Navigating Bail and Pretrial Release: Your Options in Minnesota

Understanding the Bail Basics in Minnesota

When someone has been charged with a crime in Minnesota, it’s common for the judge to require that they pay bail in order to be released from jail during the pretrial process. In a courtroom in Minnesota or any other jurisdiction, bail refers to the release of a defendant from custody prior to their trial, subject to certain conditions designed to ensure their appearance in court.

Why bail? The official purpose of bail is to ensure that someone who’s been accused of a crime appears in court to resolve that matter. For those who cannot afford bail, staying in custody ensures that they do not harm themselves or others.

How Is Bail Determined?

The amount of bail is typically determined by a judge during a bail hearing, and it may be set based on various factors, such as the nature and severity of the charges, the defendant’s criminal history, their ties to the community, and their flight risk. Bail may take various forms, such as cash bail, property bail, or unsecured bail, depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the preferences of the judge.

Have you or a loved one been charged in Minnesota? In every case except those charged with first-degree murder, you have a constitutional right to “unconditional bail.” Unconditional bail means that no other conditions, besides payment of the bail, need to be met in order for a defendant to be released. 

Judges sometimes set “conditional bail,” too, which is usually a lower bail amount. However, that lower amount comes with conditions, like following a no-contact order or agreeing to random drug testing.

If the defendant complies with the conditions of their bail, they are released from custody and permitted to return to their daily life, subject to the terms and conditions of their release. Failure to meet the conditions of bail, such as failing to appear for court hearings or committing new offenses, may result in the revocation of bail and the defendant being taken back into custody.

What Happens if You Can’t Pay Bail?

Minnesota’s constitution stops judges from ordering “excessive” bail. This doesn’t mean judges have to order affordable bail. It just means the amount ordered can’t be higher than reasonably necessary to ensure that the defendant comes back to court. 

During a bail hearing, the defendant or their attorney may request a reduction of the bail amount. The judge will consider various factors, such as the defendant’s financial circumstances, the nature and severity of the charges, and their ties to the community when determining whether to reduce the bail amount.

Of course, many people find that the bail amount ordered is not affordable for them. If you’re unable to pay the bail amount, you will have to remain in custody until your case is resolved. This can have significant consequences, such as the loss of employment, and housing instability.

How Bail Bond Companies Work

There is another option if you can’t afford bail. Bail bond companies can help pay the full amount. 

You or your family would pay the bail bond company a non-refundable premium equal to 10% of the bail amount. They also find a family member or friend who acts as a co-signer, assuming responsibility for making sure you appear in court. In turn, the bail bond company pays the full amount of bail so you can be released.

Not everyone qualifies for help from a bail bond company. Companies turn people down for all sorts of reasons, from the defendant’s court appearance history to racial stereotypes or lack of a reliable co-signer.

If a defendant fails to appear in court, bail bond companies are supposed to forfeit the entire amount they paid on the defendant’s behalf. Those companies threaten to use bounty hunters to locate the defendant and return them to custody to collect the bond amount. 

However, this doesn’t always happen. Instead, judges usually just make the bail bond company pay a relatively small fine.

Need Help With Bail? Questions About Pretrial Release?

When someone you care about has been arrested, getting them out of jail quickly is your top priority. It’s a good idea to talk with a criminal defense attorney to truly understand your options. The earlier in the case a person has a lawyer, the more options they have for a strong defense.

To get started, contact White & Associates at 763-241-0477 to talk with our Elk River legal team about your criminal defense case. Consultations are free and confidential.

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