For most people accused of a crime and jailed, the court may grant bail. If the defendant wants to leave jail, he'll need to pay the bail or pay a bail bondsman to post the bail.
However, bail can often be very expensive. If you can't afford to pay your bail or a bail bondsman, can you challenge the bail amount?
In some states, there is a guideline of bail amounts for certain crimes. In other states, judges have wide discretion to set bail amounts.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits "excessive bail." While the Constitution does not define what excessive bail is, the Supreme Court has held that bail cannot be used as a tool to keep a defendant in jail. Meaning, bail is meant as a tool to ensure the defendant will be present for trial, not to set a price that the defendant cannot afford to pay and that will keep him in jail.
However, bail will be set in proportion with the seriousness of a crime and the defendant's flight risk. This may make bail very expensive or, the judge may decide to set no bail at all.
Request to Reduce Bail
If you are hit with a high bail amount, you can request a hearing to reduce bail. While the process may differ slightly among states, an attorney would usually file a motion to reduce bond and request a hearing. At the hearing the defendant will present evidence of why the bail should be reduced. Common considerations for reducing bail include:
After considering these factors, the judge has discretion to decide whether or not to reduce bail.
Request to Increase Bail
Alternatively, the prosecution can also make a request to increase bail. If circumstances indicate that the defendant may flee, or the defendant broke certain conditions of bail, the court may decide to increase or revoke bail altogether.
If you need to challenge your bail amount, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.