When someone is arrested by law enforcement, one of their first questions is whether and how they can post bail, also known as posting bond, to secure their immediate release from custody.
With California state arrests, the defendant is almost always permitted to post a cash bond upon arrest which can be accomplished directly or, more commonly, through a bail bondsman. Disputes between the prosecution and the criminal defense attorney about the appropriate amount or conditions of bail arise necessitating a bail hearing or a bond hearing.
Anyone charged with a crime in California is presumed innocence, but a primary concern is that a defendant might attempt to flee the area or commit other crimes. Thus, the bail system is designed to ensure a defendant will return to court. Anyone who has been charged with a minor crime or non-violent misdemeanor are frequently granted an own recognizance release.
For anyone charged with a crime in Los Angeles, the bail hearing is a crucial part of the criminal case process and this court appearance could determine whether a defendant will remain in custody while their case is pending. Often, whatever is decided at the bail hearing will impact how a case proceeds. The first source of authority relied upon by judges in setting bail and prosecutors in requesting bail is typically the bail schedule.
In Los Angeles criminal cases, the defendant must give the prosecutor a 48-hour notice before making a motion to modify or reduce bail. At the bail hearing, both parties will make arguments and present evidence to justify their request for bail.
To give readers useful information about bail hearings, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing a review below.
What is a Bail Hearing?
A Los Angeles bail hearing is a legal proceeding where a criminal court judge decides whether to release a defendant from custody while waiting for trail. At the bail hearing, the judge will decide the following:
- Release defendant on their own recognizance, known as “OR release”
- Release defendant on certain conditions other than posting bail
- Require that a defendant must post bail with the court
- Deny bail and defendant will remain in custody
The court is guided in setting bail by the bail schedule, a document which sets forth the presumptive amount of bail in a given case based on the charges, any enhancements which are alleged, the defendant's current status on probation or parole if applicable, and the defendant's status on bail in any other pending cases. For more information, see Los Angeles County Bail Schedule for misdemeanors and felonies.
The judge has the authority to depart from the schedule bail – either by increasing or decreasing the amount of bail – by making factual findings about the risk to the community if the defendant were to be released, the likelihood that the defendant will return to court as required if released on bail, and by weighing the evidence presented by the parties.
What Happens at the Bail Hearing?
In Los Angeles criminal courts, a bail hearing is a chance to ask the judge reduce your bail or eliminate it completely and release a defendant on their own recognizance. It should be noted that the judge is afforded a lot discretion when setting, modifying bail, or even eliminating bail.
In order to make their bail decision, the judge will consider many different factors:
- Type of offense, such as violence or threats to victim
- Defendant's criminal record
- Chances defendant will appear for future court dates (flight risk)
- Threats to public safety
- Financial ability to pay bond
It should be noted that if a defendant is charged with a serious or violent felony crime, the judge can't reduce bail under the bail schedule unless they are able to determine there is a good cause. It should also be noted that if the judge decides to allow a defendant to post bail while the case is pending, they could order defendant in custody after the trial starts.
The judge could decide to release a defendant on their own recognizance rather than posting a bail. They will typically grant an OR release if defendant is not charged with a serious crime, not a threat to public safety, and they have a reasonable belief they will appear for future court appearances.
Judges not only have a lot of discretion to reduce bail, but they could also decide to raise it. In some cases, for example, a prosecutor might make the judge aware defendant has a prior probation violation.
Once the judge has made a determination at a bail or bonds hearing that is unfavorable to the defendant, there may still be an opportunity to revisit the issue.
In Los Angeles criminal courts, another motion for a bail reduction can be properly noticed and brought by the defendant, though the reality is that absent significant changed circumstances, the judge is unlikely to revisit their prior decision.
In felony cases, a strong showing by the defense at preliminary hearing, especially one which results in some charges being dropped or reduced to misdemeanors, may motivate the preliminary hearing judge to lower the previously set bail amount.
The term "bail" simply means money a criminal court requires a defendant to pay in make sure they will return for future court appearances. A defendant can post bail by paying the full amount of in cash or post a bond using a bail bondsman.
Most bondsman will make an agreement to post bail in exchange for 10% of the full bail amount. This fee is nonrefundable and will be kept by the bail bondsman once bail is returned.
Most bail bondsman require a family member to cosign the bond or put up some collateral. In this manner, if a defendant “skips bail,” they won't lose money. Collateral can be cash or property.
If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bondsman will be given a specific amount of time to return defendant to court. If defendant can't be located, the full bail amount is forfeited to the court and the bail bondsman will be entitled to seize the collateral.
Contact our Criminal Lawyers for Help
If you or a family member is incarcerated pending criminal charges and is interested in seeking a reduction in bail in a Los Angeles criminal case, contact our office for an initial consultation. It should be noted that Senate Bill 10 has significantly overhauled the California bail system.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers might be able to propose some bail conditions that will persuade the judge to lower bail or secure an OR release, such as wearing a GPS tracking device or placing you on home arrest with electronic monitoring.
We need to first review all the details of your case in order to determine an appropriate strategy to get you released from custody.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm with a track record of success. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us to review your case at (310) 328-3776.