In 1789, the same year that the United States Bill of Rights was introduced, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789. This specified which types of crimes were bailable and set bounds on a judge's discretion in setting bail. The Act states that all non-capital crimes are bailable and that in capital cases the decision to detain a suspect, prior to trial, was to be left to the judge.
Bail Reform Act of 1966
The Judiciary Act states, "Upon all arrests in criminal cases, bail shall be admitted, except where punishment may be by death, in which cases it shall not be admitted but by the supreme or a circuit court, or by a justice of the supreme court, or a judge of a district court, who shall exercise their discretion therein."
In 1966, Congress enacted the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which states that a non-capital defendant is to be released, pending trial, on his personal recognizance or on personal bond, unless the judicial officer determines that such incentives will not adequately assure his appearance at trial. In that case, the judge must select an alternative from a list of conditions, such as restrictions on travel. Individuals charged with a capital crime, or who have been convicted and are awaiting sentencing or appeal, are to be released unless the judicial officer has reason to believe that no conditions will reasonably assure that the person will not flee or pose a danger. In non-capital cases, the Act does not permit a judge to consider a suspect's danger to the community, only in capital cases or after conviction is the judge authorized to do so.
The 1966 Act was particularly criticized within the District of Columbia, where all crimes formerly fell under Federal bail law. In a number of instances, persons accused of violent crimes committed additional crimes when released on their personal recognizance. These individuals were often released yet again.
The Judicial Council committee recommended that, even in non-capital cases, a person's dangerousness should be considered in determining conditions for release. The District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 allowed judges to consider dangerousness and risk of flight when setting bail in noncapital cases.
Current federal law
In 1984 Congress replaced the Bail Reform Act of 1966 with new bail law, codified at United States Code, Title 18, Sections 3141-3150. The main innovation of the new law is that it allows pre-trial detention of individuals based upon their danger to the community; under prior law and traditional bail statutes in the U.S., pre-trial detention was to be based solely upon the risk of flight.
18 U.S.C. § 3142 provides that only persons who fit into certain categories are subject to detention without bail: persons charged with a crime of violence, an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death, certain drug offenses for which the maximum offense is greater than 10 years, repeat felony offenders, or if the defendant poses a serious risk of flight, obstruction of justice, or witness tampering. There is a special hearing held to determine whether the defendant fits within these categories; anyone not within them must be admitted to bail.
The Supreme Court upheld the 1984 bail law's pretrial detention provisions in the 1987 case of United States v. Salerno.
Bail laws vary somewhat from state to state, as is typical of U.S. jurisprudence. Generally, a person charged with a non-capital crime is presumptively entitled to be granted bail. Recently, some states have enacted statutes modelled on federal law that permit pretrial detention of persons charged with serious violent offenses, if it can be demonstrated that the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Some states have very strict guidelines for judges to follow; these are usually provided in the form of a published bail schedule. These schedules list every single crime defined by state law and prescribe a presumptive dollar value of bail for each one. Judges who wish to depart from the schedule must state specific reasons on the record for doing so. Some states go so far as to require certain forfeitures, bail, and fines for certain crimes.
Like most businesses, some bail agencies are owned and operated by honest, hard-working, reputable professionals and some are not. Please protect yourself and your family by following these few simple consumer tips:
- Be sure you only contract with a licensed bail agent. Ask to see the bail agent’s license and identification prior to any bail transaction.
- Be sure the bail agent charges you only legal rates. The premium charged for a bail bond in most states is normally 10% of the full bail amount. Any additional charges should be itemized and explained to your satisfaction. Be sure you are given receipts for all charges.
- Be sure you are given copies of all signed contracts and agreements.
If you are concerned about working with a particular bail agency, do not enter into a bail bond agreement with them. There are plenty of qualified bail professionals available to assist you. We hope you choose us for all of your bail bond needs.
Bail in the United States grew out of the English legal tradition granting the accused the ability to offer property or monies to the court in order to secure temporary freedom while pending trial for their crime. Bail became more and more expensive as the years went by in order to cover the expenses of the court because the legal system became so complicated.
Furthermore, many people without benefit of proper legal representation did not understand the complexities of bail or and did not fully comprehend how to regain their freedom, and many people who could have been freed from custody instead sat in jail far longer than they needed to. With this issue in mind, the United States government passed the Bail Reform Act of 1966. This legislation clarified many areas of the bail system, including what conditions require bail, who can receive bail, and how much the bail should be in relation to the crime. This act was revised in 1984 to be even more comprehensive and provide more protections for people accused of crimes.
The only thing you need to know about bail bonds is how to get one when you need one. If your loved one has been incarcerated and you need to get them out, talk to FORTUNE BAIL BONDS. We have the experience and the skill to get your loved one released in no time. Call us today – freedom is too priceless to lose.