However, if you think about it, bail is exactly in line with one of the most fundamental principals of our criminal justice system: each person is innocent until they are proven guilty. This is why even after you are arrested for a crime, in many cases, you may have the legal right to be released from jail by posting bail.
The problem is that because of a quirk between the timing of bail and the potential time period in which a person might be charged with a crime, there was a possibility that some people would have to post bail more than once. However, on Jan. 1, 2017, a new law in California changed bail laws to reduce the chances that a person will have to post bail twice.
The Basics of Bail
Bail is meant to be a promise that you will show up in court for hearings and trial dates in exchange for your release. Typically, the law allows you to be set free from custody if you deposit a certain amount of money with the court. This does not mean you have to post the full amount out of your own bank account. You can work with a bail bondsman, who will post the full amount of bail in exchange for a non-refundable premium, which is generally 10 percent of the total bail amount.
There are two possible outcomes once bail is paid by a bail bondsman. If you fail to show up to court as required, the court can declare the bail to be forfeited, meaning the bail bond company (which works for an insurance company) will likely have to pay the county the entire bail amount. The threat of bail forfeiture means that the bail bond agent will want to ensure that you appear in court at all scheduled hearings.
The other outcome is that bail will be “exonerated” or returned to the bail bond agent. This happens when the case is terminated and you have mad all of your required court hearings. The bail may also be exonerated if the prosecution declines to formally charge you with a crime within a certain amount of time.
Why Would People Have to Pay For Bail Twice? (PC 1305)
Previously, California Penal Code Section 1305 required that if a defendant was not formally charged with a crime within 15 days of the arraignment, the bail would be exonerated. However, the prosecutor is not required to immediately charge you with a crime. In fact, many criminal cases are not filed by the prosecution for many months. You might not be charged yet because the prosecution is waiting for lab results to be returned in a drug case, or because the investigation needs to determine whether there is enough evidence to formally charge you with a crime. Continue reading →