bail  | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Bail is the release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person’s appearance in court when required.

Also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.

Bail is a legal mechanism that allows an accused individual to be released from custody prior to their trial, with the understanding that they will return to court when required. The purpose of bail is to prevent unnecessary detention of individuals who have not yet been found guilty of a crime while also ensuring that they do not flee or pose a danger to the community.

Bail is typically set by a judge, and the amount of bail required may depend on the severity of the alleged offense, the accused person’s criminal history, and other factors. In some cases, the accused may be required to provide collateral, such as property or cash, as security for their release.

Once bail is granted, the accused individual must comply with certain conditions, such as reporting regularly to a designated location or refraining from contact with certain individuals. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in the revocation of bail and the return of the accused to custody.

The process of setting bail can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but it generally involves a hearing in which the accused is allowed to present arguments for why they should be granted bail. The prosecution may also present arguments against bail, citing factors such as the seriousness of the alleged offense or the risk of flight.

In some cases, bail may be denied altogether, such as in cases involving particularly serious offenses or individuals who pose a high risk of flight or danger to the community. In such cases, the accused may remain in custody until their trial or other disposition of their case.

The purpose of bail is to balance the interests of justice by ensuring that accused individuals are not unnecessarily detained and that they appear in court when required while also protecting public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system. The specific conditions of bail may be adjusted as the case proceeds, such as if new evidence comes to light or the accused’s circumstances change.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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