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What Is Bail And How Does It Work?

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The U.S. legal system is based on the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. It is against the law to hold you in jail for an undetermined amount of time until your case goes to trial. You, therefore, have the right to have a bail hearing so that you can be released from jail.

But what exactly is bail and how does it work?

What Is Bail?

Bail is a monetary bond that stands as security that an accused will appear for their court dates once they have been released from jail. In other words, it acts like a deposit that will be returned to the provider of the bail should the accused appear in court to stand trial for the crimes that they have been accused of.

However, the bail amount will be forfeit or not returned to the person who provided the money if the accused flees or fails to appear in court. The return of bail is in no way associated with the innocence or guilt of the accused and will be returned even if the accused is found guilty of the crime as long as they appear in court.

How Is Bail Decided?

The bail amount is normally set according to the type of crime that was committed and the severity of the crime. However, there are other factors that can decide bail. A repeat offender will probably have to pay a higher bail amount than a first time offender.

If the crime is deemed to be unusually severe, a higher bail amount will be set. If an accused is considered to be a flight risk, a danger to society or themselves, they may also receive a higher bail amount.


In some cases, bail will not be granted if the risks of releasing an accused from jail are considered to be too high. In rare cases, an accused may be released on their own recognizance which means that they will not have to pay bail. The decision of whether bail will be granted and the amount is normally determined at a bail hearing by a judge.

How Is Bail Paid?

In some cases, bail can be paid immediately after arrest at the jail where the accused is being held without a bail hearing. If a bail hearing has been set, bail can only be paid after the hearing either at the jail or to the clerk of the court. Should the accused, their family or friends be unable to pay the set bail amount, they may approach a bail bondsmen to pay bail.

A bail bondsmen provides bail at a fee which is normally a percentage of the bail amount. By providing bail, the bondsmen basically takes responsibility for ensuring that the accused makes all their court appearances in order for the bail amount to be returned to them. If the accused fails to show up in court, the bondsmen can locate them and return them to jail in order for their bail money to be returned.

Is A Lawyer Necessary At A Bail Hearing?

A lawyer is not needed to represent an accused at a bail hearing. However, it is recommended to have a lawyer present at a bail hearing if you have been accused of a serious crime or are a repeat offender. A criminal defense lawyer can help ensure that you are receiving fair bail. If bail has been denied for any reason whatsoever, it is recommended to contact a criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Criminal trials can take anywhere from a few weeks to months and bail provides those accused with crimes to continue with their daily lives while awaiting trial.

The Law Offices of Joshua Adams is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer who has helped assist many people arrested in the Chicago area of serious crimes including DUI, Gun Charges, Drug Charges, Battery, White Collar Crimes, and other crimes. Mr. Adams has represented many people at bond hearings in the Chicagoland area.