How Long Will I Be in Jail If I Can’t Make Bail?

Written by: Doug Ridley

Strategies to Shorten Your Time in Custody

About one-third of people in jail cells across the nation serve time before they are convicted of a crime because they can’t make bail, according to the Prison Policy Institutes. In California, the average bail amount for crimes is about $50,000, an amount that many cannot reach. Even though the state has tried to change its cash-for-bail system, state lawmakers indicate that about 63% of those in California’s county jail system are those awaiting trial or sentencing.

Bail refers to the amount of money a defendant must pay for release from jail before a trial. At Ridley Defense, we represent individuals who have been arrested for a criminal offense and have difficulty getting out of jail because they can't make bail. Doug Ridley, our founding attorney, is a former Ventura County deputy district attorney.  He and his entire team have extensive experience in handling complex cases that result in high bail figures.

If you have been arrested in Southern California and can’t get out of jail, contact our office at (805) 208-1866 to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Understanding Bail

Bail is an agreement between the defendant and the court that guarantees you won’t run from the law. You agree to post a specific amount of money, ensuring you appear at your scheduled court dates. When you pay this money, you’re released from jail until your trial. You will get your money back after the trial if you make all the court dates. Those who fail to appear lose their bail money.

Many defendants and their families don’t have enough money to post bail on their own, so they turn to bail bondsmen who loan them the money. However, these companies charge a 10% fee for the money. Some bond companies will discount this fee further if you hire a private criminal defense attorney. However, many people discover they are unable to even afford the fee, so the defendant remains in jail and must look for other alternatives.

How Bail is Set in Criminal Cases

Whether the charge is a DUI or another type of offense, most jurisdictions in Southern California have a set schedule for bail. For example, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County sets a bail of $20,000 for felony arrest. The minimum recommended bail for DUI is $5,000 and frequently goes to $25,000 or more. The judge hearing the case has considerable control over setting bail and may take other circumstances into consideration.

These factors can include:

  • First offenses have lower bail
  • Ties to the community and employment situation can reduce the bail amount
  • Multiple past crimes or if the judge thinks you are a flight risk can increase the amount
  • Some jurisdictions set bail immediately for low-level offenses and don’t wait for a hearing
  • A judge may deny bail if they feel you are a danger to the community

How Long Do Defendants Stay in Jail if They Can’t Make Bail?

The law states that you stay in jail until your trial date if the judge denies bail or you can’t meet the amount. Length differs according to several factors. The first is your arraignment, which usually occurs within 48 hours, with the exception of Sundays or holidays, if you can’t make bail. Your trial date is the second factor. If you can’t make bail, the judge must set the trial within 30 days of the arraignment.

However, defendants often stay in jail much longer. Your defense attorney may need more time to prepare the case, extending the trial date by another 10 days if you request it. Courts often have delays too, so it’s not uncommon to have trial dates repeatedly reset. Some defendants spend time behind bars for months before going to trial.

Challenging Bail by Requesting a Hearing

If your bail is too high or denied, your attorney can request a bail hearing before a judge to challenge the decision. You can ask the judge to reconsider not setting bail or ask for a lower amount. You may even ask the judge to let you out “on your own recognizance, meaning you will promise to return to court and stand trial.” The judge may still deny your request.

Your attorney must formally request a bail hearing. Experienced defense attorneys know which arguments will likely work for your case, as you must present compelling grounds for release.

Don’t Stay in Jail Longer Than Necessary

If you have been accused of a crime and can’t make bail, the experienced legal professionals at Ridley Defense can work to get you out before your trial. Our attorneys will work for your best interests regarding your bail and defend you at trial. Contact our team at (805) 208-1866 to discuss your case.

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