In most cases, the amount of bail you need to pay before you’re released is predetermined. You usually learn the amount shortly after you’ve been booked. In other situations, you’ll have to attend a bail hearing where a judge will decide on the amount of bail you’ll be charged.
The Difference Between a Bail Hearing and Arraignment
The arraignment is the first step in the process as your case winds its way through the judicial system. It’s the first of your court appearances. The charges are formally read and you have your first opportunity to enter a plea. Unlike some states that only require arraignments for felony cases, California requires arraignments for many misdemeanor charges, including:
- Restraining order violations
- DUI injury cases
- DUI vehicular manslaughter cases
- Domestic violence cases
Many courts have opted to streamline the process by combining the arraignment and the bail hearing. This streamlines the process and works well in situations where the issue of bail is fairly straightforward. However, there are still some courts that haven’t combined two. You might even end up in a county where the judge has created a schedule where they only deal with bail on certain days of the week.
Federal laws states that the arraignment must take place within a “reasonable time following the arrest.” During the week, you should be before a judge shortly after you’re arrested. The arraignment usually takes place within 48 hours. If you’re arrested during the weekend, the process takes longer. If the court fails to hold the arraignment in a timely manner, they’re in violation of the Sixth Amendment. If this happens, your lawyer can request that the state drop the charges.
What Happens During the Bail Hearing?
If you’re in a court that doesn’t combine the arraignment and the bail hearing, the amount of your bail will be determined during a formal bail hearing. At this point, your lawyer stands up and explains to the judge why you should be released from jail. The prosecutor can agree or they can launch a counter-argument that you should remain in jail until your case is resolved.
Before deciding on how much bail it will take to secure your release, the judge considers:
- The severity of the charges
- If anything in your history indicates that you’re a flight risk
- Your community ties
- If you are a danger to the community
- If you’re likely to commit a crime while you’re out on bail
If the judge feels that you’re likely to stay out of trouble and make all of your court appearances, they’ll grant bail. Once you’ve paid the bail, you’re free to go about your life while your case winds its way through the legal process.