November 15th, 2023

What is Bail and How Does it Affect My Case?

What is bail?

Bail refers to the monetary and non-monetary conditions a criminal defendant must observe to stay out of jail before trial.  Anyone charged with a crime in Pennsylvania has the right to bail unless it is a capital offense or “no condition or combination of conditions other than imprisonment will reasonably assure the safety of any person and the community[.]” This is usually limited to serious offenses such as homicide.  It can also apply if a person is a serious flight risk.    

Many factors apply when setting bail.  These include the type of charge and the defendant’s characteristics such as (a) employment history (b) family and community ties (c) age, character, and reputation (d) history of appearing for court (e) criminal history and (f) use of false identification.  The refusal to admit guilt or cooperate in an investigation cannot be used against them, however.

What kind of bail can I get?

There are five types of bail:

  • Release on recognizance (ROR): the defendant is released based upon their written promise to appear for future court dates and comply with bail conditions
  • Non-monetary bail: the defendant is released after agreeing to comply with additional bail conditions determined to be reasonably necessary
  • Unsecured bail: the defendant is released after agreeing to be financially liable for a fixed amount for failing to appear in court or violating bail conditions
  • Nominal bail: the defendant is released after a 3rd party posts a small sum ($1.00)
  • Monetary bail: the defendant is released after posting cash bail in a fixed amount and agreeing to comply with all other bail conditions

Why should I care about bail?

Obtaining pretrial release on bail is critical.  A defendant who cannot make bail is much more likely to accept a quick deal to get out of jail.  They also have a harder time talking with their attorney, gathering helpful evidence, and otherwise assisting in their defense.

In contrast, a defendant who is out on bail will not feel the same pressure to accept a deal just to get home.  They can help their attorney investigate the case and develop a defense.  They have more time to negotiate a fair plea and consider all options before pleading out or going to trial.      

How can an attorney help me with bail?

A skilled attorney can greatly increase your chance of getting appropriate bail.  A lawyer can identify helpful factors such as strong community ties, lack of criminal history, and responsible friends and family.  In appropriate cases, counsel can recommend options such as mental health or substance abuse treatment instead of jail.  Counsel can also work with the pre-trial officers, the Judge, and the prosecution to work out a fair arrangement. 

Our office has skilled and experienced practitioners with years of experience dealing with bail.  We know how important bail is to the successful resolution of your case.  Please contact our office with questions or if you or a loved one needs help with your criminal case.       

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.