Being arrested for drug possession can be an incredibly stressful and uncertain time. One of the first things you’ll need to deal with is the setting of bail – the amount of money you’ll need to pay to be released from jail while your case is pending. Here’s an overview of how bail works in drug possession cases and what factors impact the bail amount set.
What is Bail?
Bail is money or property that serves as security to ensure you appear for all required court proceedings. The 8th Amendment prohibits excessive bail, but there is no constitutional right to be offered bail in the first place. Judges have wide discretion in setting bail amounts.
Bail can be paid in full upfront or through a bail bondsman or bonding company that will charge you a fee, usually 10% of the total bail, to post a bond for the full bail amount to the court on your behalf. If you miss a court date or violate any conditions of your release, that bond money can be forfeited.
Factors That Influence Bail Amounts
There are several factors judges consider when setting bail for drug possession defendants:
- Severity of Charges – More serious possession charges or additional charges beyond simple possession will likely mean higher bail. Possession with intent to distribute or trafficking charges have higher bail.
- Criminal History – Extensive criminal history or prior failures to appear in court will raise bail amounts. First time offenders often get lower bail.
- Employment/Community Ties – Strong family, employment, and community ties make judges view defendants as less of a flight risk. Lack of ties leads to higher bail.
- Financial Resources – Those with access to significant financial resources may have bail set higher to make it proportionately meaningful.
- Public Safety – Defendants viewed as a risk to public safety may have bail denied completely.
- Drug Abuse History – Those with a history of drug abuse may have higher bail set to account for possible relapse and flight risk.
While judges have discretion over bail, some states have passed laws limiting bail for nonviolent drug offenders as excessive bail disproportionately impacts the poor. But in general, being charged with felony drug possession means potentially facing bail of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the above factors.
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer argue to the judge on your behalf for lower bail or release on personal recognizance is crucial. Don’t try to navigate the bail process alone.
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