Pennsylvania gives courts discretion to attach a number of conditions or stipulations to a bail agreement. These are designed to increase the likelihood that a defendant will show up for all scheduled court hearings. However, the basic bail agreement includes a number of conditions that every person released on any type of bail must follow. These conditions include appearing at all court hearings, obeying any future orders of bail authorities, giving at least 48 hours of any change in address, not harming or harassing any witness or victim and refraining from any criminal activity.
If you are arrested in Pennsylvania, here are 5 additional things you should know about getting bail.
1. 4 Ways to Get Out of Jail
Release on non-monetary conditions– The goal in Pennsylvania is a release on recognizance or the fewest conditions - monetary or non-monetary, that will ensure the defendant's appearance at all court hearings. Non-monetary conditions could restrict who the defendant sees, limit travel or require the defendant to stay away from witnesses or the victim in his or her case.
Release on monetary conditions– If the court decides the defendant's prior record or connection to the community is tenuous, monetary conditions may be added to the release from jail. The law says this should only be enough money to give the defendant motivation to return to court and not so much as to make it virtually impossible for the defendant to meet the conditions of release.
Release on unsecured bond- This is similar to an ROR release in that no security - no money - is required for the defendant to leave jail. However, bail is determined and the defendant signs a bond agreement that only becomes effective if he or she does not show up for all scheduled court hearings.
Release on nominal bail– This can involve a bail bond company, but the bail amount can be set as low as $1. That may not seem like much motivation for a defendant to return to court, but violation of a bail agreement - no matter how much money is involved - is a separate crime in Pennsylvania. That means if the defendant choose to violate the bail conditions, he or she will not only be prosecuted on the original offense but also for the second crime of failure to appear. up a piece of property to secure bail is a way to save money that can spent on a lawyer and other costs following an arrest. The court will only accept property that is owned free and clear of any mortgage or lien. The defendant or owner of the land must establish both its value and the amount of equity in the property. That value must be 1 ½ times greater than the amount of bail.
Release on Recognizance– Known as an ROR release, this is a favorite of defendants because there is no money involved. Instead, as long as the defendant has a clean criminal record and the offense was not a crime of violence, there’s a chance the court may decide on to release the defendant on recognizance – the promise to return for all scheduled court hearings. The help of a criminal defense attorney can be invaluable since they are familiar with the types of defendants the court usually allows to be released on ROR and can argue on behalf of the defendant.
2. How to Get Bail
The first step is for the booking process to be completed. Once the defendant is officially in jail, the next step is to determine the amount of bail. For virtually all misdemeanors and some felonies, local jails have a schedule with preset bail amounts. If the crime is more serious, a bail hearing must be held, usually on the next business day, depending on how early the defendant was arrested.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
Pennsylvania set the premium that bail bond companies can charge at 10 percent. That is the main cost associated with bail – since it won’t be returned no matter how the case works out. A cash bail may cost more, but as long as the defendant meets all bail conditions, the bulk of the money is returned – minus only minor fees and court costs. With a 10 percent bond, about 60 to 70 percent of the money is returned – depending on the particular county involved.
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail?
Pennsylvania law requires that no one wait more than 48 hours after arrest to appear before a judge at an initial hearing. But in most cases, getting released from jail is a much quicker process. The booking process will take a couple of hours, depending on the size of the jail, and the interviews and paperwork for bail usually take no more than another couple of hours and often less, according to bail bond officials. If the crime is more serious and a bond hearing is required, a wait until the next business could be required. Arrests late at night or on the weekend could result in an overnight stay, depending on the facility.
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance?
In Pennsylvania, failure to appear is a separate crime and a bench warrant will be issued for the defendant’s arrest. A co-signer or bail bond agent has a 30-day period to get the defendant to return to court and argue for the bail to be reset. If that doesn’t happen, the defendant and any co-signer must come up with the entire amount of bail for either a surety bond or a 10 Percent Bond. At the same time, the defendant will eventually face charges on a second crime – failure to appear – and may not be given bail a second time.