Bail process in Philadelphia. There are several jails and detention cities in Philadelphia, including the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and the Dention Center. Defendants are booked and processed and then allowed to contact friends and family for help with bail or deal directly with a bail bond company. The length of time to be released from jail depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the crime. For most misdemeanors and some felonies, bail can be quickly established from a schedule. However, with a more serious crime, a bond hearing must be held so a judge can set bail in the case.
Types of Bail in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania law sets out 5 different ways to post bail:
- Release on recognizance. In general, a defendant must have strong ties to the community and show that he is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. No bail is set and the defendant signs a document promising to show up for all court hearings in the case.
- Release on non-monetary conditions. This type of release is simply to an ROR release in that the defendant is not required to pay any money. The court instead sets conditions such as attending drug education classes or travel restrictions, which must be met or bail can be revoked.
- Unsecured release. Although no payment is required with this release option, the court will set a bail amount and the defendant must agree to pay that amount for failing to show up for a court hearing.
- Nominal bail. This refers to a surety bond, which requires hiring a bail bond agent. In Pennsylvania, the premium is set at 10 percent of the total amount of the bail. Nominal bail can be secured by the defendant or a co-signer.
- Release on a monetary condition. State law requires that the bail is set at the lowest amount necessary to ensure that the defendant shows up for court hearings. Instead of involving a bail bond agent, this type of bail is paid to the court, which can allow a defendant to put up 10 percent of the total amount set by the court. Payment can be made in cash or by pledging property.
Setting bail. When and how bail is set in Philadelphia depends on the severity of the crime. For non-violent misdemeanors, as well as some felonies, bail is immediately set based on a schedule. However, for most felonies, bail will be set by a Bail Commissioner following a bail hearing. The commissioner will consider a variety of factors, including the defendant's previous record, the severity of the crime and likelihood that the defendant will show up for court hearings. There is no constitutional requirement for bail, and for some very serious crimes, defendants can be held without bail.
Bail costs and options. There are a number of unsecured bail options in Pennsylvania. A criminal defense attorney familiar with the bail practices can be an invaluable asset in securing a non-monetary release as opposed to a monetary bail order. That can save the 10 percent that would have to be paid to a bail bond agent with nominal bail. However, for more serious crimes and higher bail amounts, an unsecured or non-monetary release is unlikely.