Bail process in Boston.
A defendant arrested for a misdemeanor or felony in Boston is first booked and processed in a jail facility, often the Suffolk County Jail or the Suffolk House of Detention. A bail magistrate interviews every defendant and makes a determination – based on state law that sets out 17 factors to take into consideration – the amount of bail. For more serious crimes, the bail determination will instead be made by a judge during the arraignment. If a cash amount has been set, the defendant posts the full amount of the bail or has a relative or friend – known as a surety – help with the payment. With larger bonds, it’s possible to put down 10 percent of the cash with the court to be released.
Types of jail release in Boston.
- Personal recognizance. The first option in Boston and elsewhere in Massachusetts, since there are no private bail companies, is for defendants to be released on their own signature. A bail magistrate first makes the determination whether there are any factors indicating the defendant would not show up or that any member of the public might be in danger. If that is the case, a signature release is not offered.
- Cash bail. The only other option in Boston is a cash bail. Many factors – from the defendant’s criminal history, connection to the area and any history of defaults – are considered before a cash bail is set. For the most serious felonies, or for defendants with a long and violent list of previous convictions, pre-trial release may not be allowed.
Bail amounts and bail conditions. The amount of bail – if a defendant isn’t released on personal recognizance - is determined by the bail commissioner or a judge. Judges are involved in determining if bail is proper for more serious felonies, particularly if they are crimes of violence or crimes that involved juveniles. It is common for bail conditions to be issued in addition to a cash bail amount. Those conditions can include drug education, if applicable, or an order to stay away from the victim in the case.
Violating bail conditions. If a defendant does not show up for all scheduled court hearings for a misdemeanor crime, and has no excuse, he or she faces a penalty of up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. If a felony crime is involved, the penalty is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, both. Any defendant who commits a crime while released from jail can be held without bail for up to three months