When someone is arrested, he or she is first taken to a police station to be booked. When a suspect is booked, or processed, a police officer records information about the suspect (name, address, birthday, appearance) and the alleged crime. The police officer conducts a criminal background check, takes the suspect’s fingerprints and mugshot and seizes and inventories any personal property, which will be returned when the suspect is released. The suspect is also checked to see if he or she is intoxicated and usually is allowed to make a phone call. Finally, an officer puts the suspect in a jail cell, usually with other recently booked suspects.
For less serious crimes, a suspect may be allowed to post bail immediately after being booked. Otherwise, the suspect will have to wait (usually less than 48 hours) for a bail hearing where a judge will determine if the accused is eligible for bail and at what cost.
The amount of bail depends on the severity of the crime but is also at the judge’s discretion. Some jurisdictions have bail schedules which recommend a standard bail amount. For example, in Los Angeles, the bail schedule recommends $25,000 for perjury or sexual assault, $100,000 for manslaughter and $1,000,000 for kidnapping with intent to rape.
In determining bail, a judge may take into account this amount but will also consider the defendant’s criminal record (if any), his or her history of showing up for past court appearances, ties to the community, whether the suspect is a danger to others and any other concerns that may be raised by the defendant’s attorney. In some cases, bail may be waived altogether, which we’ll discuss later in the article.
So how did that guy on Law & Order afford $100,000 bail? Read on to learn about the different types of bail.