The magistrate or judge who is assigned to hear the issue of bail is called the bail authority. When reviewing their decision, the bail authority considers the likelihood that the accused will appear at the next court date.
According to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 523 there are several factors that indicate whether an accused will appear at subsequent proceedings and whether an accused will comply with bail conditions.
These factors include:
1. the nature of the offense charged and any mitigating or aggravating factors that may bear upon the likelihood of conviction and possible penalty;
2. the defendant’s employment status and history, and financial condition;
3. the nature of the defendant’s family relationships;
4. the length and nature of the defendant’s residence in the community, and any past residences;
5. the defendant’s age, character, reputation, mental condition, and whether they are addicted to alcohol or drugs;
6. if the defendant has previously been released on bail, whether he or she appeared as required and complied with the conditions of the bail bond;
7. whether the defendant has any record of flight to avoid arrest or prosecution, or of escape or attempted escape;
8. the defendant’s prior criminal record;
9. any use of false identification; and
10. any other factors relevant to whether the defendant will appear as required and comply with the conditions of the bail bond.
Note that a bail authority is prohibited from considering the accused’s position as to guilt or innocence or their cooperation with law enforcement when setting a bail amount. In addition to considering the likelihood that the accused will appear for the subsequent court dates, the bail authority also considers the likelihood that the accused will cause physical harm to themselves or others. For example, if the case involves allegations of domestic violence, the bail authority considers the risk of danger to the alleged victim in determining the appropriate type of bail or bail conditions. Often times if the accused is charged with a violent crime and the victim is still at risk, the magistrate will not allow the accused to go free on bail or the magistrate will set an exceedingly high bail such that it is unlikely that the accused will gather enough money to make the bail.
The bail authority uses their discretion to analyze the factors above to decide whether to offer the accused bail. Once the bail authority determines that bail is appropriate in a particular case, the bail authority then has the discretion to decide whether to require the accused to pay money as a surety for their appearance at the subsequent court proceedings. This type of bond is called a monetary bond.
1. Release on Recognizance (ROR): Release conditioned only upon the defendant’s written agreement to appear when required and to comply with the conditions of the bail bond. When an accused receives a nonmonetary bail then they are released on their own recognizance. This ‘ROR’ bond is the most lenient type of bail as the accused simply promises to appear without any collateral securing their appearance.
2. Release on Nonmonetary Conditions: Release conditioned upon the defendant’s agreement to comply with the conditions of the bail bond. This means that the accused receives an ‘ROR’ bond with conditions attached. These conditions are specific to the individual; for example, if the accused has a drug and alcohol problem then they may be prohibited from using drugs or alcohol. Other common conditions include refraining from leaving the county, staying away from people or places, or turning over any weapons.
3. Release on Unsecured Bail Bond: Release conditioned upon the defendant’s written agreement to be liable for a fixed sum of money if he or she fails to appear as required or fails to comply with the conditions of the bail bond. No money or other form of security is deposited.
4. Release on Nominal Bail: Release conditioned upon the defendant’s depositing a nominal amount of cash which the bail authority determines is sufficient security for the defendant’s release, such as $1.00, and the agreement of a designated person, organization, or bail agency to act as surety for the defendant.
5. Release on a Monetary Condition: Release conditioned upon the defendant’s compliance with a monetary condition imposed pursuant to Rule 528. The amount of the monetary condition shall not be greater than is necessary to reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance and compliance with the conditions of the bail bond.
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