In the United States, an individual accused of a criminal offense is entitled to a “reasonable bond” in all but the most serious cases, such as murder or treason. Under certain circumstances, a defendant may even be entitled to bond when charged with murder. In the state of California, each county has its own bail schedule which sets forth the presumptive range for bond for every criminal offense. If you are arrested for a criminal offense in California, you will typically be assigned a bond, or bail, amount at the time of your arrest.
There are two ways in which you can be arrested. One is that an arrest warrant is issued as a result of a criminal investigation. The other way you can be arrested is that a law enforcement officer encounters you on the street and arrests you for a crime. If you were arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by a judge, then your bond amount was already set by the judge when the warrant was issued. Otherwise, the bond amount will be determined after your arrest by the bail commissioner who will set your bail when you are booked into jail. In both cases, however, the bail scheduled for the county is used to determine your initial bond amount. If you are charged with a criminal offense in San Diego, you will have a bond, or bail, amount set from the moment you are arrested or when an arrest warrant is issued.
Having an understanding of what is a reasonable bond in California can help you know what to expect if you are arrested. If the bond amount is more than you and/or your loved ones are able to pay, you may be able to get the bail amount reduced at a bail reduction hearing with the assistance of an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney. Once you have been charged, your criminal defense attorney can request a bail reduction hearing to try and get your bond reduced. To prepare for the hearing, it may be helpful to understand how bond in San Diego is determined and what a judge looks for when considering a reduction in a defendant’s bail. At the hearing, the judge may consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to reduce your bond in San Diego:
- Seriousness of the alleged offense – This may include injuries to a victim, whether weapons were used, if drugs were involved, etc.
- Prior criminal history – If you have previous convictions, particularly for serious and/or violent crimes, it is less likely your bond will be reduced.
- Risk of flight – The probability that you will appear for future court appearances.
- Public safety – If you appear to be a danger to the public, the judge will most likely not reduce your bail.
You can be charged in California with a state or a federal offense. If you are charged with a federal offense, the procedures are a bit different than for a state offense. In a federal prosecution, you will meet with a pre-trial services officer prior to your initial appearance in court. The officer will ask you questions about your background, your employment, your family situation, and your finances. The officer’s report will then be submitted to the judge and the attorneys involved in the case. The judge will then make a bond determination regarding your bail. In both federal and state prosecutions the two considerations that a judge must take into account when setting your bond are the risk of flight and the risk to the community if you are released.
In a state prosecution in California, your bond will be determined using the county bail schedule. Each county has its own bail schedule. The bail schedule provides a presumptive bond amount based on the crimes, or criminal offenses, with which you are charged. In Orange County, for example, if you are charged with voluntary manslaughter, your presumptive bail will be set at $100,000. A charge of sexual battery has a presumptive bail amount of $25,000 while a first offense DUI is $2,500.
The California Penal Code specifically prohibits a defendant’s release prior to a hearing in open court on a bail amount other than the presumptive amount found in the bail schedule for specific offenses such as violent or serious felonies. In addition, certain circumstances or facts can increase the presumptive bail amount. A law enforcement officer may, for instance, request a higher bail amount if he or she has reason to believe that it is warranted because of the facts of the case.
The amounts found in the bail schedule are only presumptive amounts. A defendant has the right, through an attorney, to request a bail hearing. At a bail hearing, the defendant can present evidence that is intended to convince the judge to reduce, or eliminate entirely, the bail set for the defendant. Facts such as a lack of criminal history, stable employment, ties to the community, and a lack of any record of violence are factors that might convince a judge to reduce your bail.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in San Diego and the bond amount set is too high for you to pay, retaining the services of an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney may be your best option to get the bond amount reduced. For immediate legal help, contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.