If you are arrested for a misdemeanor or felony crime in Virginia, it is essential to understand the process of setting bail. After the police take you into custody, your first hearing will typically be before a magistrate who will consider whether to set bail for your release. This hearing is crucial, and you should hire an experienced Manassas criminal defense lawyer to attend the hearing with you.
Types of Bail in Virginia
Your first hearing before a magistrate would be held soon after your arrest. They would review your criminal case and decide whether to release you on bail. In Virginia, there are three types of bail.
You can be released without posting any money or collateral if you are set free on a personal recognizance bond. However, you must sign a written promise to appear in court for all scheduled hearings. A personal recognizance bond is typically granted when the court determines that you pose a minimal flight risk and are not a danger to the community.
With an unsecured bond, you do not have to pay any money upfront. However, if you fail to appear in court as required, you may be required to pay an amount of bail that the magistrate sets.
A secured bond requires you to provide a form of collateral, such as cash, property, or a surety bond, to secure your release. It will be returned to you if you comply with the terms of your bail. However, the collateral may be forfeited if you fail to appear in court.
You or your family can hire a bail bond company if you cannot afford to pay the total bail amount. They would charge you approximately 10% of the bond and pay it for you. If you comply with the requirements of your release, the court will return the bail to the company at the end of your criminal case. However, the bail bond company would not refund their 10% fee to your family or you.
When Bail May Be Denied
There is a presumption that bail should be set in a criminal case under Virginia Code § 19.2-120. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Bail will not be set if either of the following conditions is met:
- Non-appearance. The court may deny bail if there is probable cause to believe you will not attend your court hearings. This can be based on factors such as a history of failing to appear in court or other evidence suggesting you are likely to flee.
- Danger to the community. Bail will be denied if there is probable cause to believe you are a danger to the public or yourself.
There are certain crimes for which there is a presumption that you are a flight risk or a danger to the public. These crimes include the following:
- Violent crimes, such as rape or murder
- Crimes with punishments of life in prison or the death penalty
- Some drug crimes involving Schedule I or II controlled substances
- Certain gun offenses
- Some sex crimes
Factors Considered in Setting Bail
The magistrate will consider certain factors when deciding whether to set bail in your criminal case. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can explain why you deserve to be released on bail and why you are not a flight risk or a danger to the public. When determining the appropriate amount of bail, the magistrate will consider various factors, including:
- Circumstances surrounding the crime. The magistrate will consider the crime’s severity and any aggravating factors in deciding whether to release you on bail.
- Your criminal history. If you have many prior convictions or pending charges, the magistrate could decide to deny your request for bail.
- Failure to appear in the past. If you have a history of not showing up for court, it may increase the likelihood of a higher bail amount or denial of bail.
- Ties to the community and your family. The magistrate will consider whether you have strong family and community familial ties that would incentivize you to appear in court.
- Employment. If you have a stable job you have been at for a long time, you have a greater chance of being released on bail.
Conditions That May Be Set If You Are Granted Bail
If the magistrate agrees to release you, they will set conditions you must comply with to remain free on bail. They can include the following:
- Having no contact with the victim
- Remaining employed
- Abstaining from alcohol or drug use
- Undergoing random alcohol or drug testing
- Staying away from certain locations
- Undergoing alcohol or drug abuse or mental health counseling