In Massachusetts, bail is an amount of money that must be paid by a criminal defendant to secure his or her release from jail before a trial. The amount of bail is decided by the court based on factors such as the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s flight risk and concerns for public safety. If you have been arrested and are awaiting a trial in Massachusetts, a criminal defense attorney can help you argue for a fair and reasonable bail amount.
If you get arrested in Massachusetts, you will be given a date for your first court date, known as the arraignment hearing. This is where you will hear the specific criminal charges being entered against you and give your plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. The prosecutor can request bail at the arraignment hearing, if desired. Bail is an insurance policy against a defendant failing to show up for his or her court date. Bail amounts can vary considerably, from a few thousand to multiple millions. However, the court must be able to justify the amount chosen.
There are constitutional limits to how much a court can impose on a defendant in terms of bail. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “excessive bail.” There is not a specific amount given that qualifies as excessive. Instead, the reasonableness of the amount of bail set will depend on the specific circumstances, such as the defendant’s ability to pay and the nature of the crime. If an attorney believes that the courts are infringing upon your constitutional rights as a criminal defendant, he or she can argue for bail reduction.
It is important to hire a criminal defense attorney right away if you get arrested in Massachusetts – before your arraignment. Your attorney can represent you during the arraignment hearing to advise you on what plea to enter and argue for a reasonable amount of bail on your behalf. Your lawyer can also request an official bail reduction hearing, if necessary, to argue why the amount of bail that was set is unreasonable or unconstitutional.
At a bail reduction hearing, your attorney will present evidence to show why it is reasonable for you to seek a lower bail. Your attorney can craft an argument based on your specific circumstances and what will give you the best odds of achieving a lower bail. The prosecution will then have the chance to argue why the courts should keep the bail where it is or set a higher level of bail. Furthermore, a court may hold a hearing to check into the source of bail funds if it suspects illegal activity, such as money from drug trafficking.
At your hearing, you and your attorney will appear before a judge to argue that the initial bail set is so high that it is essentially equivalent to a denial of bail and a requirement to carry out your pretrial detention in jail. Your attorney can argue that you are not a flight risk or that you have a clean criminal history, for example, to express that the amount of bail is unreasonably high. Note, however, that while a court must take the defendant’s ability to pay bail into consideration, it is not required to choose an amount that is easy for the defendant to afford. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will rule whether or not to lower your bail.
The amount that bail is set at in a criminal court case in Massachusetts depends on many different factors. The best way to protect yourself from a bail amount that is unreasonable or that you cannot pay is to hire an attorney to defend your rights from the very beginning – before your arraignment hearing. Your attorney can defend your rights by requesting a bail reduction hearing, if necessary. Throughout your case, your criminal defense lawyer can give you legal advice that you can trust. Contact a Middlesex County criminal defense attorney at Spring & Spring for more information on questions of bail.