History of Bail Bonds

The practice of putting up money or property in exchange for temporary release from jail, (conditional upon a court appearance), has been around since 13th century England. In fact, the practice of issuing bail bonds in the United States is mostly based upon the practice that once took place in England. Most of the changes that have taken place regarding bail laws in the United States have addressed the fairness of the bail amount set by the judge, in relation to the seriousness of the crime committed.

The practice of providing bail bonds arose from the need to make sure that offenders, rich or inadequate, had level playing field to secure a temporary release from prison. Before the practice existed, just accuseds rich enough to publish cash or home were fortunate adequate to go cost-free. Those who were poor run the risk of sitting in prison for an indefinite quantity of time, since they had no possessions to offer in exchange for their liberty. A few entrepreneurs, however, recognized a company opportunity. They realized that if they might put forth adequate capital, they could accept a percentage of the offender’s money as bail insurance, then post the rest as a safety to obtain the accused from prison. By charging a fee for their service, the business owners had the ability to earn a profit, and by offering this brand-new service, the first bail bondsmen had the ability to provide equal chance for all offenders to gain temporary liberty from prison.

In 1679, the Habeas Corpus Act was passed in England. It gave judges the right to set bail amounts. However, the bail amounts proposed were typically impractical and too expensive for many defendants. Ten years later, the English Bill of Rights was passed. It stated that “excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed.” The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791, is nearly identical to this provision.

When America was still in its infancy, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed. This act stated that noncapital crimes (those not punishable by the death penalty) were bailable. It also stated that if a capital crime was committed, then the possibility of bail was up to the judge’s discretion. Two years later, the Bill of Rights was passed. Included in the Bill of Rights was the Sixth Amendment, stating that defendants are to be informed of the nature of their crimes. This means that if someone is accused of a bailable offense, they have the right to demand bail. Also included was the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.

In 1966, the Bail Reform Act was passed. Before this time, defendants who were bad risked spending months in jail– only to have their costs later dropped– due to the fact that they can not afford bail. Head of state Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the costs into law, offered the some example of a guy who spent two months in prison prior to being acquitted, throughout which time he lost his task, his automobile, and his household. After he was finally released from jail, he was not able to find a job for an additional four months. The Bail Reform Act assisted level the playing industry for all offenders, making sure that everyone had equal access to sensible bail amounts.

There was one major problem, however, with the Bail Reform Act–a loophole that allowed all defendants, dangerous to the community or not, to receive bail as long as they weren’t seen as a flight risk. This loophole made it possible for dangerous criminals to receive bail and be released. The New Bail Law of 1984 replaced the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The New Bail Law states that criminals can be held without bail if they are perceived as a risk to the community. The New Bail Law also states that defendants eligible for bail are to have a bail hearing.

Bail bonds make it possible for defendants to temporarily go free from jail, conditional upon their showing up for court appearances. Thanks to various revisions to laws regarding bail in the United States, all defendants–whether rich or poor–who commit noncapital crimes, can rest a little easier knowing their bail limits won’t be excessive, and thus, they won’t be forced to sit in jail for months on end, without the possibility of temporary release.

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