The arraignment is the first time that the accused appears before a Judge and the District Attorney’s Office. This is the moment in time when the courts decides if bail will be set and if any conditions of release will be ordered. The outcome of this initial proceeding often has far reaching consequences on the criminal case. If bail is set at a figure that the accused cannot make then they are faced with the hard reality that they will be in jail, incarcerated until the case is resolved. If someone is held at this initial appearance they are more likely to plead guilty, accept unfavorable probationary conditions and their ability to assist their attorney in preparing a defense is greatly diminished. The District Attorneys know this and they train their staff to do their best to hold the accused at arraignment and/or to additional conditions of release that will make the accused's life difficult if they should be released.
The Purpose of Bail
The purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused will appear for future court dates. There is a presumption that the accused should be released on their personal recognizance, i.e. without bail. Despite this presumption, not every judge follows the letter of the law. Some judges set bail for purposes that go well beyond this original intent. In these instances a bail review to the Superior Court is necessary and appropriate. A good attorney should not be afraid to question a judge's reasons or the appropriateness of a bail amount.
Factors Considered When Determining Bail
In determining on whether to set bail and in the amount of what, Judges look at several factors. Among these factors are:
• Record of defaults;
• The strength of the Commonwealth's case;
• Whether the defendant is likely to be sentenced to jail if convicted; and
• Family and social ties to the community.
Condition of Release
A prosecutor will often ask for several conditions of release in lieu of or in addition to bail. These conditions can run the gambit from no contact with an alleged victim to random alcohol screens. It is important to have an attorney who can advocate against inappropriate conditions, as judges often will yield to the District Attorney’s request. A condition should be related to the alleged set of facts. As an example, if someone is charged with shop lifting and there is no evidence of drug abuse then a condition for drug screens would be inappropriate. It is important to advocate against burdensome conditions because if the defendant does not follow each condition that is set, then they will likely end up in jail on a sixty day bail revocation.
Factors Considered When Determining Bail Revocation
In determining on whether to revoke bail, Judges look at several factors. Among these factors are:
• The gravity, nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
• The Defendant’s conviction record and history of default;
• The Defendant’s mental condition and whether there is present drug dependency
• The Defendant’s work history; and
• The Defendant’s family and social ties to the community.