Bail plays a critical role in the criminal justice system. Bail is meant to ensure that a person appears for his or her scheduled court dates. Bail is not supposed to be punitive, i.e. used to punish a person for a crime. The reason bail cannot be used to punish someone is because while a person can be arrested, the arrest is based only on an allegation. In the American criminal justice system, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Since an arrest does not prove you committed a crime, courts have consistently ruled that judges cannot punish you with excessive bail.
The bottom line: Bail isn't meant to punish, even if it sometimes seems that way.
So, what happens if your bail is too high? Many times, people do not have the funds available to post bail. This is when an attorney can help you to obtain a Bail Reduction. The Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. can advise you as to the best course of action in your circumstance and represent you at your preliminary hearing and/or bail reduction hearing.
Bail Reduction at Preliminary Hearing
At your preliminary hearing, bail can be addressed before either the Municipal Court Judge (in Philadelphia) or the Magisterial District Judge (in the rest of Pennsylvania). Typically, your judge will listen to the evidence at the preliminary hearing, and if your case is held for court your attorney has an opportunity to address your bail. The Pennsylvania legislature has enacted a set of standards for courts to use when deciding upon the appropriate bail. Using those standards, your attorney can argue that you should receive a bail reduction.
The standards for bail in Pennsylvania include the severity of the crime, the likelihood of conviction, history of court appearances, the defendant's age, and any ties to the community. These standards help a judge to decide whether or not you are a flight risk, or a danger to the community. In some cases at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing, a judge may decide that the case is weak and lower the person's bail. Your attorney can also bring forth facts such as being a lifelong resident of the county, your work history, and family support to show that you are not a flight risk. Using some or all of these factors, your attorney can help you to try to get your bail reduced. However, it is important to know that a judge may also increase your bail based on the relative strength of the case or your lack of ties to the area.
Bail Reduction Hearing
If you are unsuccessful in lowering your bail at the preliminary hearing, you can file a motion with the Common Pleas court and ask that your bail be reduced. This motion for a bail reduction can include letters of support. A hearing will be scheduled before a Common Pleas judge where you have the opportunity to present witnesses and argue that the bail should be reduced. Once a Common Pleas judge decides bail, no
Municipal Court Judge or Magisterial District Judge can change the Common Pleas judge's order. This is why attorneys rarely file bail reduction motions before a preliminary hearing.
Remember, this also works both ways. Once your lawyer files a bail reduction motion, prosecutors can ask for higher bail.
Why do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are appearing in court, whether at a preliminary hearing or bail reduction hearing, it is in your best interest to retain counsel. The Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. can represent you both at hearings and at any future hearings related to this case. Call today to receive a free consultation and discuss how to reduce your bail.
This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.