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How much do you know about bail?

It goes without saying that the primary objective for anyone who has been placed under arrest is to get out of jail as quickly as possible. However, the process of how this is accomplished might not be entirely clear, particularly to those who have never been behind bars.

In recognition of this reality, the next few posts will take a closer look at bail, providing insight into how the process works and what people can anticipate going forward.

What exactly is bail?

Bail is a process whereby a person charged with a criminal offense is released from jail in exchange for providing the court with either cash or other valuable property, which acts as a sort of collateral guaranteeing their appearance at future hearings.

Indeed, if a person appears as promised, the money or property put up for bail will be returned. Failure to appear, however, will result in the forfeiture of the money or property, and the issuance of an arrest warrant.

What's to stop a court from setting a bail amount disproportionate to the crime?

The Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states rather succinctly that "excessive bail shall not be required." Courts have long interpreted this to mean that bail cannot be used as a mechanism for either undue punishment or government enrichment.

In other words, bail's sole purpose is to ensure that a person appears for court and, as such, it cannot be set at an unreasonably high level.  

Why then is bail often set so high for certain crimes?

Bail is often set very high in drug-related or homicide cases in recognition of the fact that defendants in these cases pose a major flight risk given the potentially steep consequences of a conviction. Indeed, if you have been charged with a crime that could result in a life sentence or death here in Florida, you are actually ineligible for bail.

We will continue this discussion in future posts. If you have been placed under arrest, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible. 

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