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The Eighth Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion expli­ci­tly pro­hi­bits “exces­si­ve bail.” The term “exces­si­ve bail” is not defi­ned in the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Supre­me Court has weighed in on what it means, hol­ding that bail can­not be set so high as to be a ploy to for­ce a defen­dant to rema­in in jail. But, Court has also ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s bar on exces­si­ve bail does not cre­ate a right to any bail—a court may refu­se to rele­ase a defen­dant at all under cer­ta­in circumstances.


The constitutional protections, as well as the Bail Reform Act (a federal statute), give a defendant the right to request lower bail when the amount initially set by the court is too high to pay.

The Supre­me Court has noted that bail and the refu­sal to set bail also impli­ca­te the right to due pro­cess found in the Four­te­enth and Fifth Amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion. As a result, the Supre­me Court has held that a jud­ge must pro­vi­de a “com­pel­ling govern­men­tal inte­rest” for keeping a defen­dant in jail pen­ding trial (in other words, refu­sing to set bail). (Uni­ted Sta­tes v. Saler­no, 481 U.S. 739, 754–55 (1987).)

$ 1250000 

Reduced bail expenses last year

Once you have been arre­sted for a cri­me in New York most people will con­tact New York cri­mi­nal lawy­ers becau­se of a concern.

The con­sti­tu­tio­nal pro­tec­tions, as well as the Bail Reform Act (a fede­ral sta­tu­te), give a defen­dant the right to requ­est lower bail when the amo­unt ini­tial­ly set by the court is too high to pay. A defen­dant can requ­est a hearing to seek a bail reduction.

At the hearing, the defen­dant can argue that the ini­tial bail set by the court is so high that it is effec­ti­ve­ly a denial of bail and amo­unts to pre­trial deten­tion in jail, even tho­ugh the defen­dant is not a fli­ght risk or a thre­at to the public. (18 USC § 3142 ©(2).) Altho­ugh the court must take this argu­ment into con­si­de­ra­tion, it is not requ­ired to set bail at a level that the defen­dant can easi­ly pay. Courts can set bail high eno­ugh “to indu­ce a defen­dant to go to gre­at leng­ths to raise the funds witho­ut vio­la­ting” the con­sti­tu­tion or the Bail Reform Act. (U.S. v. Szot, 768 F.2d 159 (7thCir., 1985).) As long as the court’s actu­al moti­ve is not to just for­ce the defen­dant to rot in jail awa­iting trial, the court can set bail at any level it can justify.

Once a defen­dant informs the court, thro­ugh a bail reduc­tion requ­est or other­wi­se, that she can­not afford the bail set, the court must spe­ci­fy the reason(s) that the amo­unt set is “an indi­spen­sa­ble” con­di­tion of rele­ase from jail. (U.S. v. Mon­te­ce­con-Zay­as, 949 F.2d 548 (1st Cir. 1991).) The court must set out its ratio­na­le in wri­ting. (Fed. Rule of App. Pro­ced. 9.)

The Supreme Court has noted that bail and the refusal to set bail also implicate the right to due process found in the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.

Just as the defen­dant has the right to seek a lower bail, the pro­se­cu­tion can requ­est that the court set a higher level of bail based on the risk that the defen­dant will flee from the juris­dic­tion or inflict harm upon a vic­tim or other mem­bers of the public. (18 USC § 3142 (f).) And, the court may hold a hearing to inqu­ire into the sour­ce of bail funds that it suspects may be ille­gal (pro­ce­eds from drug sales, for exam­ple). Bail is only one of the con­di­tions that a court may impo­se in order to grant rele­ase of a defen­dant from jail pen­ding trial. Other con­di­tions inc­lu­de tra­vel restric­tions, reli­nqu­ishing a pas­sport, drug testing, elec­tro­nic moni­to­ring devi­ces (ankle bra­ce­lets), house arrest, super­vi­sion and repor­ting during rele­ase, and others.

Do you need help with reducing bail or avoiding jail time?