How in the World is the Bail Amount Set?

Ever wonder how the bail amount is set?

We often get asked how bail is set. To many, it seems like an unfair process – arbitrary, random, and unpredictable.  First, to answer the question, let’s look at the law.  What does the law say about how magistrates and officials are supposed to set bail for those that have been arrested of a crime?Mission Bail Interior

Bail Bonds are regulated by Chapter 17 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.  This chapter clearly lays out exactly what a bail bond is, when it can be taken, how it can be taken, who can take it, etc.  It also clearly addresses how the bail amount should be set.

Art. 17.15, titled “Rules For Fixing Amount of Bail” states:  The amount of bail to be required in any case is to be regulated by the court, judge, magistrate or officer taking the bail; they are to be governed in the exercise of this discretion by the Constitution and by the following rules:

  1. The bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that the undertaking will be complied with.
  2. The power to require bail is not to be so used as to make it an instrument of oppression.
  3. The nature of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed are to be considered.
  4. The ability to make bail is to be regarded, and proof may be taken upon this point.
  5. The future safety of the victim of the alleged offense and the community shall be considered.

So, considering the above law, the person setting bail has some discretion in what amount to set as bail.  From the above law, the person setting bail should know a little bit about the person they are setting bail for.  They should have an idea of their employment and how much money they make, what the alleged crime is, and the circumstances under which it was committed.

As a result of the above discretion, a common criticism of the Texas bond system is that it is too unpredictable and random.  To attempt to combat this, some jurisdictions have decided to come up with their own recommended bond schedules.  They are considered “merely recommendations” but it removes some discretion on the part of the person setting bond.  Some lawmakers want to remove even more discretion and make the whole process automated – which seems to be moving the whole process in the wrong direction.

People often state that bail is unfair.  And while no system is perfect, the current law allows discretion on the part of the person setting bail.  Consider one of the most important parts of the law – Article 17.03 – Personal Bond.  It states that (with a few exceptions) a magistrate may, in the magistrate’s discretion, release the defendant on his personal bond without sureties or other security.  By removing the bail schedules and allowing the magistrates to set bail according to the law, taking each individual person and situation into account, the process of setting bail could be improved.

If you need further information or need to get someone out of jail in the Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield area, please feel free to give us a call.  We are here to help!

Mission Bail Bonds

Fort Worth, Texas