During the first court appearance which follows an arrest, known in Pennsylvania as the preliminary arraignment, the Magistrate will review the case details to determine the appropriate bail. In this article, our homicide attorneys will cover how bail is set, explain the bail requirements which are imposed by the state of Pennsylvania, and discuss some of the factors that can help or hurt your chances of qualifying for a free type of bail called Release on Own Recognizance, or ROR.
Generally speaking, the courts will not readily release an individual back into the community if there is evidence that he or she will be dangerous to the general public — for example, if the person has been charged with a serious violent crime — or if the individual is a “flight risk,” meaning he or she is likely to attempt to flee the area or even the country. In these cases, the courts may impose a prohibitively high bail amount in order to minimize the chance the individual could be released. The courts refer to bail schedules to help them determine the level at which bail should be set.
234 Pa. Code Rule 521 deals with bail after the person has been found guilty, but divides bail rules into two categories: pre- and post-sentencing. Prior to sentencing, Rule 521(A)(1) holds that when a defendant “is found guilty of an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment, the defendant shall not be released on bail.”
While first degree murder is potentially subject to capital punishment, the death penalty moratorium recently ordered by Governor Tom Wolf has effectively frozen the use of capital punishment in Pennsylvania. Offenses which carry sentences of life imprisonment include first degree murder and certain felony sex crimes, including rape and IDSI (Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse) resulting in serious bodily injury to a complainant aged 13 years old or younger.
In accordance with 234 Pa. Code Rule 521(C), “Whenever bail is refused or revoked under this rule, the judge shall state on the record the reasons for this decision.” You have the right to know why your request is being refused.
Finally, it is worth noting that bail may potentially be modified after the verdict or sentence is given, as provided by 234 Pa. Code Rule 521(D).
Even if you are released from custody, you must still follow certain rules and requirements imposed by the courts. Rule 526(A) establishes bail requirements in Pennsylvania. In “every case in which a defendant is released on bail,” the individual must:
There are some situations where it may be possible to be released from custody for free, without having to pay bail. This is called Release on Own Recognizance, or ROR. For obvious reasons, ROR represents the ideal situation for most people who are taken into custody. However, ROR is a privilege, not a guaranteed right. In order to obtain ROR, you must satisfy certain requirements.
Pennsylvania’s ROR guidelines are set forth in 234 Pa. Code Rule 524 (Types of Release on Bail). In accordance with 234 Pa. Code Rule 524(C)(1), ROR is dependent “only upon the defendant's written agreement to appear when required and to comply with the conditions of the bail bond in Rule 526(A),” which we discussed in the previous section.
Generally speaking, ROR is reserved for defendants who:
As an alternative to ROR, you may qualify for other types of bail, such as Release on Monetary (or Non-Monetary) Conditions, Release on Nominal Bail, or Release on Unsecured Bail Bond. An attorney can help you understand your bail options, rights, and responsibilities.
If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, or if you wish to fight a conviction or sentence by going through the criminal appeals process, the defense lawyers of Krasner & Long may be able to help. Time is of the essence, so don’t wait until it’s already too late: to set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (215) 882-9752 today.