Bail Hearings in California Criminal Cases
After someone is arrested by police, one of their first thoughts is whether they will be able to post bail in order to get released from custody as quickly as possible. When someone is arrested for a California state crime, they are normally allowed to post a cash bond, which is most often achieved through a bail bondsman.
In many cases, there are disagreements between the prosecutor and defendant’s criminal lawyer over the appropriate amount of the bail, and/or the conditions of bail.
When this happens, it will be necessary to hold a bail hearing, which is a court proceeding where the judge decides if a defendant will be allowed to post bail and get released from custody awaiting trial.
Anyone who is charged with a California crime is presumed innocence, but a court’s main concern is whether a defendant could attempt to flee and not make future court appearances.
This means California’s bail system is primarily designed to make sure a defendant charged with a crime will return to court on their scheduled dates.
If you have been charged with a crime in Los Angeles, your bail hearing is clearly an important part of the criminal court process.
This hearing will determine whether or not you will be able to remain free from custody while your criminal case is pending in court, and the bail hearing can impact how your case proceeds.
In California criminal cases, a defendant’s lawyer has to give the prosecutor a 48-hour notice before making a motion to modify or reduce bail.
To give readers a better understanding of California bail hearings, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will review below.
What is a Bail Hearing in California?
A bail hearing is a formal court proceeding where a judge will decide whether to release a defendant from custody awaiting trial. During the bail hearing, the judge will make a decision on the following options about defendant:
- release defendant on their own recognizance (OR release);
- release on specific terms and conditions other than posting bail;
- require them to post bail with the court for release from custody;
- deny any bail options and keep them in custody.
What is a Bail Schedule?
If the court decides to grant bail, they are provided guidance on the amount by the bail schedule. This document sets the presumptive amount of bail on a criminal case based on the:
- type of charges,
- any alleged enhancements,
- defendant’s current status on probation or parole, if any, and
- defendant’s status on bail in any other pending cases.
The judge can depart from the schedule bail by either increasing or decreasing the amount of bail.
This decision is based on their findings about the risk to the community if they were released, the chances of defendant returning after being released, and the evidence presented by prosecutor and defense lawyer at the bail hearing.
What Happens at a California Bail Hearing?
A bail hearing is an opportunity to make a request to the judge to reduce your bail, or completely eliminate it and get released on own recognizance.
Los Angeles criminal court judges have broad discretion to set, modify, or eliminate bail for a defendant. When they are making decisions on bail, they will consider several different factors, including:
- type and severity of the crime and whether there were threats or violence;
- defendant’s prior criminal history;
- defendant’s chances of being a flight risk and threat to public safety;
- defendant’s financial ability to pay bail.
In cases where a defendant has been charged with a violent felony crime, the judge doesn’t have the discretion to reduce bail listed under the bail schedule.
The only exception would be if they are able to determine there is good cause to reduce bail.
If a defendant is allowed to post bail awaiting trial, the judge could order them to remain in custody once the trail begins.
The judge also has the discretion to release defendant own recognizance (OR) without posting any bail. An OR release is common if a defendant has:
- not been charged with a serious offense;
- not a threat to public safety, and
- believe they will appear for future court appearances.
It should be noted that a criminal court judge also has the discretion to raise bail. This could occur, for example, in cases where the prosecutor makes the judge aware the defendant has a prior violation of probation.
If a judge makes an unfavorable ruling at the bail hearing, the defendant still has options. They could bring another bail reduction motion later, but unless circumstances have changed, the judge is unlikely to grant the motion.
What is Posting Bail?
Posting “bail” simply means an amount of money a judge will require a defendant to pay to ensure they will make their later court appearances. Bail can be posted by a defendant by either:
- paying the entire amount in cash, or
- post a bond using a bail bondsman.
Typically, a bail bondsman will agree to post a defendant’s bail by charging 10% of the full bail amount, which is a nonrefundable fee.
In most cases, a bail bondsman will require a family member of the defendant to offer some type of collateral, such as property. This means if the defendant decides to skip bail, they will not suffer a loss.
In a situation where the defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court date, the bail bondsman will give them a certain amount of time to show up.
If they can’t be contacted or located, then the full amount of bail is forfeited to the court and the bail bondsman is then legally entitled to seize the collateral.
Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Bail Hearings
If you have a family member who is in custody pending criminal charges and seeking a bail reduction to secure their release, contact our team of experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers for a consultation.
California Senate Bill 10 has made significantly changes to the bail system. We might be able to offer some reasonable bail conditions that could convince the judge to:
- lower the bail;
- obtain an OR release,
- such as wearing a GPS tracking device, or
- placing you on home arrest with electronic monitoring.
Our attorneys must first examine all the details of your case in order to develop a strategy to get you released from custody as soon as possible.
Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm that represents people in all Southern California courts, including LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Hollywood, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We also have an office at 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Contact our office for a free case consultation at (424) 372-3112.