The amount of the bail is first and foremost within the scope and discretion of the judge or magistrate, with only two general limitations:
- The purpose of bail is not to penalize or punish the defendant, but only to secure the appearance of the accused, and it should be set with that in mind.
- Excessive bail, not warranted by the circumstances or the evidence at hand, is not only improper but a violation of constitutional rights. In fixing the amount of the bail, the court takes into consideration the seriousness of the charge, the defendant’s previous criminal record and the probability of the defendant appearing at the trial or hearing.
Additionally, if public safety is an issue, the court may make an inquiry where it may consider allegations of injury to the victim, danger to the public and/or to the defendant, threats to the victim or a witness, the use of a deadly weapon and the defendant’s use or possession of controlled substances. A judge or magistrate setting bail in other than a scheduled or usual amount must state on the record the reasons and address the issue of threats made against a victim or a witness. The court must also consider evidence offered by the detained person regarding ties to the community and ability to post bond. The bail amount set by the court must be within the minimum range amount of bail that would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance – NOT the maximum! It is important to remember that it is the court magistrate that determines bail amounts.