Philadelphia Police Officer Charged With Murder—Bail Revoked—What factors determine bail in Pennsylvania and who is entitled to it?
Recently, a Philadelphia judge revoked the bail of a Philadelphia Police Officer charged with murder. This news story provides as an example of how bail is set and determined in Pennsylvania. This case is unusual as bail not normally an issue in a First Degree murder case given the Pennsylvania’s constitution. Prosecutors with the Philadelphia District Attorneys Office argued that a lower court decision which set bail at $500,000.00 was unconstitutional pursuant to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Bail is obviously a major concern for someone facing criminal allegations because it will determine whether he can remain out of custody pending trial. Your criminal defense lawyer needs to be ready with a bail argument regardless of the charge but bail is sometimes the highest in drug and gun cases along with crimes of violence.
Who is entitled to bail and who isn’t in Pennsylvania?
With exception to those charged with capital offense (i.e. 1st Murder) or those facing life sentence, everyone charged with a crime entitled to bail in Pennsylvania.
Bail is right is guaranteed by the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as Article I, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Bail is cash or the cash equivalent used as security to ensure that a person who is released pending trial will appear at all future court proceedings and also comply with any other conditions the court may impose.
What is the purpose of bail?
Some people believe that bail is meant to punish someone but it’s not. Remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty! The primary purpose of bail is to secure a person’s presence at trial and to protect society from an alleged dangerous individual. The Pennsylvania and the United States Constitution prohibit a state or the federal government from imposing an excessive amount of bail.
Bail is set after a person is charged with a crime and well before trial. This is the main reason why bail is so important because if, you’re unable to post bail, he or she will have to remain in jail.
What factors will a court use to determine bail in Pennsylvania?
Prior to setting bail, the bail authority (usually a judge or bail commissioner will listen to arguments from the defense and prosecution based on the following factors:
- The nature of the offense and any mitigation or aggravation regarding it
- The defendant’s employment history and financial condition
- The defendant’s family relationships (i.e. children)
- The length and nature of the defendant’s residence in the community and past residence
- The defendant’s age, reputation, and mental condition
- The defendant’s history regarding his or her failure to appear in the past
- The defendant’s prior criminal history
- Any other factors the court may find relevant in this analysis
Your criminal defense lawyer should argue these points at your initial bail hearing and every subsequent bail petition hearing if it remains an issue.
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