What To Do If You Think Your Bail Was Set Excessively High

Bail amounts may seem very high to you, but that does not mean that they actually qualify as excessive as defined by the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Bail is supposed to be pricey enough to convince you that showing up to court when required would be a good idea. While this has led to controversy over cash bail, the fact remains that per the law, bail can be quite high. Still, sometimes the amount is obviously outrageous given the charges. If you think your bail is way above what it should be, you have options.

How Bail Is Supposed to Work

States have something called a bail schedule that sets typical amounts for certain charges. These schedules can vary by county, so the bail for a charge in one county could be substantially less than the bail for the same charge in the next county over. These schedules act as guidelines for judges who have to see several different cases each day. In many areas, you'd also have to go through a bail hearing before you could be released, and it's at this point that the judge can make the bail higher or lower than the amount on the bail schedule.

Getting the Court to Reduce the Amount

When bail is set at a bail hearing, the amount may shock you, but it could be totally normal per the bail schedule -- except sometimes it's not normal. Say you've been accused of breaking the windows at a store. The judge sets the bail at millions of dollars. That's an exaggerated example, but you can see how the amount of bail would be excessive given the charge.

The first step is to ask the judge to reduce the bail. You should have a lawyer present at the bail hearing, and that lawyer can appeal for you. The judge may want to know about your character, your ties to the community, or the chances of you producing evidence that you didn't commit the crime. The judge can still say no, at which point the appeal moves to another, higher court.

Contacting a Bail Company

If you're lucky enough to have the financial resources to arrange for a bail bond even with the excessive bail, you can contact a bail company to see if they'll put up a bond despite the amount. That will at least get you released from jail as your appeal moves forward.

Bail bond companies are supposed to help you deal with bail amounts that can seem huge -- that's why they exist. If your bail is excessive, the company might also notify the court that the amount is too much, but in the meantime, if you can put up collateral and get out of jail, do so.

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