Reviewed by Criminal Defense Lawyer / Matt Pinksker, on Sept. 23, 2019
We are often asked if having an attorney will help with the bail, and the answer is absolutely “yes.” When judges are making a bond determination (whether to set one at all or the amount), they are evaluating if
- (1) the defendant is a flight risk, and
- (2) if the defendant is a danger to the community
If a defendant has already shelled out the big bucks to hire a private attorney, it sends a strong message to the judge that the person is serious about planning to stick around. This is especially true if it is a local attorney who the judge is familiar with.
People have to ask themselves why someone would spend big dollars to hire a private lawyer instead of getting a court-appointed lawyer, only to then flee? In theory, whether or not someone hires a lawyer or goes with a court appointed lawyer should not make a difference, but the reality is that it does because of the message it sends, a strong message to the judge.
Judges often perceive the money paid to a lawyer by their client as a type of bond which will assure them of the defendant’s appearance in court. This is a reason why persons who retain a private attorney are more likely to get a bond, and the bond is more likely to be a lessor amount. We’ve had judges state they normally would not have issued a bond, but did because lawyers were present early on to advocate for their clients’ release.
Using a lawyer to avoid cash bail or even no-bail decisions
Many judges deny a bond initially, and want a formal bond hearing. Frequently at arraignments, defendants ask for a bond and judges simply say, “you’ll need to talk to your lawyer about that, and if he deems appropriate, he will file for a bond hearing.” This is typically when judges are not comfortable granting a bond and want more information about the situation and the defendant. Unless someone is a lawyer, one probably doesn’t know how to schedule one. The sooner a bond hearing can be scheduled, the sooner the evidence will be heard by the judge as to why a person should be given a bond.
What so many people fail to realize about the American justice system is that so much of it has nothing to do with the law, but the personal quirks and preferences of the individual judge. It is important to have a lawyer who knows this from regularly practicing in front of a judge. For example, some judges might be very skeptical of the effectiveness of drug treatment programs and will not find this to be a persuasive argument for a bond. Another judge might care deeply about community connections, and we have even come across judges who will not even consider granting a bond unless a family or friend is physically present in court to vouch for the accused. If a lawyer doesn’t know the unwritten rules of the judges, the client is at a serious disadvantage. We cannot overstate the importance of local counsel. Furthermore, it also helps to have a working professional relationship with prosecutors.
How attorneys can help get bail amount lowered
Attorneys can get the bail amount lowered. They do this all the time by bringing to the judge’s attention favorable information, materials, and witnesses which assure the judge that the person is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.
They also offer alternatives to the judge instead of high cash bail, such as a person turning over a passport, a GPS monitor, monitoring with a probation officer, setting a client up with drug treatment, and more.
For example, in a case where the bond had originally been set at $5,000, lawyers were able to get the judge to come down $1,500 once the judge realized that the firm (local and judge was familiar with) had been hired by the family. The lawyer made the judge aware of the client’s strong familiar connection to the community, and had their client already enrolled in an out-patient drug treatment program.
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