When you are arrested or charged with a crime, you may be required to pay bail before you're released from jail. Bail is essentially a monetary guarantee you'll show up for your court dates. The amount of bail can be set anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several million dollars, depending on the circumstances of the crime. If you can't afford what the court requires you to pay, here are three ways you may be able to get the judge to reduce the bail amount.
Argue Your Eighth Amendment Rights
The Constitutions affords American citizens certain rights, and one of those rights is that bail cannot be set absurdly high. The Eighth Amendment prohibits judges from inflicting punishment on defendants before they are convicted of the crimes they're charged with and forbids them from setting bail at unreasonable amounts. Sometimes, though, a judge will set bail at an amount beyond the defendant's means as a way of keeping the person in jail.
If you suspect this may be what has happened in your case, you can invoke the Eighth Amendment when requesting that your bail be lowered. You will need to present evidence of your financial situation (e.g. tax returns, paycheck stubs) to prove you can't afford the amount set by the court, even with the help of a bail bondsman. In some states, you may be required to show you made an effort to pay the bail but couldn't raise the cash or complete the transaction.
Once you've proven your case, the court will typically reevaluate the bail order and decrease it to a reasonable amount. Be aware, though, that this doesn't always mean an amount you can easily pay. Judges are allowed to still set bail at levels where defendants would struggle to pay, as long as bail is not completely out of reach.
Show That Your Right to Due Process May Be Violated
Another argument that can be used to get bail reduced is to show that your right to due process is being violated in some way by the bond amount being set so high. This is mostly effective in cases where you may not have been formally charged with a crime or it appears to be taking a long time for your case to get to court.
For instance, if you were arrested for DUI but you've been sitting in jail for four months without going to court, you could argue you're not being treated fairly under the law because the unaffordable bail amount forces you to remain in jail without good reason. The judge would have to specify why he or she set the bail amount beyond your reach (e.g. there's a risk you'll flee). If the court cannot present an acceptable reason, then the bail would be reduced.
Show You're Not a Risk
The purpose of bail is to minimize the risk the defendant will flee or to prevent people who have been assessed as a risk to public safety from being released. Therefore, a third option to get bail reduced is to show you are not as much of a risk as the court thinks you are. When setting bail, the court will look at the severity of the crime, your criminal record, and your personal life. If there's anything in your record that makes the judge feel you won't show or that releasing you presents a danger to the public, then he or she may feel justified in ordering a high amount.
Thus, you'll need to present evidence that contradicts whatever your record may indicate. For example, you could show you have deep ties to your community or that you don't have the means to leave town even if you wanted to. Additionally, you could offer to adhere to additional restrictions (e.g., wear an ankle monitor), which may allay the court's concerns.
There may be other things you can do to get bail reduced in your case. Contact a criminal defense attorney like Jeffrey D. Larson, Attorney at Law for assistance with this issue.