We have recently written about the basics of the bail process in Alabama, including the types of bail available and their purpose. People commonly have additional questions about bail, including how a judge determines the level of bail in a particular criminal case. Below we offer more information about how judges determine bail in Alabama as covered under the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 7.
Bail Ranges in Alabama
Alabama provides courts with a guideline to help judges determine the amount of bail appropriate for specific felonies. It is important to remember that this guideline is not binding on judges. Judges in Alabama have the discretion to set a bail amount higher or lower than the suggested guideline below depending on the circumstances of the accusations as well as other factors. The Alabama felony bail guideline is:
- Capital Felonies: $50,000 to No Bail Allowed
- Murder: $15,000 to &75,000;
- Class A Felonies: $10,000 to $60,000;
- Class B Felonies: $5,000 to $30,000;
- Class C Felonies: $2,500 to $15,000; and
- Drug Trafficking and/or Manufacturing: $5,000 to $1,500,000.
For more information about felony charges and what class felony charges you or a loved one might be facing, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to help understand the nature of the crime as well as the class it falls within. Misdemeanors generally come with lower bail amounts, ranging from $300 to $6,000 depending on the nature of the charges, the location of the charges, and other circumstances surrounding those charges.
Factors for Setting Bail
In the same way that Alabama provides a guideline for judges in setting bail, the state also offers a list of factors that judges can use to determine the amount of bail to set in a misdemeanor or felony action. While most judges usually use many of these factors to help them determine an appropriate bail, the circumstances of each case are different and judges are not bound to consider any of these factors in the same way that they are not bound to remain within the bail limits listed above. Factors an Alabama judge may consider in determining bail include:
- The age, background and family ties, relationships, and circumstances of the defendant;
- The defendant’s reputation, character, and health;
- The defendant’s prior criminal record, including prior releases on recognizance or on secured appearance bonds, and other pending cases;
- The identity of responsible members of the community who will vouch for the defendant’s reliability;
- Violence or lack of violence in the alleged commission of the offense;
- The nature of the offense charged, the apparent probability of conviction, and the likely sentence, insofar as these factors are relevant to the risk of nonappearance;
- The type of weapon used (if any), e.g., knife, pistol, shotgun, sawed-off shotgun;
- Threats made against victims and/or witnesses;
- The value of property taken during the alleged commission of the offense;
- Whether the property allegedly taken was recovered or not; damage or lack of damage to property allegedly taken;
- Residence of the defendant, including consideration of real property ownership, and length of residence in his or her place of domicile;
- In cases where the defendant is charged with a drug offense, evidence of selling or pusher activity should indicate a substantial increase in the amount of bond;
- Consideration of the defendant’s employment status and history, the location of defendant’s employment, e.g., whether employed in the county where the alleged offense occurred, and the defendant’s financial condition; and
- Any enhancement statutes related to the charged offense.
As you can see, this is an extensive list, though it leaves open the possibility for a judge to consider many other factors related to both the defendant and the alleged offense.
Types of Bail in Alabama
There are typically four types of bail in most states, including Alabama. The first type of bail is a public bond or public bail. This is often referred to as being released on one’s own recognizance or to the care of another person. In this situation, the defendant or the person responsible for the defendant agrees to pay a specified amount of money if the defendant fails to appear in court for related judicial proceedings. It is typical to see this type of bail when the amount set for bail is low and the crime a person is accused of is of a less serious nature.
The second type of bail is known as a cash bond or cash bail. This type of bail involves the defendant depositing cash in an amount equal to the total or a portion of the bail set by a judge. The deposit can either be made by the defendant or by someone acting on behalf of the defendant, and is made to the court clerk who will hold that money until the judicial process related to the charges is complete.
A third type of bail is a professional bail or surety bond. In this case, especially when bail is set at a high amount, a defendant or someone acting on behalf of a defendant may seek out a professional bail bondsman that will post a defendant’s bail on the defendant’s behalf. The company posting bail for a defendant will usually charge a fee based on the total amount of the bail. Fees are usually in the neighborhood of ten percent, but could be higher or lower depending on the company and circumstances surrounding the bail. In other words, if bail has been set at $20,000, the company will post that bail and charge the defendant or person requesting bail on behalf of the defendant $2,000 if the fee is ten percent. As long as the defendant shows up for court proceedings, the company’s bail amount will be returned to them and they will keep the fee charged for posting the bail. If the defendant does not show up for required court proceedings, the person guaranteeing the bond for the defendant will be responsible for the entire amount of the bail if the defendant cannot be located.
A fourth type of bail, which is less common but still valid, is a property bail or property bond. In these types of situations, a person that owns property in Alabama can post bail for an Alabama defendant by guaranteeing their property against the amount of the bail so long as such property meets certain requirements.
Birmingham Criminal Defense Law
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it can be beneficial for you to anticipate the potential consequences related to a conviction for that crime as well as the judicial process that will follow the filing of criminal charges. Bail is often part of the judicial process, and having a better understanding of the way bail works in Alabama can help you anticipate the actions you may need to take related to this process.
However, bail is only one part of the criminal process in Alabama. There are many complex details involved in the criminal justice system, and you will need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney that has experience handling the type of criminal charges you or a loved one might be facing.