Why Do Judges Allow Arrested People to Post Bail At All?
In our previous blog we touched on the many reasons that a judge could deny bail. The most obvious reason is if the judge believes the accused could be a flight risk, and that could in part be due to the seriousness of the crime: the harsher the punishment could be, the more likely that someone could skip bail. Of course, if the judge believes that the arrested person could be a danger to themselves or others, they might also deny bail. Sometimes it could have to do with actions past or present that sway a judge’s position: if the accused has been belligerent in the courtroom or has skipped out on bail before, the judge has every right to deny bail being set.
But you have to wonder why judges grant bail at all? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just keep everyone who’s been arrested in jail, thus assuring that everyone is available when their court date arrives? (If you’re asking that question, it’s obvious that you’ve never been wrongfully arrested!) There are quite a few reasons why bail exists, so let’s take a look at them.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
The idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is such a part of the public consciousness that you’d think it was part of the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights. But neither of those documents make any such promise.
Most states do have such a presumption of innocence on the law books, as does Article 11 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, the idea has been recorded since the 6th century, when a Roman law instructed: “Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies.”
Whether it’s in our constitution or not, the idea that the accused is innocent until proven guilty is a huge part of our legal system, even when a high-profile case is already judged in the court of public opinion. But if you’ve ever been accused of something you didn’t do you’ll be glad to know that such laws assuming you’re innocent are on the books. Why? Because in most cases you’ll be allowed to have a bondsman get you out of jail.
The Sixth Amendment Is Placated
While “innocent until proven guilty” isn’t in our Constitution, the right to a speedy trial is. The Sixth Amendment says “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.” Unfortunately, our legal system is fairly bogged down; it can take months or years to get around to a trial. By offering people the right to post bail, their time waiting for the trial is spent outside of incarceration.
And not everyone necessarily wants a speedy trial. Sometimes they need more time to build a defense, sometimes they aren’t anxious to get to the trial because they want to experience all the freedom they can before they’re convicted or plead guilty.
This is an offshoot of the idea of innocent until proven guilty, but the fact is that letting people out on bail is simply more humane than keeping them in prisons. You might argue that a person who’s heading to prison anyway shouldn’t be out on bail, but you can’t argue that someone who’s been wrongly accused should spend months in jail while they’re waiting for the court date.
Cost of Caring For the Accused
Imagine the cost of running a jail with 100 people who have been denied bail. There’s the cost of the beds, the police officers and guards, three meals a day, water, electricity, taxes, toilet paper…all of that adds up pretty quickly.
Now imagine that no one is granted bail, and that means that there would be 10, 20, or 100 times the number of inmates in a jail. Even tiny jails would need millions of dollars just to feed everyone who’d been arrested and is waiting for their trial. There’s not a city in the country that could handle having 100 times the amount of people in their jail at any one time.
The fact is, most people are granted bail, which reduces the strain on jails. Offering bail means that the accused are shouldering some of the costs (in the case of the premium charged by bail bond agencies) while reducing the cost of keeping everyone who’s been arrested. When bail bonds are offered, they can return home and provide their own toilet paper!
The Accused Has Lot To Do
After securing bail money from a bondsman, you won’t be surprised to know that a person who has been released on bail has a lot to do.
They have to begin their defense – The defendant will be working with a lawyer in order to mount a defense against the charges. Gathering evidence takes time, as does securing witnesses. The accused will have so much more time and ability to assemble a viable defense if they are able to help the lawyer as much as possible. For instance, if the accusation is vehicular manslaughter, the defendant could visit the scene of the accident and discover blind spots that a lawyer might be too busy to find. This is something that never could have been done if they were kept in jail until the trial.
They have to get their affairs in order – If the accused decides to take a plea deal, as most do, they might be facing prison time. If they go to trial and are found guilty, they will also be facing prison time. Either way, they’re going to be going away for a while, whether it’s months or years. That means that they have a lot of affairs to get in order, such as leaving their jobs, saying goodbye to friends and family, and securing funds to take care of any dependents.
The Economy Is Helped
Our prison system already locks up a disproportionate amount of our citizens than other countries do. That’s a blog for another time, but the fact is that many people who are in prison for nonviolent crimes aren’t contributing to the economy. They’re not manufacturing anything, they’re not creating jobs, and they’re not paying taxes.
So, allowing people out on bail means that they can return to their jobs, support their families, shop at stores, go out to eat, and pay taxes. With some court dates being months out, it just makes sense for the economy. This also helps them keep their jobs, which is only fair if they’re eventually exonerated.
Even if you say “what about the people who don’t work and are on government assistance?” Well, that assistance still costs less than keeping them in jail (or prison), and with the government assistance they still have purchasing power and are supporting businesses with their money.
We hope you’re a bit more enlightened about the many reasons that bail is offered, and why bail bond agents play such an important role in our legal system. If you’re ever in need of bail, exercise your rights and get out of jail.