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The History of Bail Bond Process

Our legal system is built upon the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. A defendant is given legal representation if they are unable to afford their own counsel and time to prepare a defense against the charges. During this process the defendant, in most cases, is allowed their freedom by utilizing the services of the bond system and a bail bondsman. This system was formed in the early days of our country and continues to be used to protect the rights of the defendant and the public.

A surety bond is the process by which the accused can “buy their way out of jail” with the knowledge that if he/she does not appear at the arranged hearing, all funds used to buy the release will be forfeited. Basically, our legal system has created what they consider a financial guarantee that the defendant will appear in court on the required date.

Bail is granted to most people arrested for non-capital crimes and occasionally for those facing capital crimes. The current system is similar to what evolved in England during the Middle Ages. The early settlers brought the same program to America, officially instituting it with the Bill of Rights and additional legislative acts. The Sixth Amendment grants the right of habeas corpus, in which a person has the right to know the crime for which they are being arrested. This is a key issue for the system. A person would only be able to request their release if they were aware of their crime and if it was on the list. The Eighth Amendment prohibits demands for excessive bail. The only major change to security laws occurred in 1966 with the Bail Reform Act. This act allowed judges to determine if a person could be released on their own recognizance, or whether a financial guarantee had to be imposed, while awaiting trial. Non-capital crimes were the focus of the act, but capital crimes were also included in certain situations.

The provisions are highly dependent on the nature of the crime committed. Of course, there are other considerations as well; for example, those accused of capital crimes are often considered too great a risk to the security of the community, so these people are kept in jail at least until the first hearing. The definition of a capital crime varies from state to state, but is usually a crime that is punishable by the death penalty. Common examples of a capital crime include first-degree murder, murder with special circumstances, rape and federal treason.

In addition to the type of crime, the circumstances surrounding the crime, such as the age of the victim and the perceived dangerousness of the defendant, also play a role in determining release or bail amounts. If the accused is deemed to be a very high flight risk, bail may also be denied or set extremely high.

Bail amounts are not uniform, but do tend to fall into a typical range for the type of crime committed. Of course, all those other considerations come into play, such as the victim’s age, the amount of physical violence, etc.

The legal system in America clearly states that a person is innocent until proven guilty. That innocence entitles them to retain basic freedoms until they are proven guilty in a court of law. Bonds are just a part of the way the legal system and individual rights are upheld in the United States.

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