A defendant held in any jail in California has a right to bail under current law unless there is sufficient evidence or reason not to grant the bail. Any person charged or accused of committing a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Because of this, any person charged with a crime should not be denied freedom unless there is good reason to keeping them incarcerated. The main reason for refusing bail to the defendant is if they are accused of an imprisonable offence and there are substantial grounds for believing that the defendant would do one of the following.
- Abscond: Which is to escape once the defendant has been released. This is also called skipping bail
- Commit additional crimes while on bail
- Interfere with witnesses
The court and judge also take in to account the following when dealing with bail.
- The nature and seriousness of the crime and the probable method of dealing with the defendant for this crime
- The character, family, ancestors, social background, associations, and community ties of the defendant
- The defendant’s bail record
- The strength of evidence against or for the defendant’s crime
The court or judge may refuse bail for the defendant for the following.
- For the defendant’s own protection. Possibly in the case of domestic violence or if the defendant might be considered as a witness or for possible testifying.
- Where the defendant is already serving a custodial sentence for another offence.
- Where the court finds that it has not been able to obtain sufficient evidence.
- Where the defendant has absconded or skipped bail in the past or for the current charge.
- Where the defendant has been convicted but the court is waiting for a pre-sentencing report or inquiry and it would be unable to complete the inquiries or make the report without keeping the defendant in jail.
- Where the defendant is charged with a non-imprisonable crime, has already been released on bail for the crime with which he is now accused and has been arrested for skipping bail (absconding) or breaching the bail contract.
In 1789 Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789. This Act specified which types of crimes were bailable and set bounds on the judge’s discretion in setting that said bail. The Judiciary Act states that all non-capital crimes are considered bailable. In capital cases, the decision to detain a defendant in jail, prior to trial, was to be left up to the judge’s discretion.
Bail Reform Act of 1966
In 1966, the Right to Bail changed with the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The Act states that a defendant charged with a non-capital crime is to be released, pending trial, on his personal recognizance (OR) or on personal bond, unless the judicial officer determines that such incentives (bail) will not adequately assure his appearance at trial and all subsequent trial dates thereafter. The judge must select from a list of conditions, such as restrictions on travel and others listed above. Defendants charged with a capital crime or who have been convicted and are awaiting sentencing or appeal, are to be released unless the judicial officer has reason to believe that no conditions will reasonably assure that the defendant will not flee or pose a danger to anyone. In non-capital cases, The Bail Reform Act does not permit a judge to consider a suspect’s danger to the community, this only happens in capital cases or after a conviction.
New Bail Law in 1984
In 1984 Congress replaced the old Bail Reform Act of 1966. The most significant change to the new law is that it allows pre-trial detention of individuals based upon their danger to the community; the old law statutes states that pre-trial detention was to be solely based upon the risk of flight.