What factors does a judge use to determine bond?
When a person is charged with a crime and appears in front of a judge for the first time in a case, the judge must make a decision about whether to order the person to be jailed while the charges are pending or whether to release the person on bond. If the judge decides to release the person, the judge will then decide on the terms and conditions of that release. The words “bail” and “bond” are often used interchangeably when discussing jail release, but while they are closely related to each other, they are not the same thing. Bail is the money a person must pay to get out of jail. A bond is posted on a person’s behalf, usually by a bail bond company, to secure the person's release. Sometimes the judge sets a bond that is one of “personal recognizance,” or a “PR bond,” which means the person is released on the basis of a promise to appear at future court proceedings. Importantly, it also means that the person does not pay any money unless he or she violates the terms and conditions set by the judge. Other options are a “cash” or surety bond, where cash is paid for the bond amount or a person pays a percentage to a bail bond company who then posts the bond with the court, or a 10% bond, where a portion of the bond is posted with the court.
In deciding what terms and conditions to impose, the judge considers several factors about the person, most of which have to do with determining whether the person may be a threat to the public and whether the person is at risk to try and flee the jurisdiction. The court rules in Michigan define factors to be used by a judge to determine bond. MCR 6.106(f)(1)lists the factors as follows:
- the person’s prior criminal record, including any juvenile offenses;
- the person’s record of appearances or nonappearances at other court proceedings, including for example, whether a person has appeared in court to pay parking or speeding tickets, or any prior attempts to flee to avoid prosecution in any previous criminal cases;
- the person’s history, if any, of substance abuse or addiction;
- the person’s mental condition or health, including the person’s character and whether he or she has a dangerous reputation;
- the seriousness of the offense the person has been charged with, the presence or absence of threats by the person, and the probability of conviction and the likely sentence for the crime charged;
- the person’s employment status and history, as well as the person’s financial history insofar as it relates to the person’s ability to post money bail;
- the availability of responsible members of the community who would vouch for or monitor the person;
- facts indicating the person’s ties to the community including family ties and relationships, and the length of the person’s residence; and,
- any other factors that might bear on the risk of nonappearance or danger to the public.
It is these last two factors that are the most critical to any judge: 1) Whether the person is at risk for failure to appear for future court proceedings; and, 2) Whether the person represents a danger to the public.
It’s important to work closely with your attorney and provide the information requested by your attorney so that the best case can be presented for release with the lowest bond possible.