In our role as Appleton criminal defense attorneys, individuals regularly contact us with issues related to pretrial release – specifically cash bail and bond conditions. While these terms are often used interchangeably by lawyers, judges, and others in the criminal justice system, technically, bond refers to the conditions of pretrial release, and bail refers to a monetary condition of bond (money you put up to get out of jail). Once you have attended all court appearances and your case is disposed of, you should get any bail you posted back.
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required.” In addition, when you have been arrested and are awaiting trial, Wisconsin law allows you to be released under “reasonable conditions.” These conditions are designed to:
- Assure your appearance in court
- Protect members of the community from serious bodily harm
- Prevent the intimidation of witnesses
There is a presumption of pretrial release, and the law states that “bail may be imposed at or after the initial appearance only upon a finding by the court that there is a reasonable basis to believe that bail is necessary to assure appearance in court” and that “in determining whether any conditions of release are appropriate, the judge shall first consider the likelihood of the defendant appearing for trial if released on his or her own recognizance.”
Too often, however, courts may refuse to allow a pretrial release or may set unreasonable bail. It is important to have an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer representing you who can fight for your release under reasonable conditions.
How Do Wisconsin Judges Set Bail?
While the law provides some guidance as to how cash bail is set, it does not detail the process by which judges makes these determinations in practice. Typically, a judge will consider a variety of factors when deciding whether or how much cash bail to set in a given case. These factors include where the accused lives, whether he or she has missed court appearances in the past, and the seriousness of the charges he or she faces.
For example, if you are accused of a crime but have a home, family, and job in the community, this would indicate that you are less likely to leave the area to avoid the charges you are facing, since you would be leaving everything else behind, as well. If, on the other hand, you were just passing through or have a history of drifting from one place to the next, a judge may worry that you will flee and might order cash bail.
Similarly, if you have a criminal history and have skipped town in the past, a judge may be more inclined to impose significant bail to ensure your appearance in court. If you have no history of missing court dates, you could argue there is no indication you might be a flight risk.
Finally, the more serious the charges against you, the more likely it is that the judge hearing your case will impose bail. The logic is that people are more likely to run away from serious charges and potential penalties than they are relatively minor matters.
An Attorney May Be Able to Lower Your Bail Amount
Under Wisconsin law, bail can only be set “only in the amount found necessary to assure the appearance of the defendant.” In addition, courts are required to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting cash bail.
These restrictions often allow defense lawyers to argue that bail is excessive and that it should be reduced or removed as a condition entirely. In cases like these, an attorney will file a motion known as a “bond modification motion” that requests that the court lower the bail that was set. When arguing for a lowered or removed cash bail, your lawyer will work closely with you and determine what factors about your situation works in your favor and present your case to the court in a way to which the judge will be responsive.
In some situations, an attorney can argue that no bail should be set at all. If you are under financial hardship, and there are no signs that you will flee, your lawyer might successfully convince the judge to release you on your own “personal recognizance.” This means that instead of requiring cash to secure your bond, the judge allows for your release based on your promise alone that you will attend your court date.
Judges Can Impose Conditions Other Than Cash Bail
Remember, cash bail is just one of the conditions that Wisconsin judges can set in regard to pretrial release. Other conditions may be set, and they typically are related to the underlying offense with which you are charged. For example, if you are accused of a crime related to domestic violence, a condition of your pretrial release will likely be that you do not have contact with the alleged victim. Likewise, if you are accused of a crime related to the possession of illegal drugs, the judge may order you to take random drug tests and stay away from known drug users or dealers.
In the past, some bond conditions required you to wear prominent ankle bracelets that monitored your location or other equipment that made it clear to anyone paying attention that you had a criminal trial pending. Thankfully, new technology is making these kinds of bond conditions more discreet and less intrusive than ever before. In a story published in the Fond Du Lac Reporter, attorneys Tim Hogan and Eric Eickhoff of Hogan Eickhoff expressed how these tools have helped their practice.
At times when a cash bond is suggested, Hogan and Eickhoff will ask for a lower bond amount, or a signature bond along with the use of GPS monitoring and/or drug and alcohol testing. In this way, the court can feel comfortable knowing the defendant is being watched, while the person is “going on living their lives” and is being a “productive member of society,” Hogan said.
The use of the technology also allows clients in drug and alcohol cases to be able to show the client’s record of not using while awaiting trial, Eickhoff said.
In some cases, these conditions may be unreasonable in light of your circumstances. If this is true in your case, an Appleton criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the judge to modify the conditions in your case so that they are not unreasonably burdensome.
Call the Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyers of Hogan Eickhoff Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
At Hogan Eickhoff, we’re committed to protecting the rights of individuals accused of criminal misconduct. We fight hard to obtain pretrial release for our clients under the best conditions possible and protect their rights until their cases are resolved. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Appleton, call our office today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online.