How a judge decides what to set bond at

When a defendant enters their bond hearing, this will be the time in which a
judge will listen to the details of the case and decide whether or not to offer
bond and if so, what to set the bond cost to. In order to get to this decision,
there are various things the judge has to factor in. Here are the main aspects
they will consider when setting bond.

 

The Charges

The most heavily weighed criteria will be put on what the current charges are. If the charges
brought up are misdemeanors for a minor offense then the bond will always be
lesser then say a felony. And in some cases if the defendant is facing a first time
offense for a minor charge, then the judge may offer what is called personal
recognizance which is essentially when the defendant promises to show to their
court hearings and in return is released without having to actually pay anything
for a bond. If however the defendant is facing more serious charges, they will
probably have to deal with more significant bond costs or in some cases not
have the option of bond at all.

Prior Offenses

Another factor of significant importance is whether or not the defendant has had prior
run ins with the law. As said above, those who are first time offenders may
have the option to be released without having to pay but on the flip side, a
long list of infractions can possibly make it more difficult to get anywhere
near an affordable bond, and in some cases they may get no bond at all.

Safety of the community

A judge has to always take into consideration the safety of all parties. If the charges
are violent in nature and the judge has any concern that the safety of a victim
or the community as a whole would be in jeopardy, then they have every right to
deny bond in order to keep the defendant detained until a case occurs. This
however is usually a rare situation. Another factor that the judge will think
about is if the defendant may pose a risk to themselves, if they feel that the
defendant may be safer in custody then on their own, they may also choose to
deny offering a bond.

 

Risk of fleeing

The final criteria that a judge has to take into account is how likely is it that the
defendant will flee? If they have a history of not showing up to court, it’s
not a good look but it still does not mean that it is a guarantee that it won’t
be offered. It may just come with a higher bond cost or more restrictive bond
conditions in terms of checking in. One other aspect that may play a part in
making a defendant a higher flight risk is resources. If the defendant is well
off a judge may push the bond cost higher or deny depending on the charges.
This is because the point of bond is to deter the defendant from not showing up
but if the bond cost is not enough to deter then there really is no point.

Overall, the charges are only a small part in the decision making process a
judge has to go through when deciding on bond and by adding all these criteria
together, it allows for a fairer and more comprehensive reasoning system.