Being accused of a crime, especially if one is innocent, is one of many people's worst nightmares. Having to sit in jail while waiting for the wheels of justice to slowly turn is another. Here's what everyone should know if they suddenly find themselves living this bad dream.

Does Everyone Get Bail?

Anyone who is arrested for a crime in the United States is given the presumption of innocence until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers or sometimes, a judge. In keeping with this principle of American jurisprudence, bail is usually available to the defendant.

However, the amount of bail requested is not set in stone. Even though the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states excessive bail cannot be imposed, what constitutes excessive is not clearly defined, and criminal attorneys often battle with prosecutors for a bail reduction. Bail is also not guaranteed. Both the bail amount and whether or not it is available to a defendant is up to the judge.

In addition to keeping with the presumption of innocence, the purpose of bail is to provide a financial incentive for the defendant to show back up to court. If they don't, they surrender their bail.  Some criminals are denied bail if the judge deems they are too big of a flight risk. Other reasons may be they are accused of a capital crime or a major drug felony, they are viewed as a threat to society, they are a prior two-time felon, they are accused of a crime against children, or they are a convicted felon who has failed to register as a sexual offender.  

How Does Bail Work?

For minor crimes, people are often released "on their own recognizance." This means they don't need to pay any money; they simply have to sign a promissory note of sorts, promising to show back up for the next court date. There may be other conditions imposed, however. For example, a man accused of domestic abuse may be ordered to stay away from the alleged victim until the case is settled.

When someone is arrested and booked for a more serious crime, the prosecutor will ask for a cash or property bail bond. This can be paid by the defendant or a surety, someone who agrees to take on the risk. This may be a family member, but it may also be obtained from a 24-bail bonds service. A few states do not allow bail bondsmen, though, as they charge a fee for their services, usually a minimum of 10 percent. In those states, such as Wisconsin or Illinois, defendants usually only need to post a certain percentage of the bail rather than the entire amount in order to be released. The posted amount must be larger enough to ensure the defendant will return, though. 

For more information, contact a professional like Martinez, Raymond.