Bail Schedules and Algorithms: Are They Fair?

When you’ve been arrested, you will be brought before a judge who will determine whether or not to allow you to post bail and be released while awaiting your trial.  Being allowed to post bail is not a right; it is up to the discretion of the judge who will consider many factors before making a decision. 

What a Judge Considers

When you are brought before a judge, he or she will try to determine whether you are a flight risk (looking at your country of origin, wealth, community ties, employment status), the severity of the charges (nature of the crime), whether you are deemed a threat (criminal history, repeat offender, may cause harm to self, threat to witnesses of the crime) and whether or not you are in the U.S. legally.  If you are not here legally, you will be held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Although judges mainly set bail for those charged with a crime, many jurisdictions use bail schedules or algorithms because they believe that by taking the human factor out of the decision, a non-biased decision will be made.

Bail Schedules

To simplify things and to eliminate bias, many jurisdictions use bail schedules.  Bail schedules are guides that determine bail for various crimes. There is no national standard for bail schedules and they can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next.  Because schedules are merely a guide, judges do maintain discretion to set bail as they see fit. The problem with bail schedules is that the bail amount suggestions vary so greatly―bail for public intoxication in Fresno is $75 but the same crime in Mariposa will get you bail of $10,000.  In some jurisdictions, bail is higher for defendants who don’t live in the jurisdiction than for those who do.    

Bail Algorithms

Some jurisdictions rely on computers to determine bail.  They use algorithms that look at criminal history and other things that a judge would consider and use algorithms to determine bail.  The use of algorithms to set bail has drawn a lot of criticism over the years because they’ve been found to give minorities disproportionate instances of higher bail amounts and the companies who provide the software lack transparency, claiming that their algorithms are proprietary.  While a judge still maintains discretion and makes the final determination for bail amount, relying on algorithms as a guide may result in a biased result.

Despite human biases, judges can be fair in setting bail and make judgments not only on the details of the case and criminal history but they can also judge the person who is standing in front of them.      If you have no criminal history, a steady job, have ties to the community, and didn’t commit a violent crime, you are likely to have bail set but the amount will vary.  If you have been arrested and can’t afford your bail, 1st Knight Bail Bonds can help.  At 1st Knight Bail Bonds, we can get you out of jail quickly after you’ve been arrested.  If a judge allows bail, we can help you. Our expert staff will work diligently to get you out of jail and back home where you belong.  Call us today at (727)538-7727.