As a district court judge, one of my duties in criminal cases is to set bonds for defendants.
Michigan law requires that certain factors be considered in determining an appropriate bond. The factors include the seriousness of the offense charged, the protection of the public, the previous criminal record and the dangerousness of the person accused, and the probability of their appearing at future court proceedings.
After considering these and an array of other factors there are four possibilities as to bond:
1. Setting no bond with the defendant remaining in custody
2. A release on a personal recognizance or unsecured bond with no conditions
3. Release with or (4.) without money bail (10 percent, cash or surety) and subject to any condition or conditions the court determines reasonably necessary to ensure the appearance of the defendant in court and the safety of the public.
Examples of conditions include surrendering of the defendant’s driver’s license and no contact with any victim.
There is a long list of other possibilities.
As to money bail, a 10-percent bond requires the defendant to pay 10 percent to the court for their release or the defendant can pay a bondsman 25 percent of the 10 percent and the bondsman then posts a court bond.
Cash bonds are paid directly to the court by the defendant.
A surety bond requires a defendant to pay a sum to the bondsman who then posts bond.
Anytime a bondsman posts a court bond they are responsible for the defendant’s return to court at the risk of forfeiting the amount of the bond.
The terms “bond” and “bail” are typically used interchangeably.
This general procedure has been used for many years and is similar to the way things are done in other states. The bail bond system traces its roots back to medieval England.
Over time, the system has had its supporters and critics with one of the main criticisms being as to indigent defendants who can’t post bond because of an inability to pay while those who have the money or access to it are allowed their freedom.
There have been calls for change both in Michigan and nationally.
In next week’s column will be some examples of change and big news from California.