Why are bail bonds so important?
Have you ever been arrested? It’s essential to understand how the legal process works before discussing the significance of bail bonds. You are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law when you are arrested. After that, you have a series of rights that will help you navigate through the justice system, whether or not you committed the crime.
When a police officer believes you have committed a crime, you will be arrested. The officer’s job is to bring you to the police station immediately. Once you get there, your information and that of the crime will be documented for the judge. An official photo will be taken for the record. Then, they will confiscate your clothes and belongings, and you will be incarcerated until you make your first court appearance.
At this first court appearance, the judge can decide to set bail and how much it will cost. Bail is a monetary amount you will pay that promises you will return to court after your release. If you return to court for your next court date, this money will be returned to even if you are convicted. However, if you miss your court date without a valid reason, the court will keep the money and place a warrant for your arrest.
The problem is that many Americans cannot afford to pay the initial bail amount. Sometimes, you have to produce thousands of dollars, and most people don’t have that amount available. A bail bond company can rectify this situation. You or a family member can pay a percentage of the bail amount to a bail bondsman or by put something up for collateral, and the bondsman will pay the bail.
Most people don’t want to sit in jail and wait for their second court date, so posting bail is usually preferable. However, there are other reasons to pay such a high price for quick release. Many people will want to meet with their attorney and gather evidence to prove their innocence. Some people need to continue working to pay their bills while waiting for the upcoming court date. And unfortunately, other people know they will be spending time in jail, so they will need to get their affairs in order before serving their time.
When did the justice system start using bail bonds?
Historians have discovered that the bail system has actually been used for the accused for almost 5,000 years now. Clay tablets were found in Iraq that describe the process they used in the past. Many different justice systems have used bail throughout history between then and now.
The justice system was once more brutal and unforgiving than it is today. It didn’t matter if you were innocent or guilty; if you were accused in the Middle Ages, it could mean a death sentence. When there wasn’t an organized justice system with laws and rights, people would flee the area, fearing for their lives. This response resulted in a lack of justice, and people would lose loved ones who sometimes weren’t guilty of anything.
How did bail work in the past?
Unfortunately, bail has always favored wealthy people. In the past, wealthy landowners could put livestock up for collateral to get their loved ones out of jail. However, even as time moved on, only the rich could still afford the price. As a result, poor people were causing overcrowding in jails, whether they were guilty or not. They also couldn’t set up a good defense, resulting in more wrongful convictions.
There have been a series of events that led to the current bail bonding process today. The most notable changes happened in the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries in England. Colonial America chose to use the same principles as England. However, some practices had to be changed based on the different needs of the new country.
What do we know about bail in the Middle Ages? The justice system wasn’t as organized as it was today, which meant that there was a lot of corruption and abuse of power. In 1215, the Magna Carta provided slight improvements to bail in England. Later, in 1275, parliament passed more laws that defined who would be allowed to have bail and provided penalties for courts that set bail too high. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the problems bail caused.
King Charles I inspired further amendments to the bail procedure in 1628 after he jailed five people without reason. Parliament passed the Petition of Rights to ensure that justice was served by the law, not on a whim, and gave more rights to people accused of crimes. Almost 70 years later, the English Bill of Rights was passed, putting further checks and balances on the government. These rights would inspire some of the decisions early Americans made when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.
The law and procedure of bail went through a few rounds of revision in America. Massachusetts was the first state to allow the right to bail for crimes that didn’t involve homicide. Pennsylvania created a similar provision that inspired other colonies to follow suit in 1682. Almost 100 years later, Congress ratified the Bill of Rights, making the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, none of these changes benefited the poor in the way that was needed.
How did bail bonds start?
Finally, in the 1890s, two brothers changed things for the poor people accused of committing crimes. They started the first bail bond company in America. The company would pay the bail set by the court. Before this, they would ask the accused to put up something of value for collateral to provide an incentive to return to court. While this was desperately needed for the poor, they didn’t do it properly. Essentially, anybody involved in the criminal justice system and the brothers profited from other peoples’ misfortunes.
If you get arrested today, you don’t have to battle with the issues of the past. Bail bonding companies haven’t been around that long, but they have solved some of the most significant problems caused by courts setting bail. Whether you are guilty or innocent, you will be able to get released if you can take out a bail bond.
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