Being placed under arrest without being able to post bail can be a terrifying and extremely stressful experience for those facing criminal charges. Individuals who are unable to make bail for pending criminal charges will often be forced to endure lengthy pre-trial imprisonment, separation from their families, loss of the main family income and, often, the loss of employment.
Benefits of Release on Bail
Release from custody on bail is beneficial for the accused for many reasons. Individuals released from custody prior to trial are able to take an active role in assisting their lawyer and defense investigators in developing a successful defense against the pending criminal charges. Additionally, individuals released on bail are often able to continue working to support their families and maintain other financial obligations. It is critical that those charged with a crime be released from jail on bail as quickly as possible. Review new COVID-19 changes to the bail reduction procedures in Pennsylvania.
I have over a decade of experience providing comprehensive and skilled representation to individuals with bail-related matters in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Bail in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, individuals arrested for a crime are generally entitled to bail unless the penalty for the offense could be life in prison or the death penalty. Individuals facing misdemeanor criminal charges will be mailed a copy of the criminal complaint and a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing. In these cases, a magisterial district judge will set bail at the preliminary hearing.
First Appearance before the Bail Judge
In most cases involving the filing of felony criminal charges, the police will acquire an arrest warrant and physically take the suspect into custody. Within 24 hours, that individual will be taken before a magisterial district judge who will arraign him or her on the charges and set bail. It is important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney at your side to argue for reasonable bail if you are arrested and taken before a judge under these circumstances. I have extensive experience defending individuals facing criminal charges, probation violations or bench warrants receive reasonable bail in their cases.
Factors a Judge Will Consider in Setting Bail
- The seriousness of the current charges against the accused
- The likelihood that the accused will flee if released on bail
- Whether the accused resides at a local address
- Whether the accused is currently employed
- Whether the accused has a criminal history
- Whether the accused has appeared at previous court hearings
What a Bail Lawyer Can Do
I will meet with you and your family members to gain a comprehensive understanding of your pending charges, background and other factors important to the judge who will be setting or reviewing your bail. It is critical to have the representation of an attorney experienced in bail matters at your 1st court appearance, whether that is the initial arraignment, preliminary hearing or bench warrant hearing.
Protecting your Rights at the Initial Bail Hearing
At the bail hearing, the prosecutor and police will often portray the accused in the worst possible light in order to convince the bail judge to set the bail amount beyond the amount that the accused can pay. I will fight to protect your interests at the bail hearing by ensuring that the bail judge is aware of all the relevant information about your background, character and ties to the community to support an order of reasonable bail in your case. I have often been able to convince the bail judge to set or reduce an individual’s bail to a reasonable amount by providing the court with documentation establishing:
- The accused has been admitted into a drug and alcohol treatment program
- Verification of alternate address from the complainant
- The accused has verified employment upon release on bail
- The accused is the sole source of income for the family
- The accused has long-standing ties to the community
Bail for a Violation of Probation or Parole
Individuals on probation or parole are often taken into custody on a probation or parole violation detainer without bail based on allegations that they violated the terms of their supervision. I have developed professional relationships with county probation officers and prosecutors in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. I can petition the court to request reasonable bail if you are being held without bail on a probation or parole violation detainer.
The Bail Hearing for a Probation or Parole Detainer
The process for receiving a bail review for a probation or parole violation detainer begins with the filing of a Petition for Bail Modification in the Court of Common Pleas in the county conducting the probation or parole supervision. I have extensive experience in outlining the most important factors in the petition to convince the bail judge to lift the probation or parole detainer or to set reasonable bail. Depending on the county, the bail hearing may take place in the judge’s chambers or in a courtroom in the presence of the prosecutor, probation officer and defense counsel.
Negotiating Agreements for Release with the Probation Department
I have frequently been successful at reaching an agreement with the probation officer and prosecutor to remove the detainer or agree to reasonable bail for the alleged probation or parole violator. Negotiated conditions for release on bail may include an agreement by the individual under supervision to submit to psychological or substance abuse treatment upon release from custody. Individuals released from jail under these circumstances are often able to successfully complete their rehabilitation and conclude their time under probation or parole supervision without any further violations. I can review the circumstances of your parole or probation detention to determine if a negotiated agreement may result in your release from custody.
Types of Bail in Pennsylvania
Release on Your Own Recognizance (ROR)
This type of bail is generally ordered in cases involving lower-level criminal offenses. A defendant released on ROR bail is not required to post money or property with the court to be released from custody. However, the defendant is personally responsible for appearing for all required court hearings and abiding by all of the conditions of bail.
A defendant released on nominal bail will be required to post a minimal amount of cash (usually $1.00) with the court to be released from custody. In some cases, the bail judge will require that a designated person, organization or bail agent act as a surety for a defendant released on nominal bail.
This type of bail is set by the court at a fixed amount but the defendant is not required to post any money or any other form of security. Instead, the defendant agrees in writing to be liable for the full amount of the unsecured bail amount if he or she fails to appear for any required court dates or violates any of the conditions of bail.
This type of bail requires the defendant or a 3rd party to post a percentage (usually 10%) of the total bail amount with the court. The defendant or his or her family members will generally not need to use the services of a bail bond company if the bail is set on a percentage basis.
This type of bail usually requires the involvement of a bail bond company or bail bond agent. A family member or friend will pay a non-refundable percentage (usually 10%) of the defendant’s bail to a bail agent in exchange for the bail agent’s agreement to post the full amount of the defendant’s bond with the court or bail authority. The bail agent will act as a surety (guarantor) for the bail amount if the defendant fails to appear for any required court hearings or violates other conditions of the bail.
To secure the guarantee of the bond, a bail bond company will often require that an individual using its services put up some type of collateral, such as a home, vehicle or other property. Co-signors are also used frequently by bail bond companies to secure bond services. Bail bond companies are licensed and regulated by the state of Pennsylvania.
Bail bond companies are used frequently in Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Lehigh County, Delaware County, Northampton County and in many other counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. I can recommend a reputable bail bond company if you should require their services for your case.
“Cash only” bail is generally ordered in cases involving high-risk offenders facing 1st degree felony or other serious charges. A defendant or family member posting this type of bail will be required to post the full amount of the bail in cash with the court or bail authority. Some courts will accept credit card payment or certified check. The court or bail authority will return the cash bail amount to the defendant or 3rd party surety at the conclusion of the case (usually 30 days after the final court hearing). Some counties will deduct administrative fees from the posted bail amount before reimbursing the defendant or 3rd party surety.
Bail Reduction Hearing
In many cases, an individual is arrested and brought before a bail judge without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. This situation may arise when a person is arrested by the police after hours and is arraigned by a night court judge. In most of these circumstances, bail is set far beyond the resources of the defendant and his or her family and friends. It is often necessary to file a Petition to Modify Bail in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the charges are filed. In most counties, the court promptly schedules a hearing on the bail petition after it is filed with the clerk of courts.
Bail Reduction Hearing Procedures
It is often possible to persuade the bail judge to grant a modification of bail if the appropriate information about a defendant’s background is presented at the bail hearing. A bail judge is more likely to grant reasonable bail if sufficient information about the defendant’s background, character, family ties, employment history and ties to the community is presented at the bail hearing. I have extensive experience in identifying and developing this type of critical information.
If necessary, I will present supporting affidavits at the hearing to verify background information about the defendant to assure the bail judge that the defendant will not be a bail risk. In some cases, I have presented witnesses to testify regarding the defendant’s positive reputation, family ties and community support. In other cases, a defendant’s bail may be reduced if the bail judge is presented proof of the defendant’s acceptance in a substance abuse treatment program. I can help you if you are being held in custody due to an unreasonable bail amount.
Bail Source Hearing
In certain cases, usually involving drug trafficking charges, the bail judge will add a bail condition to the bail order requiring that the person posting bond or collateral establish that the funds or property being used to post bail came from a legitimate source. This type of bail condition is often referred to as a “Nebbia Order.”
I have extensive experience challenging the imposition of a bail source condition in all types of criminal cases. I can file a Motion to Lift Bail Source Condition if your bail order includes this condition. I will attach copies of bank records, real estate property records, income statements, mortgage information, pension statements and other financial information establishing that the bail funds or collateral is from legitimate sources.
In some cases, it may be necessary for the person posting the funds or collateral to testify in person at the hearing. A Petition for Modification of Bail can be filed once the bail judge lifts the bail source condition. I have often been successful in resolving both the bail source condition and the modification of bail at the same hearing.
Release on Nominal Bail under Rule 600
Individuals who are charged with a crime and unable to post bail are entitled to have their case brought to trial within 180 days under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 (also known as Rule 600). Defendants who are held in pre-trial incarceration beyond 180 days without a trial are entitled to petition the court for immediate release on nominal bail (usually $1.00).
When Rule 600 Applies
Rule 600 does not apply to cases involving defendants facing charges that could result in the death penalty or life in prison or if the release on bail would create a safety risk for the community. A Rule 600 violation will not be found by the court if the delay in proceeding to trial within 180 days is caused by the defendant or the defendant’s attorney.
Many Rule 600 violations occur when court officials fail to schedule an incarcerated defendant’s trial within the 180 days mandated by the rule. Other Rule 600 violations may occur due to trial continuance requests by the prosecutor or other actions attributable to the prosecutor’s office causing a delay in the defendant’s speedy trial rights.
Filing a Motion for Release under Rule 600
In cases where Rule 600 has been violated, a Motion for Nominal Bail can be filed to petition the court for the defendant’s immediate release on nominal bail. At the hearing on the motion, the prosecutor bears the legal burden of demonstrating that the defendant was brought to trial within the 180 days required under the rule. I can evaluate the facts and the procedural history of your case to determine if you are eligible for immediate release on nominal bail under Rule 600.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with a crime in Bucks County, Montgomery County or the surrounding counties and need experienced representation on all bail matters, do not hesitate to contact me. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.