How Does Bail Work in Pennsylvania?
Bail is cash or property an arrested person can put up to ensure his or her appearance in court when it is ordered. Posting bail allows you to get out of jail and await your court appearance — but under strict rules.
Only judges are responsible for setting a defendant’s bail. Because most people want to get out of jail as quickly as possible, judges tend to set standard bail amounts for common crimes. As soon as the person accused of the crime posts bail, he or she can get out of jail. However, if the suspect is unable to afford the amount listed in the bail schedule, he or she may petition the judge to lower the bail. Such a request must be made either in a bail hearing or during a suspect’s court appearance.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from excessive bail. Bail must not be used as a means of raising money for the government or as a means of punishing the person for being the suspect in a crime. Its purpose is solely to allow a person to remain free until convicted of a crime, while ensuring he or she will actually show up in court. More serious crimes have higher bail amounts because more money is needed to ensure a person will not flee once bail has been posted.
Bail may be paid in any of the following ways:
- The full amount of the bail or a percentage, if authorized
- Posting of real estate
- A bond (or guaranteed payment of the full bail amount) posted by a bail bondsman
- A waiver of bail payment in some amount on condition that you will appear in court at the required time (unsecured bail)
For more information on posting bail and other important issues, meet with a dedicated Berks County criminal defense attorney at David R. Eshelman: A Professional Corporation.