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When someone is arrested, the first thoughts that usually occupy the mind are how quickly can they get released, and where to contact a criminal defense attorney. Being held in jail is a very unpleasant experience, which can be particularly traumatic for those never previously arrested. Even the booking process, which precedes the actual incarceration, can take hours to complete, and adds a lot of extra time to the whole experience. Fortunately, many arrested individuals avoid being housed at the jail for a substantial period of time as result of being released on bail or on their own recognizance. Bail is the money the accused individual pays into the criminal justice system to compel him/her to appear at all scheduled court appearances. Posting bail authorizes law enforcement to release the accused from custody, and he/she remains free throughout the criminal process as long as he/she complies with the court. This system is controversial because many low-income individuals are forced to languish in jail on relatively minor charges until trial because they are not able to raise the amount needed for bail. State lawmakers are taking steps to reform the bail system so that it stops disproportionately impacting the poor. An overview of the bail system generally, and proposed reforms to the current process, will follow below.

The California Bail System

Each crime has an associated bail amount that is set by schedules, and which vary from county to county. For felony charges in Los Angeles, the bail amounts can range from a low of $20,000 up to $1,000,000 for more serious crimes. Bail is initially set at the arraignment, and must be posted right away if the accused wants to avoid additional time in police custody. If the individual remains in custody or wants to contest the bail amount, a bail review hearing will be conducted where the accused can ask the judge to reduce the bail amount or grant release on his/her own recognizance. Courts do have fairly wide discretion to modify the listed amount, but can also enhance the required bail amount based on issues like prior convictions, the number of pending charges, and the seriousness of the alleged crimes. Bail is paid by posting the full amount in cash, or by paying a bail bondsman 10 percent of the full bail amount. The bondsman pays the bail on behalf of the accused, keeping the nonrefundable 10 percent in exchange.

Potential Reforms

Several State lawmakers and public policy agencies are exploring a number of options to equalize the State bail system that now favors the wealthy over the poor. Some options being considered include introducing a new risk assessment aspect to the bail process, reducing the bail rates, or completely eliminating money bail. These efforts at reform reflect the fact that the majority of inmates in California jails are awaiting trials and not yet convicted of any offense. The median bail amount statewide is $50,000, which is out of the reach of many. This disparity is sharply reflected in the fact that California held unsentenced defendants in urban areas at twice the rate compared to the rest of the country.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

The criminal justice system is a complicated labyrinth, with competing processes that involve an overwhelming number of people and agencies. Do not face this system alone if criminal charges are an issue. The Los Angeles Manshoory Law Group, APC wants to help you find a solution to your case, and will aggressively represent your interests in court and with the prosecutor. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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