Although bail is not a punitive fine, those who cannot pay it and must remain incarcerated may perceive it as such. According to the American Bar Association, bail is money defendants must pay as an assurance that they will appear at their required court hearings. After the trial, the defendant receives all or most of the money back.

But how does the judge determine the amount? And is a reduction possible?

Factors that affect bail

The judge has to decide on an amount that will keep the defendant from avoiding trial by fleeing. The type of offense and whether the defendant may create a risk to public safety are also important factors.

A judge may decide not to require bail if there are indicators that the defendant will attend all court hearings without the loss of money as a motivator. For example, a person in a well-established career who has family and other ties to the community is likely to want to comply with the court to obtain a better outcome.

More on the type of offense

Georgia Code 17-6-1 states that the court cannot refuse to impose bail for defendants with misdemeanors, and the amount cannot be “excessive.” There may be conditions, though. For example, a person arrested for domestic violence may have to stay away from the family member who reported it. Other exceptions may also apply.

The law lists a number of serious felonies that are not subject to a district judge’s discretion. Only a superior court judge may impose bail for someone who allegedly committed treason, murder, armed robbery, aggravated stalking and several other violent offenses. The superior court judge will consider the same factors but may set the bail amount much higher to make it likely the defendant will not flee.

Because many of the factors are at least somewhat subjective, and the judge has leeway in deciding, it may be possible to successfully argue for a lower amount.