Bail is the process by which a person accused of a crime may be released from jail during the pendency of his or her case, until he or she is acquitted or convicted. Often the defendant must pledge money or property to secure his presence in court.
The Connecticut Constitution establishes a right to bail in state cases. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits excessive bail from being set in federal cases. Bail must be set in the “least restrictive” amount necessary to insure the presence of the defendant in court or to ensure the community is protected. Even after conviction, a person may remain out on bail pending sentencing or during an appeal.
Although often used interchangeably with bail, bond is the actual pledge, which may be the payment of a monetary amount or a guaranty, that the defendant will appear in court if he or she is released from custody. Defendants or other people may post the bond with the court or utilize a professional surety, more commonly known as a bondsman or bail bond agent.
In many cases, arrested persons are released on a Promise to Appear (PTA), which is an agreement that the defendant will be released without posting or pledging any money but on condition that he or she appears for each and every court event. Some jurisdictions refer to this as OR (Own Recognizance). Connecticut calls it a PTA.
When a surety bond is required, a bail bond professional may post it and does so for a set premium that is less than the amount of the bond. If the court orders a cash only bond, a professional is not allowed to post it.
Failure to Appear
The failure to appear for a scheduled court date is the separate crime of Failure to Appear (FTA). An FTA for a misdemeanor is an additional misdemeanor and an FTA for a felony is an additional felony. Once a person fails to appear, the court issues a bench warrant for the re-arrest of that person.
Who Sets Bail
Bail can be set by the police, bail commissioners and courts. Bail can and frequently is set by the police upon arrest and/or bail commissioners before a defendant appears in court before a judge. The court is the final authority in the bail process and is the only authority that can modify or revoke a bond. When the arresting police department sets bail, it may be posted at the station to immediately release the arrested person. An attorney may be present for the police bail interview. If that person cannot make bail, he or she must remain in custody until the bail is posted or modified by the court at arraignment. When the arrest is by warrant, the warrant often specifies the bond.
At arraignment the court relies on information from the Bail Commissioner and arguments by the prosecutor and defendant’s attorney to set bond. A defendant may move the court to reduce or modify bond once it is set.
It is important to consult with an attorney immediately after arrest or before arrest if you know of a warrant in order to minimize any detainment and have a manageable bond.