tool used to make sure that certain rules will be followed while a criminal case is pending. This is so everyone who is facing criminal charges does not have to sit in jail until their case is done. Bail is kept in effect until the case is resolved. Bail can often be a confusing issue, and this post will help explain the different kinds of bail, and what restrictions you may face while on bail.

            According to the Maine bail code, anyone faced with criminal charges has a right to bail, pending the outcome of your criminal charges. Some minor criminal offenses may not require bail or incarceration pending the end of a case, but most criminal cases do address bail. This is called “pre-conviction” bail, and it is an alternative to staying in jail until the case resolves. Pre-Recognizance bail is the standard form of bail that will be applied in every case unless certain conditions would not be met if out on this type of bail. This means that a promise to attend court and not commit new crimes is sufficient, as opposed to jail. Additionally, there is “unsecured” bail. This means that a promise to attend court and not commit new crimes is still sufficient, but if either happens, there will be a cash penalty owed to the court. Bail commissioners, police officers, and judges will set bail at either of these two instances unless one of four things is at risk.

If it's reasonable to believe that, if someone released on personal recognizance or unsecured bail would (1) not appear in court, (2) commit new crimes, (3) pose a danger to the community, or (4) fail to maintain the integrity of the judicial process (tamper with witnesses, etc.), bail will be addressed differently. Bail will likely be set to “secured” bail, which requires money down to be released from jail. This will be some amount based on the seriousness of the crime, a defendant's history, and sometimes will consider financial status. Instead of cash, someone may be able to put up real estate as collateral for bail. Real estate can either be transferred directly, or by placing a bail lien on the property for a certain amount of money. Any cash bail, or liens on property, will be released once the case is over. Bail money can be forfeited if someone commits new crimes, does not appear in court, or violates any other conditions of bail. Bail may be posted either by the defendant, or by a third party, depending on what bail condition is in place. If third party bail is allowed, a friend or family member may put money down to get someone released from jail, and the money will go back to him or her once the case is over. If no third party bail is allowed, a friend or family member can still put money down, but the money will be considered the defendant's personal money. This means the money will be sent to them once the case is done, or confiscated from the court if there is a bail violation.

In addition to cash or no-cash bail, there may be certain conditions in place, preventing someone from doing something or requiring them to do something while out on bail. One condition involves not using or possessing certain items, such as alcohol, drugs, or firearms. Defendants can also be subject to random searching and chemical tests to confirm compliance with bail. Another condition, depending on the case, may not allow contact with a person involved in the case, either a co-defendant, victim, witness, or any other person. There may also be mandatory reporting to counseling or police departments, again depending on the case.

            Bail conditions can often hinder someone's ability to live and work day to day, and without a criminal defense lawyer to assist you, it may be very difficult getting your bail conditions changed to allow you to continue your daily routine. Additionally, bail violations can bring more criminal charges and put someone in jail indefinitely until the case is resolved.   If you are facing a criminal charge, invest in your future and hire an attorney who takes the time to specialize in criminal defense and who can help you with you bail conditions. Call the attorneys of WTB LAW for an immediate consultation.

About the Author

Nathan Hitchcock

Nathaniel H. Hitchcock's practice is devoted solely to defending persons accused of committing criminal offenses. As an associate attorney at WTB LAW, Attorney Hitchcock works closely with Attorney William Bly, who is recognized statewide as a skilled and fierce advocate in the courtroom. Attorney Hitchcock regularly attends seminars and training focused on effectively defending a wide variety of criminal case types.

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