FAQ Series: “I’ve been charged with crime, will the judge set bail?”

Regardless of whether you are facing charges for murder or DUI, drug delivery or drug possession, theft or burglary, assault or a sex crime, bail must be set in all criminal cases. Whether you have been charged with a crime in Gettysburg, in Adams County, Red Lion, in York County, Harrisburg or Hershey, in Dauphin County, Carlisle or Camp Hill, in Cumberland County, or Lewistown, in Mifflin County, bail must be set if you have been charged with any level of a misdemeanor or felony offense.

However, this does not mean that you are going to jail. As soon as people hear the word bail, they immediately think they must pay some amount of money or they are going to jail and staying there until they can post bail. This is not necessarily true.

Bail must be set by the Magisterial District Judge at or prior to your Preliminary Hearing. The primary purpose of bail is to ensure that you will make all court appearances until the final disposition of your case. However, other considerations exists for the court in determining how to set bail.

There are three main forms of bail: ROR, unsecured, and secured/monetary bail. ROR and secured/monetary bail are the two extremes and unsecured bail is a hybrid of the two.

ROR bail stands for Return on own Recognizance. Essentially, you sign a bail document agreeing to abide by certain conditions and you are released on your signature, your word saying you will do it. Primarily, you must agree to stay out of trouble, report any change of address, not threaten any witnesses, and make all future court appearances.

Meanwhile, secured or monetary bail requires some amount of money, property, or collateral to be posted or made to avoid or be released from jail. Secured bail is typically set in more serious felony cases and/or where other factors, such as a prior history of flight or threats of violence towards oneself or others, exists.

Finally, unsecured bail, as previously stated, is a hybrid or combination of ROR and secured/monetary bail. While you do not have to post an amount of money up front, a monetary amount is attached to the bail conditions requiring the defendant to sign as their own surety. As such, upon a violation of bail, it can be revoked, you can be sent to jail, and you can owe the monetary amount. It is ROR with teeth that bite with harsh consequences for failure to abide by bail conditions.

If you have been charged or are under police investigation for a crime, qualified representation by a PA Criminal Defense Lawyer at the inception of your case prior to bail being set could impact the type of bail set. If you are under criminal investigation or have been charged with a crime, contact me immediately for a free initial phone consultation.

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