Bail is an important – and often misunderstood – part of criminal cases. Bail can mean the difference between spending months (or years) behind bars while you await trial and spending that time at home and working. It is always important to have the assistance and representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work to ensure you receive fair bail – or even no bail at all. The following are some frequently asked questions about bail in Wisconsin.
What is Bail?
Bail is a legal concept that has been in practice across the world since before the year 1000. In today’s society, there are often conditions set for a criminal defendant that allow them to be released from jail prior to trial, and bail generally refers to cash or property they must “put up” to be released. If the defendant appears in court as promised, the bail is returned. If they fail to appear, they forfeit the bail.
What other Bond Conditions Can Be Imposed?
Paying cash is far from the only possible condition of release on bond. When determining bail, a judge may also set additional requirements for a defendant to meet in order to remain in the community until their case is resolved. Some other conditions may include:
- Wearing a GPS monitor
- Abstaining from drug or alcohol use
- Not leaving the jurisdiction without court permission
- Not having contact with an alleged victim of the crime
- House arrest
Judges have discretion when it comes to the particular conditions of a specific case. Wisconsin law requires the conditions to be “reasonable,” and within those confines, the judge can set conditions based on the nature of the case and the defendant’s circumstances.
The good news for many people out on bond is that technological advancements are making it less obvious that people are involved in a criminal case. Instead of a bulky ankle bracelet that can be highly recognizable, many courts have switched to monitors that resemble fitness trackers. At Hogan Eickhoff, we have found that these smaller devices have less of an effect on employment, safety in the workplace, and they generally reduce the assumption of others that the person out on bond is a convicted criminal. Because defendants are innocent until proven guilty, we believe that bond conditions should not be punitive or have an unnecessary effect on the lives of our clients.
Is there Bail in Every Case?
No. Chapter 969 of the Wisconsin statutes govern the imposition of bail. Under the law, before a person is convicted, he or she is eligible for release under reasonable conditions. Importantly, there are certain exceptions to this rule, including when a person is accused of first-degree homicide, certain sexual offenses, or the person has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a violent crime and is accused of committing or attempting to commit a violent crime.
The law only allows judges to impose bail if the court determines that there is a reasonable basis to believe that bail is necessary to ensure that the defendant appears in court. If the court decides to impose bail, it should only be in an amount found necessary to make sure the defendant comes to court.
If a Judge Orders Bail, How Much Will it Be?
The United States Constitution explicitly prohibits excessive bail, and Wisconsin law also provides protections for defendants against unreasonable bail. Some courts follow specific formulas for setting bail for certain alleged offenses, but not all judges do so. Bail can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1 million or more. The amount set should be based on different considerations, including:
- The severity of the alleged offense
- The degree of the defendant’s flight risk
- The defendant’s ability to pay
Judges are supposed to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail, and setting bail that is far outside a defendant’s abilities is often referred to as the criminalization of being poor. However, many courts set bail that a defendant could never afford, and it is necessary to have an attorney stand up for your right to reasonable bail based on your situation. Even if the judge sets unreasonably high bail right out of the gate, the right defense lawyer can request a bail hearing to seek a reduced amount or even release on your own personal recognizance, which means you will pay no bail at all.
What if I Can’t Pay Bail?
If you cannot pay bail, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced attorney familiar with handling matters related to pretrial release. An attorney will review the facts of your case and determine whether there are any arguments in favor of having your bail reduced or eliminated completely. Examples of arguments that an attorney may make include:
- Bail is not appropriate or necessary in your case based on your ties to the community, health, or other factors.
- The amount of bail set by the judge is too high in light of your income and means
- The judge incorrectly applied the law in regard to circumstances in which a defendant is not eligible for release
It’s important to remember that the law regarding bail and conditions of release can be highly technical, so it may not be clear to you whether there is a chance that may be able to have your bail reduced or be released on your own recognizance. For this reason, if you are unable to secure bail for your release, it’s in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as you can.
Call Hogan Eickhoff Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Appleton
If you or a loved one are in custody and awaiting trial, it’s in your best interest to contact Hogan Eickhoff as soon as you can. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers may be able to secure you release on your own recognizance or reduce the bail amount set by the judge. In addition, we can help protect your rights throughout your entire case and ensure that it is resolved as favorably as possible.
At Hogan Eickhoff, our Wisconsin criminal defense attorneys serve clients throughout Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Chilton, Waupaca, and the surrounding communities. To schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team, call our office today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online.