Convincing a Judge to Lower the Initial Bail

A defendant with strong ties to the community is not likely to flee--and may warrant a lowered bail because of it.

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Defendants seeking lower or no bail should try to convince the judge of these facts:

The defendant doesn’t pose a physical danger to the community. Obviously, this argument is mostly available to defendants charged with nonviolent crimes.

The defendant has no previous criminal record, or has a minimal past record and made all required appearances associated with those charges.

The defendant has strong ties to the community, such as a family and a job (Judges are often impressed when family members and an employer personally appear to support a defendant at a bail hearing.)

Representing Yourself When Seeking Lower Bail or O.R.

You can represent yourself, but suspects typically benefit from legal representation at a bail hearing. Experienced attorneys know the factors that particular judges find important when considering a request for lowered bail or O.R. release. In addition, attorneys normally discuss cases with prosecutors before the bail hearing, and sometimes can assure the judge that the charges are not as serious as they look on paper. Finally, the simple truth is that judges often take attorneys’ arguments more seriously than those of self-represented defendants.

If the Judge Rules Against You

If you haven’t done so already, hire a lawyer. Judges can always reconsider bail, and may lower bail when they receive information—from an attorney—that they were previously unaware of. (For further information, see Can you appeal a judge's bail order?)

This article was excerpted from The Criminal Law Handbook, by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D.

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