It can be one of the most misunderstood aspects of getting arrested – what is bail? How does it work? Must you pay in cash? How does it all happen? As a Dedham criminal defense attorney, let me address some questions about bail. (And I hope you won’t ever need to come up with it.)
A brief history: Bail in the United States came out of the English legal system, in which the court granted the accused person the right to offer his property or monies to the court, so that he could secure temporary freedom while his criminal trial was pending. As the years passed, bail became more expensive, in order to cover the expenses of the court. Eventually the entire process of bail became very complicated.
It’s important to remember that bail is not designed to punish someone for being arrested. It has one purpose: To assure the defendant’s appearance at court, each time, during his prosecution (which can take, in more complex cases, up to a year.) Bail can become relevant in one or both of two environments: 1) Immediately after someone are arrested (i.e., at the Police Station where they have been brought); and/or 2) At arraignment in court. At Police Stations, persons accused of lower-level crimes (such as “simple” assault and battery,) will almost routinely be released either on personal recognizance, or for a small fee of usually $40.00. This can be paid at the Police Department where the arrested person is being held, by either the accused himself, or by a friend or family member.