As a criminal defense attorney, success is often measured by how quickly a client is released from prison. Therefore, when we receive a call that a client has been arrested, our first thought is how can we most quickly gain you freedom and reunite you with your family. If arrested for a misdemeanor offense such as DUI, possession of drugs, theft or a similar non-violent offense, individuals are often released without the need to pay bail. You will be released on ROR (Released on your Own Recognizance), SOB (Sign on Bond) or ROSC (Released on Special Conditions). All are essentially a promise to come to court or risk a warrant being issued for your arrest. Failures to appear in court often lead to higher bail if arrested in the future.
However, if charged with a felony such as possession with intent to deliver, firearm offenses, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault or similar offenses, the bail commissioner will likely set bail at a high amount. It is not unusual for bail to be in excess of $200,000/10% for these types of offenses and many do not have the resources to pay $20,000 for their release. Therefore, we will seek to have your bail reduced at the first preliminary hearing listing or even sooner by filing a bail petition in the Court of Common Pleas. The courts generally look to two factors in setting bail:
- Danger to the Community; and
- Flight Risk.
That is, if released, is the defendant a danger to those around him based on the current charges or a past record indicating violence and what are the chances that the defendant will fail to appear in court if bail is paid. In making that determination, the judge will review the following:
- Prior arrests and/or convictions, including juvenile arrests and adjudications;
- Prior failures to appear for court or bench warrants;
- Prior violations of probation;
- Local current or past employment demonstrating ties to the community;
- The number of children and the defendant’s involvement in their lives;
- Highest grade of school attained and whether they attended school locally;
- Character letters from neighbors and loved ones and the presence of individuals in court supporting the defendant;
- Certificates demonstrating vocational training;
- Ownership of a house or business in the area.
Therefore, it is key to have family cooperation in gathering information concerning our client’s background to assist in reducing the bail as much as possible. The prosecution will try to keep bail the same by arguing about past arrests, convictions, failures to appear and bench warrants. It is the defenses responsibility to point out that their client is not the person that is depicted on paper as the prosecutor would have the court believe. Instead, with supporting documents, it is our job to demonstrate that the defendant is a law-abiding individual, who is not a danger or a flight risk based on family ties in the community, current employment, local children that he lives with or supports and the other above factors. Many clients ask us how many people should be present at the bail hearing. Our response, “Fill the courtroom.” It is extremely powerful when we can ask all those present for our client to stand and half the courtroom rises. This demonstrates to the judge that many people were willing to take time from their busy day to appear on behalf of the defendant because they believe in him and will ensure his future appearance in court. It is also vital that family members take our advice in gathering character letters, proof of employment, a high school diploma, certificates from local vocational schools or enrollment in a local college and all other documentation demonstrating that their loved one is not the person depicted by the prosecution.
At The Fishman Firm, we understand the procedure and law that applies to bail hearings. Our attorneys have successfully had bail reduced for thousands of clients. If a loved one has been arrested and is need of a bail reduction, contact or call Philadelphia bail attorney Brian M. Fishman for a free consultation.