Each judge calculates bail amounts depending on their personal opinions and a variety of factors. This can lead to some confusing and different bail amounts — it may seem to you that there doesn’t seem to be any reason that you would get one bail amount, and another similar individual would get a completely different one. In general, a bail amount is based primarily on the following factors:
• The severity of the crime. For obvious reasons, courts are more concerned about keeping individuals around who committed very serious crimes. If your crime was fairly serious (such as dealing with the injury of another person) the court is going to be inclined to post a higher bail amount, in hopes of absolutely ensuring that you show up for your court date. If your crime was a fairly benign one, they may be inclined to give you a low bail rate, because you’re very unlikely to avoid court.
• Your prior history. Some individuals have a history of skipping bail or getting warrants out for not showing up at court. If you’ve previously failed to show up to a court date — for any reason — it is very likely you’re going to have a high bail amount. The court system is attempting to not only ensure that you show up but also to avoid wasting their own time when it comes to missing defendants.
• Your earning potential. Essentially, the real goal of a bond is to make it so that it is not desirable for you to leave before you court date. The amount of money should be enough that it would hurt you more to lose that money than it would hurt you to show up in court. Someone who makes $200,000 a year is not going to feel pressure from a $2,000 bond, and someone who makes $20,000 a year might.
• Your flight risk. There are certain individuals who are more likely to be flight risks than others. If you are established in your community, have children, and have investments (such as a home), it’s very unlikely you will leave to avoid court. If you just moved into an area and have no tangible assets within it, it’s more likely that you will leave. Consequently, those who have fewer roots within a community are more likely to have higher bail amounts.
Of course, there are times when a bail amount may simply strike you as unfair. A judge may be particularly harsh and may give you a bail amount that is excessive or impossible to pay. You can either go to a bondsman to get bonded out for a fraction of the cost or appeal the bail amount. An appeal may set your bail at a lower rate, but it also means you will need to wait to see the judge again.