How is Bail Determined in California?

What to Know About Bail in California

Many defendants who are detained in California jails while awaiting trial can secure release by paying a sum known as bail.  If the alleged offense is “bondable,” the defendant’s loved ones can use a bail bond, which requires only a small portion of the full bail amount to be paid upfront.

If your family member, spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend was arrested and is being held in custody at the Ventura County Jail, it is vitally important to make sure their Constitutional rights are protected by a tough Ventura defense lawyer with extensive experience handling the types of charges they are facing.  The California criminal attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth are available to make jail visits on short notice, and have more than 22 years of experience representing defendants charged with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor offenses, including drug crimes, sex crimes, DUI, homicide, theft, and more.  If your loved one is in jail, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation.

Who is Eligible to Be Released on Bail in California Criminal Cases?

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Most states have what is called a bail schedule.  Bail is the amount of money that a person must post in order to be released from jail.  A person can either use a bail bondsmen to post the scheduled bail, or pay the total amount of the scheduled bail.

The bail schedule usually varies from county to county.  For example, if a person is arrested for domestic violence in Santa Barbara County, his or her bail for that particular crime may be different in Ventura County. The bail amount is usually determined at the person’s first court appearance, commonly referred as the arraignment stage.  A judge has the option to either release a person on their own recognizance (OR) with a promise to appear at their next court appearance, or deny a person’s OR and set bail.  When making this determination, a judge will also look at factors like:

  • The seriousness of the crime.
  • The defendant’s criminal history.
  • Whether or not the defendant has prior failures to appear.
  • Whether the defendant is on parole or probation.

What Factors Influence a Defendant’s Bail Amount?

California criminal courts look at several variables when determining the amount a defendant’s bail should be set at.  As provided by Cal. Penal Code § 1275, the judge or magistrate will weigh the following factors when setting, lowering, or denying bail:

  • Whether or not releasing the defendant would endanger the community. This is the most important deciding factor of all.  As Cal. Penal Code § 1275(a)(1) states, “The public safety shall be the primary consideration.”
  • Whether or not the defendant is a “flight risk.” A flight risk means a person who is likely to flee the county, state, or country in order to evade law enforcement and avoid future court hearings.
  • The nature and severity of the offense. Violent, dangerous, and large-scale felonies carry higher bail amounts than misdemeanors.   Penal Code § 1275(2) instructs judges to consider a few specific variables when evaluating the seriousness of an alleged crime, including:
    • Whether the defendant has allegedly threatened the victim or any witnesses.
    • Whether the alleged offense involved the use of a gun or other deadly weapons.
    • Whether the defendant allegedly used or possessed illegal narcotics.
  • Whether the defendant has a record of prior offenses. If so, any former issues with “bail-jumping” or “skipping bail,” where a defendant fails to appear in court after being bailed out, can create legal obstacles.

Ventura Bail Schedule for Felony and Misdemeanor Offenses

When setting bail, most counties in California use a frame of reference called a bail schedule, which provides predetermined bail amounts for various misdemeanors and felonies.  In Ventura County, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office refers to a bail schedule which is posted online each year.  The judge will ask the bail deputy what the scheduled bail is for the crime that is being alleged against the defendant.  The deputy will then inform the judge what the appropriate bail is, and note any previous failures to appear.  Most attorneys will ask the court that his or her client be released on their own recognizance.

Because bail amounts differ from location to location, defendants’ loved ones should be sure to refer to the bail schedule for the appropriate county.  Examples of felony bail amounts in Ventura County include:

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child– $250,000
  • Assault
    • Assault Weapon – $100,000
    • Deadly Weapon – $20,000
    • Firearm – $50,000
    • Semiautomatic Weapon – $50,000
  • Burglary
    • First Degree – $50,000
    • Second Degree – $10,000
  • Carjacking– $100,000
  • Felony Concealed Firearms– $50,000
  • Felony Child Abuse– $50,000
  • Felony DUI– $50,000 to $100,000 depending on certain factors
  • Felony Probation Violation– No bail
  • Gang Activity– $100,000
  • Grand Theft– $20,000
  • Identity Theft– $50,000
  • Manslaughter
    • Involuntary – $50,000
    • Vehicular – $50,000 to $250,000 depending on certain factors
    • Voluntary – $100,000
  • Murder– $500,000
  • Possession of Child Pornography– $50,000
  • Rape– $100,000
  • Robbery
    • First Degree – $100,000
    • Second Degree – $50,000
  • Sale/Possession of Controlled Substances with Intent to Sell– $50,000
  • Sexual Battery (Felony)– $20,000
  • Stalking– $100,000

For felony offenses which aren’t listed in the schedule, the bail amount is generally $10,000.
For misdemeanor offenses which aren’t listed in the schedule, the bail amount is either $2,500 or, if the offense is a “wobbler” (meaning it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor), half the amount of the felony bail.  The felony bail amounts are applied to all wobbler offenses during the booking stage.  The bail amounts listed above apply only to arrests made without a warrant.  If an arrest is made with a warrant, the bail amount will generally be specified therein, unless a judge orders otherwise.
Some examples of misdemeanor bail amounts in Ventura County include:

  • Child Abuse– $5,000
  • Concealed Firearms– $5,000
  • Disorderly Conduct– $5,000
  • DUI – $5,000
  • Indecent Exposure– $5,000
  • Misdemeanor Probation Violation– $5,000
  • Obstruction of Justice/Resisting Arrest– $5,000
  • Prostitution– $5,000

Additionally, the bail schedule provides a few important rules and exceptions which defendants and their loved ones should be made aware of:

  • If the crime was committed while the defendant was alreadyon bail, the bail amount will be doubled, regardless of whether the offense was a misdemeanor or felony.
  • If the defendant is charged with multiple offenses, bail will generally be set at the highest amount for the most serious charge.
  • Some of the bail amounts listed above can be enhanced (increased) for certain factors, such as inflicting great bodily injury or committing a hate crime.
  • Bail amounts for certain domestic violence crimes, such as violating a protective order, will be doubled if the defendant has prior convictions of certain offenses.

What Happens if I Can’t Afford to Post Bail for My Family Member?

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In some cases, bail is set above schedule, meaning it is more expensive.  This can occur if law enforcement requests a bail increase due to the severity of the crime or other factors, such as the defendant being on parole and probation.

If this occurs, your attorney can request a bail hearing.  The attorney should set the bail hearing close to the time of the first court appearance.  Once the court sets the date for a bail hearing, your attorney will file the appropriate bail motion.  At the bail hearing, your attorney will argue that their client’s bail should be reduced and, at the least, be set according to what the scheduled bail is.
Although a person is innocent until proven guilty, the judge will look at the allegations and set bail as if the allegations were true.  This can be problematic for the client since their case is being judged on facts that may or may not be true prior to any defenses your attorney can raise.

If the judge determines that bail is set appropriately, or reduces the amount to the scheduled bail, the client then has to decide whether or not to post bail by using a bail bonds company or posting the entire bail.  If the client posts bail before the first court appearance, a new court date will be set.  If the client posts bail after the first court appearance, the client will be released from custody with the promise to appear at the next scheduled court date.  If the client fails to appear at the next court appearance, the judge can revoke the individual’s bond, and remand the person back into custody.  If this occurs, it is the client’s job to have the bail company at court with a reassumption bond which the court may or may not accept in order for the client to remain out of custody.

Another noteworthy scenario is if a person is arrested, and on the first court appearance the district attorney has not filed any charges. This is called a “missing” complaint.  If this occurs, your attorney should ask the court to release you on your own recognizance since charges have not been filed.  If the court agrees and does release you, the district attorney will send you a letter informing you that the case has been filed with a new court date, or the case has been rejected.  It is important that the court has a good address for you, so that a warrant is not issued if you miss the court date.

Review Your Case with the Ventura Criminal Defense Lawyers of Bamieh & De Smeth

If you have any questions about how to post bail, obtaining a bail reduction, the criminal penalties your loved one might be facing, or any other matters related to California’s justice system, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 as soon as possible for a free and confidential legal consultation.  We are committed to providing aggressive legal representation for defendants charged with felonies and misdemeanors throughout the Ventura County area, including but not limited to Oxnard, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Port Hueneme, Mira Monte, Oak Park, Ojai, Casa Conejo, and beyond.

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