What influences a Judge’s decision when setting a bond?

A judge is the officer of the court that will decide to set a defendant’s bond after hearing the current charges being brought forth, all the details, and all other relevant information.  In addition, the judge will also have to decide if the defendant is a flight risk, and whether or not to even set a bond for release. The judge will then take all of this information into account to decide the amount that the bond will be set at. This is the same in most states. 

What charges are being brought forth?

While most cases will have a bond set, depending on the nature of the charges being brought against the defendant, there is a possibility that a Judge could deny a bond altogether.  Usually, if the defendant has never been in trouble with the law, or if the charges are lower in severity such as misdemeanors, then a judge may offer to release the defendant on their own recognizance, meaning that the defendant is released without bond on their word to return to court.  If the charges are more severe, then a judge will usually decide on a bond amount that will allow the defendant to be released from jail until their next court date but is still high enough to be a deterrent to trying to flee.  In severe situations or extreme crimes, or if the defendant is a known flight risk, then the judge can flat out deny a bond, and the defendant will remain incarcerated until their next court date.

Previous charges or convictions?

Another major factor in the Judge’s decision-making process is the defendant’s prior criminal history. Again, if this is a first offense, or any previous offenses were low-level, the judge is not likely to deny the bond and may offer personal recognizance.  However, if the defendant has a long history of previous charges, crimes, or convictions, then the judge may set the bail higher or decide to deny bail.  Additionally, if the defendant is considered a flight risk, meaning that there is a good potential that they will run and not return to court, or if the defendant is currently out on bail awaiting a court date for a previous crime, then the Judge will likely increase the bond amount or deny a bond of any amount.

Concerns for Public Safety?

The Judge will also take into account the safety of everyone involved, including the defendant, any other defendants involved in the crime, family and involved members of the public, or just bystanders who could be at risk if the individual is considered a danger to others or themselves.  This can often be a reason why people who have been charged with serious or violent crimes like first-degree murder or terrorism will not be offered a bond.  While a Judge will be as fair and impartial as possible, they must still take the safety of all involved parties and the public into account.

Potential Flight Risk?

The final factor that a judge will take into account is whether or not the defendant is likely to return to their next appointed court date if released or if they are likely to run and attempt to flee from having to face their charges.  A judge will consider any previous history of flight from the courts as well as things such as the defendant’s resources.  If the defendant has extreme wealth or access to private transportation that could remove them from the jurisdiction that is bringing forth the charges, a judge may decide that the defendant is a flight risk and either set a very high bond amount, sometimes