What factors a judge considers when setting bond

In most states, when a defendant goes in front of a judge for a bond hearing, the judge will hear all the charges and then have to decide whether they feel it is appropriate to offer a bond, how much to set the bond at, and what the bond conditions will be if offered. The judge has to take into account several factors to make this decision. From the current charges to how much of a flight risk the defendant is, here are the main things a judge has to consider when setting a bond.

The current charges

Perhaps the most determining factor a judge has to think about is what are the current charges the defendant is facing. If this is a defendant’s first run-in with the law or the charges are lower misdemeanors then the judge may opt to offer personal recognizance to the defendant. This is where the defendant does not actually have to pay the bond but simply promises to return to their court date in the future. For more severe charges a judge will have to determine what is an appropriate cost that can act as a deterrent from attempting to flee, but in some cases, if the charges are severe enough, the judge can also deny the bond altogether. However, this is not the case for the majority of charges.

Previous criminal background

Another important factor that a judge looks at is previous infractions. If the defendant has a long laundry list of crimes they have been charged for, the judge may be less sympathetic to the defendant’s plight and could potentially up the bond cost or deny bond as it could potentially signal a high chance of the defendant either trying to flee or ending up arrested again while out on bond which would revoke the current one. On the other side of this, if a defendant has had no previous arrests, then the judge may tend to be more lenient either opting for personal recognizance or a lower bond cost.

Potential danger to the community or the defendant

It is a judge’s duty to consider the safety of everyone involved. If for any reason the judge feels that the defendant may be a threat to their own personal well-being or a danger to the community at large then they will most likely deny the bond. This is why the most serious charges for things such as first-degree murder and terrorism are essentially guaranteed to be denied. A judge will look at all cases individually and fairly but first and foremost they have to do what they can to ensure that everyone is safe and protected.

Risk of fleeing

The final factor a judge has to think about is how likely is it that the defendant will attempt to run. If a defendant is extremely wealthy and has unlimited resources then they are considered to be a high flight risk because they can afford to simply default on the bond cost and attempt to leave the country to avoid sentencing. For this reason, when someone has vast resources, they will tend to have bonds set at very high amounts, sometimes into the millions. If for any reason the judge has significant reason to believe the defendant has plans to run, they may also deny the bond, though some sort of strong evidence would need to exist for this to occur. To sum up, a judge must think about much more than simply the charges at hand when deciding whether or not to offer a bond. This is because previous history, the potential of danger, and the probability of running offer a far more comprehensive picture of what the outcome will be by releasing the defendant back into society.