How Bail Works in Pennsylvania
May 31, 2022
According to the most recent statistics, about 35,000 individuals are incarcerated in county jails across Pennsylvania. Of these, more than half are still awaiting trial. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an alleged defendant who has been arrested and charged with a crime may be eligible to be released on bail while awaiting trial. The Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) will set the bail amount to guarantee that the defendant turns up for court proceedings.
At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire, and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I have the diligence, expertise, and resources to advocate for the legal rights of individuals in pre-trial detention and help them seek bail. As a knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, I can enlighten you about how bail works in Pennsylvania, who qualifies for bail, and how judges determine the bail amount. My firm proudly serves clients across Pittsburgh, Shaler Township, Fox Chapel, Indiana Township, and Penn Hills, Pennsylvania.
What is Bail?
Bail can be described as an amount of money that a defendant must post before they can be released from custody while awaiting trial. Bail isn’t a fine. Rather, it is an amount set by the Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) to assure that the defendant will show up during the court proceedings. Once the defendant posts bail – or uses a bail bond service – they will be released from jail while awaiting trial.
Who Qualifies for Bail in Pennsylvania?
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, bail is set in almost all cases, including misdemeanors and felonies, except murder cases punishable with a life sentence or the death penalty. Also, the MDJ may deny bail if that is the only possible way to make sure the defendant appears in court.
Pursuant to Article I, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution,
“All prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for capital offenses or for offenses for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or unless no condition or combination of conditions other than imprisonment will reasonably assure the safety of any person and the community when the proof is evident….”
How is the Amount of Bail Determined?
Furthermore, the MDJ will consider the following factors to determine the amount of bail in Pennsylvania felony cases:
The seriousness or severity of the alleged offense.
The defendant’s criminal record/history.
The strength of the prosecutor’s case against the offender.
Whether the defendant failed to appear in court previously.
Whether the defendant will flee or pose a danger to public safety
The financial situation of the defendant.
Whether the defendant has a family, job, and ties to the community
However, bail isn’t set equally for every individual taken into custody. A defendant who is unable to afford bail may be eligible to use a bail bond service.
What Are Bail Bonds?
A bail bond can be described as a surety bond that is posted by a bail bond company or bail bondsman to the court – on behalf of the defendant – as a guarantee that the defendant will appear at all court dates.
According to Title 42 - PA General Assembly Section 5741, a bail bondsman is “a person who engages in the business of giving bail as a surety for compensation.”
Essentially, the bail bondsman will provide the amount of money set as bail by the magistrate district court on behalf of the defendant while charging a fee. Here are some duties of the bail bondsman:
Complete bonding paperwork with the defendant
Post bail on the defendant’s behalf
Track down the defendant if they abscond or fail to appear in court.
An experienced attorney can enlighten you about the Pennsylvania bail process and help facilitate your release from custody.
The Bail Process in Pennsylvania
If you are arrested in Pennsylvania, you will be taken before a Magisterial District Judge (MDJ), who will set the bail amount. Oftentimes, the bail hearing will be conducted as part of the preliminary arraignment or shortly after. During the hearing, the judge will read the charges against you and enlighten you about legal rights. Also, they may ask you to enter an initial plea – guilty, no contest, or not guilty.
Furthermore, the judge will determine whether you can be released from jail or you must stay behind bars until your case is resolved. If you are eligible for bail, the judge will set an amount. In addition, once you pay the bail amount or use a bail bondsman, you will be released from jail while awaiting trial. A skilled attorney can walk you through the bail process and help you navigate crucial decisions.
The Importance of Skilled Advocacy
Navigating the Pennsylvania criminal justice system often involves a lot of complexities. Regardless of your situation, obtaining release on bail when facing criminal charges is crucial to exercising your constitutional rights and preparing your defense. A skilled criminal defense attorney can determine your eligibility for bail and help you petition a motion seeking bail.
At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire, and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C, I’m committed to offering knowledgeable legal counsel and assisting individuals seeking and posting bail. As your legal counsel, I can review every detail of your unique situation, determine whether you are entitled to bail, and enlighten you about the Pennsylvania bail process.
Using my extensive knowledge, I will help you navigate the Pennsylvania criminal justice system and make sure the magisterial district judge considers your finances and sets a fair amount for bail.
Contact my firm – Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. – to schedule a one-on-one case evaluation with a trusted criminal defense attorney. I can offer you the highly-personalized legal counsel you need to seek bail and represent you vigorously in your criminal case. My firm proudly serves clients across Pittsburgh, Shaler Township, Fox Chapel, Indiana Township, and Penn Hills, Pennsylvania