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How Do Courts Set Bail?

Manvir S. Grewal

Loss of freedom is the most frightening consequence of an arrest. In most cases, the court will free you until your case comes to trial if you can post bail.

Bail is money a defendant pays to the court as security that the defendant will show up for scheduled court appearances. In Michigan courts, misdemeanors generally have predetermined bail amounts. A friend or family member can post bail at any point after your arrest.

In felonies, however, you have to appear before the judge before you can post bail. During arraignment, which is generally a day or two after an arrest, your attorney will ask the judge to set bail.

Judges do not grant bail when they believe you are a flight risk or a danger to the community, or when the potential penalty is life in prison. They also won’t grant bail if they fear that pretrial witness tampering is likely.

Assuming the judge sets bail, you have several options for posting it:

  • Surety bond. A bail bondsman posts a bond for your bail and charges you a nonrefundable fee, usually 10 percent of the bail amount.
  • Cash bond. You pay the court 10 percent of the bail amount. Sometimes, however, the court will require you to post the full amount of the bail.
  • Bond secured by real estate. You can use your home or other real estate to secure the bond, which means the court will seize your property if you fail to appear.

An experienced law firm works with defendants to help them post bond. A criminal defense lawyer can also present arguments to the judge for reduced bail or even for your release without bail.

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