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Can Bail Be Excessive? Know Your Rights.

When facing criminal charges, one of the most pressing concerns is often securing bail. However, it's crucial to understand that bail can sometimes be set at an excessive amount, making it difficult to obtain your freedom. In this blog post, we will delve into the topic of excessive bail, providing you with actionable tips to protect your rights and navigate the bail process effectively.

What Is Bail?

Bail refers to the monetary or non-monetary conditions set by a court of law to ensure that an accused person returns for their court appearances while awaiting trial. It serves as a form of insurance, where the accused can be released from pre-trial confinement by providing a certain amount of money or property as a guarantee. The bail amount is typically set during a bail hearing and can vary based on the severity of the crime, the accused's previous criminal record, and the potential flight risk.

If the allegations are severe enough that a person is not released on their own recognizance, they may be required to post bail to be released before going to court. According to the bail system, the defendant, or their family, must deposit money with the court to ensure they appear for their court proceedings. If they don’t, they face criminal repercussions including a warrant for arrest and forfeiture of the money.

What Factors Influence Bail Amounts?

In Boston, several factors influence the amount of bail set by the court. Primarily, the severity of the alleged crime weighs heavily in the decision. More severe crimes, such as violent felonies, often have higher bail amounts due to public safety concerns.

Additionally, the accused's past criminal history is considered. If the individual has a record of not appearing for court dates or has previously been convicted of similar offenses, the bail may be set higher.

The judge will also assess the perceived flight risk of the accused. If the accused has significant ties to the community, such as family, steady employment, or owns property, the court may view them as less likely to flee and potentially set a lower bail.

Finally, the financial resources of the accused are taken into account, as the Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail. In setting bail, the court aims to ensure it is sufficient to secure the accused's return, but not so high as to be punitive or unattainable.

What Protections Are in Place to Guard Against Excessive Bail Amounts?

The U.S constitution, through its Eighth Amendment, provides a safeguard against excessive bail. This amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing unduly harsh penalties on defendants, including overly high bail amounts. In this context, excessive means that the bail amount is higher than necessary to assure the defendant's presence at trial.

Similarly, the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, in its Article 26, mirrors the federal protection and forbids excessive bail. Massachusetts law further emphasizes this by stating that in setting bail, the goal should not be to punish the defendant or to generate revenue but rather to ensure the defendant's appearance in court.

The courts in Massachusetts, therefore, must set bail at a level the defendant can afford, considering factors such as the defendant's financial resources and the nature of the offense. The standards for what constitutes "excessive" are often subjective and can vary from case to case. However, if a defendant believes their bail is excessive, they have the right to request a bail review in a higher court.

How to Challenge Excessive Bail

If you believe that your bail is excessive, you have a legal right to challenge it. Here's how you can go about this:

  1. Retain Legal Counsel: Firstly, if you don't already have one, hire a defense attorney. They will have the expertise to advocate on your behalf and navigate the complexities of the legal system.
  2. File a Motion to Reduce Bail: Your attorney will file a motion to reduce bail with the court, outlining why the current bail amount is excessive considering your financial resources and the nature of the offense.
  3. Present Supporting Evidence: Gather all necessary documents that demonstrate your inability to pay the current bail amount and your strong ties to the community, which reduce the flight risk. This can include pay stubs, lease or mortgage agreements, and letters from employers or community members.
  4. Bail Hearing: The court will schedule a bail hearing. During this hearing, your attorney will argue your case for bail reduction, presenting the supporting evidence to the judge.
  5. Bail Review: If the motion to reduce bail is denied, your attorney can request a bail review in a higher court. This review process is similar to the initial bail hearing, but it's before a different judge.

Remember that each case is unique, so this process can vary depending on your specific circumstances and jurisdiction. It's crucial to consult with a defense attorney to understand the best course of action for your situation.

At Brad Bailey Law, our experienced criminal defense attorney can offer tailored legal guidance and aggressive representation. If you suspect your bail amount is excessive, give our firm a call at (617) 500-0252.

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