How Do Judges Determine Bail Amount?

Daren Brown
By Daren Brown | February 3, 2020

Bail is the amount of money required to be released from jail until a required court appearance occurs. In some cases, bail may be several thousands—or even a million dollars. But for others, it can be only a few hundred dollars. So how do judges determine how much you need to pay?

Below, we take a look at how bail amounts are determined.

The Basis For Bail Amounts

In general, judges determine bail according to a standardized bail schedule. 

Standard practices dictate that bail be set at a specific level for each alleged crime. For example, a suspect who is accused of a nonviolent petty misdemeanor will likely have his bail set at $500. The bail amount a judge decides upon is established at the suspect's initial court appearance following his arrest.


Bail Amount Exceptions

Judges are free to increase or decrease a bail amount as they see fit. The particular circumstances of a case determine whether bail is raised or lowered. In some instances, judges decide to completely waive bail. If a judge makes this decision, the suspect will be released on his own recognizance. Though this is not commonplace, unique case circumstances have the potential to sway a judge to waive a suspect's bail altogether.

Key Factors That Help Determine Bail Amounts


There are all sorts of factors that play a part in determining a suspect's bail amount. Chief amongst these factors is the alleged crime's seriousness. If one is charged with murder, bail will be quite high. If one is charg

ed with petty theft, bail will be comparably low. Other factors that play a part in determining bail amount include the defendant's employment situation, his prior criminal record and his standing in the community. Even a close relationship to a relative like a child or ailing parent can influence the amount of bail.

A judge can deny bail if he deems it necessary. For example, if the suspect has a warrant out for his arrest in another jurisdiction, the judge will deem it prudent to keep the suspect in custody. In such a situation, bail will be denied.

How Police Can Influence Bail Amounts

The majority of police officers are inclined to arrest defendants for the most serious of all potentially legitimate criminal charges that could be supported by case facts. Consider an arrest for possession of a small bag of marijuana but a charge for intent to sell. Possession of the drug would be a misdemeanor in most states. Intent to sell the drug is a felony. The felony charge would result in a higher bail.

If you've been charged with a crime, the first thing you should do is ally with our experienced criminal defense team. We'll do everything in our power to help you win your freedom or reduce the severity of a potential penalty. Reach out to us today for an initial consultation.

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Topics: Drug Charges, Criminal, DWI / DUI, Federal Criminal, Law