My Summons Says “Bail Will Be Set At the Preliminary Hearing” – Am I Going to Jail?
By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania and received a document entitled “Summons for Criminal Case,” you may have become especially anxious when you read the words “[b]ail will be set at the preliminary hearing.” For some, this conjures up images of being dragged immediately away to jail. This is not necessarily the case, but determination of bail is a critical phase of your case, and the judge’s decision on whether to set bail could mean the difference between walking free from the courtroom and months in jail awaiting trial. This is one of the many reasons that you need an experienced defense attorney by your side at any bail hearing, who understands how to address bail issues. You attorney will know the arguments to put before the court to ensure that you get fair bail conditions set. At a bail hearing, the judge will make one of the following determinations:
1) Remand without Bail: The court can remand an individual without bail when the judge makes a finding that no bail condition will protect the community or secure an individual’s presence at trial. An individual who is remanded without bail will remain in jail until the case is brought to trial, or until certain speedy trial time limits are reached.
2) Monetary Bail: With monetary bail, the court sets a dollar amount that must be posted before release to guarantee that person’s appearance at future court proceedings. This amount can be posted in cash, can be secured with a lien on real estate, or can be posted by a professional bail bondsman. Until that amount is posted, the individual will remain in jail. If a person free on monetary bail fails to appear or violates other conditions of bail, the money posted can be forfeited.
3) Unsecured Monetary Bail: With unsecured bail, the court sets a monetary amount to guarantee future appearances, but does not require that the money be posted up front before release. If an individual free on unsecured bail fails to appear or violates other conditions of bail, that person could be liable to pay the full unsecured amount.
4) Release on Non-Monetary Conditions: The court has the option to release an individual on one or more non-monetary conditions. Some common examples include no contact with the alleged victim, or that the individual report regularly to a probation officer while awaiting trial (often referred to as “supervised bail”). Non-monetary conditions can be included regardless of whether monetary bail is set.
5) “Released on Recognizance” (ROR): ROR bail means that an individual is released on only a written promise to appear at all future court hearings and otherwise comply with bail conditions set. No money is posted or owed, and the individual will remain free pending trial as long as that individual appears at all court proceedings and otherwise complies with the conditions of bail.
The decision on whether to set bail is entirely up to the court, but there are several factors that go into the court’s decision. An experienced attorney will be aware of those factors and know how to present your situation to the court in the best possible way. Your attorney will also be able to address bail in a way that does not result in you making statements or admissions that could be used against you later. Though it may be tempting to “go it alone” at this phase, the effect of sitting in jail pending trial can be devastating to life and family, and your attorney can help immediately.
If you are charged with, or think you may be charged with¸ a crime in Pennsylvania, do not wait until after your bail hearing to speak with an attorney. Call us today to set up a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.