What Does Excessive Bail Mean in the United States?

Understanding Your Constitutional Rights

According to the eighth amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which was created in 1791, individuals are protected against "excessive bail." However, a specific monetary amount was not outlined in the amendment of this bill. As a result, the definition of "excessive" bail and the amount of a disproportionate bail will need to be determined by the judge for each particular case. In general, the bail amount must be considered reasonable by the judge, lawyers, and defendant. The amount of bail must also be fair so that the defendant is not tempted to skip his/her date in court. That said, some bail amounts can seem very high for defendants, in which case a bond agent or bondsman would need to be contacted in order to provide the necessary funding.

Knowing Your Right to Bail

Most people who commit crimes are not completely aware of their rights, whether it is due to a lack of education, circumstances, or interest in learning about constitutional law. For this reason, some people believe that the eighth amendment guarantees the potential for his/her bail. However, this is neither accurate nor true. According to constitutional law, this amendment only indicates that a bail amount cannot exceed or be more extreme than the crime in question. Moreover, the amount of bail must be able to ensure that the defendant returns to court for his/her trial. For this reason, some people will not be permitted access to bail because the crime committed is punishable by a life-term in prison or even death. In these extreme cases, it is believed that no bail amount can ensure that the defendant will appear in court as required. Thus, these serious criminals (or those accused of serious crimes) are denied bail altogether, which is considered legal by constitutional law.

The Meaning of Excessive Bail

There are some cases in which the bail amount can be extremely high, which is intended to match the severity of the crime(s) in question. For instance, the average bail amount for a serious offense can be set at a minimum of $10,000 USD, which is seen as a sufficient amount under constitutional law in the U.S. However, there are also some instances in which high bail amounts have been set by judges that are not agreeable to higher courts. This will occur when the higher courts believe that the bail amount is disproportionate to the crime, and it will not ensure the defendant returns to court as required. Similarly, an appointed bail bondsman can also take action if he/she believes an excessive bail amount has been set. In this case, the bail bondsman can work with the defendant's lawyer to put forth a motion that requests for the bail amount to be recalculated and/or lowered. If the judge who set the original bail amount does not agree, the motion can be sent directly to higher courts. In any case, excessive bail is considered illegal according to the constitutional law in the United States. For this reason, a bail amount that is set extremely high should not be accepted without ensuring it matches the severity of the crime. If a defendant has questions regarding his/her bail amount, legal guidance should be sought out in order to remedy the situation.

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