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Rhode Island Bail FAQ

What is bail?

Bail is money. When a defendant is charged with a crime, he or she may be asked to pay bail before they are released from custody.

Why do we have bail?

Bail exists to ensure that the defendant will come back to court and face his or her charges. Bail forces a defendant to give up something of value in order to get out of jail while their case is working its way through the courts.

If a defendant opts not to return to court, then the court will issue a warrant directing police to find and detain the defendant. A defendant who forces the court to issue a warrant by not appearing also risks losing his or her bail money because the court could take the money to punish the non-appearance.

If the defendant commits a new crime while released on bail, they could also be detained for a period of time (to a maximum of 90 days) in addition to possibly forfeiting, or giving up, the bail money to the court.

Does everyone have to pay bail?

No, in fact, most people do not have to pay (or “post”) bail at all. When deciding whether or not to make a defendant pay bail, the courts start with the idea that everyone has a right to get out of jail by making a promise to come back to court. This is called “personal recognizance” bail, or “P.R.” for short.

Will I get bail?

Yes, unless you are charged with a very serious crime (anything carrying a life sentence if convicted and certain other violent offenses), you will get bail.

How much bail to I have to post?

Most people only have to promise to come back. However, some people may have to pay money to get out. If you have to pay money to get out, then the amount of money is determined by the judge.

The judge just doesn’t “make it up”. Instead, the judge starts with the charge. Certain charges have a certain amount of bail money attached to them by a rule of court. Basically, if the charge carries 10 years to serve if convicted, then the bail is $10,000. If the charge has 20 years attached, then the bail is $20,000, and so on up to $50,000.

The judge will make the bail “with surety”. That means that the defendant only has to pay 10% of the bail (a $1000 for a $10,000 with surety bail). The 10% is like a promise that the defendant is good for the other 90%.

The judge can go higher or lower depending on certain factors like, the defendant’s criminal record, his or her record of not showing up, the facts surrounding the new crime, and just about anything else that touches on the defendant’s risk to the community and the likelihood that they will come back to court.

Where can I pay bail?

In court after the judge determines the bail or at the ACI (Adult Correctional Institution i.e. prison) in Cranston if the defendant is sent back there after court.

Can I use a bail bondsman?

Yes, RI allows defendant’s to use a bail bondsman. Bail bondsman charge money to post the bail. But, after the case is concluded, the bail bondsman keeps the fee. If the defendant posts the bail by himself, then he gets the money back after the case in concluded.

What happens if I am held without bail?

In very serious cases like murder, rape, certain kinds of robbery, and certain kinds of drug trafficking offenses, the defendant can be held without bail.

When this happens, the defendant has a right to a “bail hearing” where the state has to prove the defendant is a danger to community and should be held without bail for the duration of the case until it is over. This is a very serious decision and the defendant should obtain a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.