The American system of bail is both constitutional (via the Bill of Rights) and legislative. We Americans take many of our rights for granted, but citizens of other countries face a much bleaker outcome when they are arrested and held for trial. The Founding Fathers and our Congress have been instrumental in ensuring that average people cannot be thrown in jail and left to rot there for an indeterminate period of time and that extortion and bribery are not synonymous with bail in the United States.
The Eighth Amendment reads:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
The legal rights of the accused came out of English law, both from the Habeas Corpus Act of 1677, which gave magistrates the right to set bail, and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 which prohibited excessive bail. Since the majority of the people living in the thirteen original colonies were Englishmen, it was natural for them to extend the English system of justice to the new country they created. In 1789 the Judiciary Act was passed by the First United States Congress. A provision within this act made all noncapital crimes bailable, and allowed judges discretion for setting bail for capital crimes – that is, crimes that carried the death penalty.
Nearly two centuries went by with bail legalities untouched at the federal level, and then in 1966 Congress passed the Bail Reform Act, which was designed to help make bail less of a burden on the poor and to end what amounted to bullying of the most vulnerable. This act opened an unfortunate loophole, however, so in 1984 the Bail Reform Act was revised to make sure criminals judged a danger to their communities were denied bail and held until trial. It also mandated that all those eligible for bail were to receive a bail hearing.
Bail bondsmen have been a part of the legal process for as long as there has been a legal process in America, and they exist to make sure that all people have the same right to release pending trial, wealthy or poor. A justice system without bail creates an undue burden on a county as all prisoners then have to be held and cared for until their trial, an expensive prospect. In many countries this type of situation either encourages bribery of officials or neglect and cruelty toward prisoners, neither of which is fair or humane. Inevitably rich or well connected people are allowed to resume their lives and seek out legal representation while the poor are made even more vulnerable.
The staff of Christine’s Bail Bonds is grateful to live in a country that allows for reasonable bail for all of its citizens, and we are happy to be a part of a fair and impartial judicial system. If you or a loved one needs assistance with posting bail, please call us so we can help.
By: Christine Spoor