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Bail Reduction Motion in California Criminal Cases

Posted by Philip Israels | Oct 28, 2019

For the moment – but due to change, California law has a cash bail system under which defendants who appear in a Los Angeles criminal court are permitted to remain free into society pursuant to a bail bond.

However, most criminal defendants don't have sufficient resources to post the entire cash bail amount by themselves – so they turn to a bail bondsman who is in the business of posting bonds for a defendant for a fee.

If a defendant fails to appear in court – or violates the conditions of their release – the bail bondsman is at risk of losing their bond to the court.

This cash bail system is changing soon as California passed reforms to eliminate cash bail in favor of a risk-factor system that will give power to the Los Angeles County Probation Department to determine who should or shouldn't stay in custody while their case is pending.  

However, the new system is currently under legal review and tied up in litigation – meaning it's not yet implemented.

Seeking Bail Reduction on Felony Cases

A primary concern for many defendants who have been charged with a California felony crime is how to get their bail amount reduced. It's clear that fighting their felony criminal charges while not in custody is much easier that fighting the case from inside a jail cell.

The difficult circumstances that exist from being locked up provides an immediate incentive for a defendant to agree to a quick plea bargain in exchange for a promise they will be immediately released from jail.

This often means an unfortunate result in their case resolution that are not always ideal. This decision will typically negatively impact their life for decades – because their need to be released from jail quickly outweighed any consideration about the fairness of the plea bargain.

Therefore, a criminal defense lawyer will frequently pursue a bail reduction or bail review for clients who are in jail custody on serious felony charges. When a criminal court judge sets a bail amount, their primary concern is public safety.

In felony white collar crime cases, such as grand theft, extortion, insurance fraud, or embezzlement cases, there is normally not any realistic risk a defendant will be a danger to public safety.

However, in all types of felony cases, the court will also consider any risks the defendant will fail to appear in court at a later date.

What Factors Determine Bail Amount?

This type of concern by the court is heightened if a defendant has substantial assets or connections in a foreign country. Normally, bail amount is set according to the “bail schedule” of the county where the case is prosecuted.

The schedule list a specific dollar amount to correspond to every type of crime and additional factors related to offense characteristics – for instance, multiple victims or prior criminal record.

Other factors used by a Los Angeles criminal court judge to set bail involves whether a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the public. These are important factors for judges to consider when determining bail in a criminal case.

On the issue of flight risk, judges will examine whether they have any prior failure to appears – along with the amount of jail time they are facing.

If they are facing life in prison – then obviously they are a much higher flight risk. Another factor used by judges to determine flight risk is whether a defendant actually lives in the jurisdiction and how long have they lived there.

For instance, do they have family, job, or own property in the jurisdiction? If they do, then the criminal defense lawyer will be able to make a reasonable argument their client is not a flight risk.

Keep in mind that entire flight risk issue deals with whether a defendant will appear back in court to answer the criminal charges they are facing.

On the issue of being a danger to the public, judges will take a close look at the details of the crime. It should be noted that when setting bail, all criminal court judges assume the facts of the criminal case are true.

This means the more dangerous a defendant appears based on the information in front of them – the higher they will set bail.

Motion to Reduce Bail

The criminal court judge can deviate from the bail schedule in both directions –  to increase or decrease – but their analysis always begins with the schedule bail amount.

All effective bail reduction motions prepared by a criminal defense lawyer address the issue of public safety and flight risk – along with proposed alternatives to cash bail – that will ensure their client will appear at future court dates. For example, alternatives could include electronic monitoring, home confinement, among others.

California case law suggests a defendant whose appearance can reasonably be ensured by some type of alternative to cash bail shouldn't remain in custody because they don't have the money to pay a large cash bail. 

In these cases, cash bail serves as a de facto detention order due to the economic reality of posting huge amounts of cash.

Also, timing of the bail reduction motion correctly is crucial because after a judge denies a bail reduction request – they won't normally reconsider their decision unless the circumstances have changed.

This means you will need the most effective bail reduction presentation on the first attempt. It also means that getting some assistance from their client – family members and friends – can be critical to the outcome.

It's important to note that all mitigating documents and information needs to be presented as part of the argument for a lower bail amount. This normally includes letters of support, resume, work history documents, information on proposed housing after their release from custody, among other items.

The goal of course of all this presented information is to demonstrate to the court their client will comply with the terms of bail – and that they are not any type of public safety threat while the case is pending.

Learn How Our Law Firm Can Help You

If you or a member of your family have been charged with a crime and concerned about the amount of bail that was set of the case, contact our seasoned criminal defense attorneys for a consultation.

Just the act of retaining an attorney – which will demonstrate you are seriously addressing the criminal charges – is an important factor in showing the judge you are preparing to deal with the charges and not a flight risk – and that a more reasonable bail amount should be set.

We have decades of experience preparing, filing, and litigating effective bail reduction motions in all Los Angeles County criminal courts. Obtaining a reasonable bail that will allow our clients to challenge the charges out-of-custody is a crucial part of a defense strategy.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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