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'Suge' Knight Case: When Can a Judge Revoke Bail?

Last week, we blogged about music producer Marion "Suge" Knight's arrest on suspicion of murder for allegedly running over two men with his car. One of the men died.

Today, a Los Angeles judge revoked Knight's bail, which had been set at $2 million. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department claimed that Knight was a flight risk.

Under what circumstances can a judge revoke bail?

Flight Risk, Criminal History, Danger to Others

Bail, of course, is security ensuring that a defendant will come back to court for his trial. Instead of remaining in jail pending, and during, trial, a defendant can pay 10 percent of the bail amount to a bail bondsman, who promises the court that the defendant will appear. Bail schedules are set by law and are roughly proportionate to the offense committed. Knight's bail of $2 million is on the highest end of the amount a judge can require in California.

A judge can revoke bail or set a particular bail amount for a number of reasons, but bail is typically revoked when a defendant, who's out on bail already, commits another crime. That didn't happen in Knight's case, but the district attorney apparently thought Knight was enough of a risk that he asked for bail to be revoked during Knight's plea hearing.

The California Penal Code allows a judge to consider such things as the defendant's criminal history, the maximum sentence he could face, the danger to others if the defendant is out on bail, and the way the crime was committed.

There's one instance where a judge can't release a defendant on bail at all: When a defendant is charged with a capital crime and "the proof of his or her guilt is evident or the presumption thereof great." In order for that to be true, though, the defendant would basically have to be found at the crime scene with the bloody knife. In Knight's case, however, there's at least a dispute about what happened and whether Knight accidentally or intentionally ran over the victim.

Check All the Boxes

In Knight's case, the sheriff's department and prosecutors asked the judge to revoke bail not only because of the risk that Knight might flee the jurisdiction, but also that he might intimidate witnesses while he's out. The possibility of forfeiting $2 million might not be enough of an incentive to stay in Los Angeles, given that a guilty verdict could mean life in prison, thanks to Knight's criminal history.

Knight served five years in prison for beating up a rival of Tupac Shakur on the same night that Shakur was killed while driving in Knight's car. Knight went to prison in 1997 for violating the terms of his probation, was released on parole, then went back to prison in 2003 for violating parole by hitting a parking lot attendant.

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