After you have been arrested, you are likely to be confused and scared and not exactly sure of what is coming next. However, you will need to act quickly to secure your rights and your freedom. The first thing you are going to be faced with is getting released from custody. In most cases, this will be decided at a bail hearing where the judge will determine if you can be released without bail, released on bail, or must remain in custody until the underlying matter is resolved. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Lloyd Long explain how long you could remain in jail if you cannot make bail and what you can do to give yourself the best chance of being released on little to no bail.
How Philadelphia Bail Hearings Work
For some minor crimes and infractions, such as most traffic violations, the police will simply write you a citation or summons with a court date on it and let you go on your way. Usually, you will be arrested, and a bail hearing will be held within 72 hours of your arrest at most, but typically much sooner. In Philadelphia, bail hearings occur over videoconference in most instances, meaning that you will be in your cell for the hearing, speaking to the magistrate over a video screen.
Furthermore, the magistrate, or judge, who presides over these hearings is not required to be an actual judge or even a lawyer. They are a political appointee. For particularly serious charges or those with a lengthy criminal record, the magistrate can choose to detain you without bail for the duration of the case. You are not guaranteed a right to counsel at this hearing but you should always retain an experienced Philadelphia bail hearing attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long so that we can make the strongest arguments for your release on little to no bail.
Types of Bail in Philadelphia
At the bail hearing, there are five different ways that you can be released. First, the magistrate can choose to release you on your own recognizance, meaning without bail. In this case, your only obligation will be to show up for your court appearances as required. Release on your own recognizance is typically only granted to those accused of low-level crimes or infractions like public intoxication. Second, they can choose to release you on non-monetary conditions, such as attending drug counseling or staying out of further trouble. If you fail to comply with these conditions, the judge can remand you and hold you without bail for the rest of the case.
The other three options involve some sort of money bail being set. In the case of release on unsecured bail, the judge will set bail at a certain amount but you will not actually have to pay it. You will, however, have to sign a binding document stating that if you fail to appear in court as required, you will have to pay the full amount set by the judge. Release on a monetary condition means that the judge will set bail at a certain amount and you or a loved one will pay the full amount, either in cash or by putting up your home or some other property as collateral.
Finally, there is release on a secured bond. In this instance, the judge will set bail but you will only have to pay a nominal amount. The rest of the amount will be secured by a bond issued by a licensed bail bondsman. As part of your agreement with the bail bondsman, you will likely have to put up 10% of the amount set. If you fail to appear as required, the bail bondsman will have to pay the full amount and will come after you and anyone who co-signed for you for repayment. If they cannot track you down, they are known to use the services of bounty hunters.
What Happens if I Can’t Make Bail in Philadelphia?
As noted above, if you are unable to afford the full amount of bail, you have the option of retaining a bail bondsman to cover most of it. If you cannot come to an agreement with a bail bondsman or cannot afford to pay even the nominal amount required, then you will be held in jail either until you come up with the money or the underlying cases is resolved. Especially for more serious crimes like homicide, the pre-trial proceedings can last for many months before a trial even gets underway. If you cannot make bail, you will have to remain in jail this whole time.
If the initial bail amount is too high and you cannot cover it, even with the help of a bail bondsman, we can file a motion with the municipal judge to vacate or reduce the bail order. While bail is typically set based on state guidelines, municipal judges do have the discretion to reduce or increase the initial amount set by the magistrate based on such factors as the nature and severity of the crime, your ties to the community, and your prior criminal record. If the judge denies the motion to reduce or vacate, our skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can continue to make such a motion at every proceeding, introducing new evidence that you do not present a danger to the community, including the presence of friends and family at the hearing. If the municipal judge continues to refuse to amend the amount, we can file an appeal in the Court of Common Pleas.
If You Are Concerned About Bail, Call Our Skilled Philadelphia Bail Hearing Attorneys Today
If you cannot make bail or if bail is denied, you could end up spending many months in prison just waiting for your case to be resolved. As such, it is important to have an experienced Philadelphia bail hearing attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long representing you at the initial bail hearing and beyond. We know how to make the best arguments for your release on little to no bail and will keep fighting to get your bail reduced if it is set too high at the start. Call our firm today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.