When arrested, there are a thousand thoughts going through your mind. Why is this happening? What can I do?
One common question is whether you have to stay in jail until trial. After all, every day that you spend in jail is a day away from your life, family and job.
The bail process in Oregon is designed to allow those arrested to stay free while they await their trial outcome. The system exists because you are presumed innocent until a trial court finds otherwise.
The bail system
Bail is a price set by the criminal court judge that you pay, someone pays on your behalf or that is paid by a bail bondsman. This amount is to ensure that you show back up for your courts, and if you do, you can get your bail amount back, less any fees. If you do not appear in court though, that money is forfeited, and you will face additional criminal charges and a warrant will be put out for your arrest.
Bail is not meant to pile on punishment, or as any determination of your guilt or innocence by the judge. Instead, it is simply there as a way to ensure that you come back to court.
Who determines bail?
A criminal court judge determines your bail. This may or may not be the same judge that tries your case, and they make their bail amount determination based on a variety of factors. These include the charges themselves, your criminal history, whether you have community ties, if you present a flight risk and whether you are a potential danger to the public.
Based on these factors, the judge will set the bail amount, and they could increase or decrease bail at any time for those same reasons. And, there could be additional requirements for bail, like supervision, curfew, etc.
Is bail always required?
No. The judge could release you on your own recognizance. This means that you are simply released from jail, without paying anything, and you promise to appear at your subsequent court dates. The judge could also release you without bail, but impose conditions, like electronic monitoring, drug testing, etc.
What if I cannot pay for it?
Sometimes, bail can be expensive, but even when it is more reasonable, there is no guarantee that you will have the cash to pay it. In Oregon, you can pay a 10% deposit, which can allow for your release.
If you fail to appear in court, you will be responsible for the remaining 90%. A bail bondsman can do this as well.