The legal basis of excessive bail lies in the Eighth amendment of the original U.S. Bill of Rights. It protects the individual's right to have a fair amount of bail set for any specific crime. However, there are no specific bail amounts set for particular crimes.
Do I Have A Right To Bail?
A common misconception about the Eighth amendment is that it guarantees a person bail. People who commit capital crimes, crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment, or who are repeat felony offenders, may be denied bail. Also, a judge may decide that there's no bail amount that will ensure that a person will return to trial.
An important point to remember is that bail is money the accused gives the government to not only stay out of jail, but to also create an effective defense before going to trial.
When Is Bail Excessive?
That Eighth amendment doesn't stipulate exactly what's considered "excessive" bail. As mentioned, there is no set bail amount for specific crimes. However, the Constitution protects individuals against bail set against them that is deemed unusually large. It's worth noting that the Eighth amendment also protects individuals against excessive fines, and punishment that is considered cruel and unusual.
Bail is meant to ensure a defendant's presence at trial. If an extremely high amount is considered necessary to guarantee that presence, then that amount is considered legal. Many factors go into determining the amount of bail that's set for each individual — the type of crime, the defendant's employment situation, the defendant's criminal record, his or her standing in the community, and so on.
However, there are times when a higher court may determine that a bail amount truly is excessive. As a defendant, you can take action if you believe that the bail amount is disproportionate to your crime, or higher than necessary to ensure your presence at a trial.
Contesting Excessive Bail
You must notify an attorney if you're a defendant who thinks that your bail amount is excessive. Your attorney will make a motion in court requesting that your bail be lowered. If this motion is unsuccessful, then your attorney can appeal to a higher court. Anyone who feels that their bail is excessive has the legal right to contest that amount. Remember, excessive bail is constitutionally illegal within the United States.
If you feel that you or someone you know is burdened with an excessive bail amount, contact the Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. law firm of Amarillo. We specialize and practice in a wide variety of legal issues.