Once you have been charged with a criminal offence, you may have to face a bail hearing to determine whether you remain in jail pending your trial, or whether you will be released from jail pending trial, on certain conditions that you must abide by. Essentially, bail hearings recognize a presumption of innocence and that an individual should remain free on a cash deposit to the Court or personal undertakings to the Court to not offend further and to return for matters related to trial, or a combination of the two. The Crown may argue that you will not appear in court as required or that you are a danger to others. The bail hearing is a step in the judicial process with immediate and lasting effects on you. Here are five reasons you should hire a criminal lawyer.
1. Get the best outcome.
The outcome of a bail hearing affects your ability to continue to work, travel, and look after your family until your trial. An experienced criminal defence lawyer understands fully the process of a bail hearing, what is relevant, what is reasonable, and the law that applies. This provides you with an opportunity for the best possible outcome.
2. Invest in your defence and get control of the information exchange.
Providing unnecessary information because you think it is relevant to your bail hearing always works against you. Unnecessary information may raise new concerns about whether, or on what terms, your bail should be granted. Additionally, a defence can be lost, or the Crown can use the information you provide to shore-up their case against you. Having a lawyer means you are not doing the talking and that you have the advice you need.
3. It is a legal process that requires legal experience and knowledge to navigate.
Don’t be fooled by what may seem like a simple inquiry. A lawyer can assess and determine how possible restrictions may actually impact your life, ensuring that your freedoms are truly maximized while presumed innocent. Any restrictions imposed must be clear, concise, understandable, practical, and least-restrictive. An experienced lawyer can readily assess the impact of proposed conditions of bail and argue against those that unnecessarily restrict your life while you await trial.
In recent years, courts have started using math to inform decisions about pretrial release. In these jurisdictions, select information about the defendant is entered into a program and a score or recommendation comes out. These bail algorithms, which consider factors like age and criminal history, are supposed to assess the risk that the defendant will commit another crime or fail to appear in court.
Some states are doing more than refining their cash bail systems—they’re eliminating or seriously restricting them. States like New Jersey, which all but eradicated its conventional bail system in 2017, are instead focusing on risk assessment when making decisions about whether defendants should be in custody while charges are pending.
Specially designated bail hearings also tend to be relatively informal. But consideration of “ex parte” evidence—evidence from only one side without the other present—is generally improper. The judge will consider argument from each side and may even choose to hear witness testimony.
Regardless of the format, the bail hearing affords a defendant an opportunity to hear and respond to the government’s presentation at a hearing that is open to the public.
The issue at a bail hearing isn’t the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but rather the likelihood that he or she will behave properly and return to court as necessary if released. Generally, the court may consider the apparent weight of the evidence against the accused. But this isn’t the primary consideration, and the judge isn’t normally supposed to make findings about the facts underlying the case.
Letting a Lawyer Handle It
If you have or someone you know has been arrested and is awaiting bail, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. That lawyer will know the workings of the local bail system, both in and out of court.
And having a lawyer argue the issue of bail is a much better option than the defendant doing so. The lawyer can also arrange for the appropriate friends, family members, and associates to come to court. For example, a lawyer might arrange with a roommate to show up and attest that the suspect has a place to stay upon release.