If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, there are limits on the amount of bail that can be demanded of you. The primary purpose of bail is to ensure that defendants don’t flee justice. The purpose is not to impose an additional punishment or to create such a huge hardship that the defendant must stay in jail.
Therefore, while courts are allowed to impose a bail to ensure that defendants don’t attempt to skip out on their court dates, judges are not allowed to impose excessive bail. Limits on bail in Minnesota are set by Minnesota law, as well as by the Minnesota and United States constitutions.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARDS
The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution both state that “excessive bail shall not be required.” What is “excessive” is a subjective question. But, the leading case on this issue, the United States Supreme Court case of Stack v. Boyle, has held that “a defendant’s bail cannot be set higher than an amount that is reasonably likely to ensure the defendant’s presence at the trial.” The Stack court determined that a court may set high bail amounts, even unusually high amounts, but only if the court has evidence that a defendant is a flight risk.
However, there is an important caveat to the constitutional rule spelled out in Stack. The United States Supreme Court subsequently held that it is constitutional for courts to impose preventive detention. So, when a court determines that a defendant is a danger to society, they may deny bail or impose a higher bail. Minnesota courts will routinely consider whether a defendant is a danger to others when setting bail.
MINNESOTA STATUTORY LAW
Under Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 6.02, a judge should consider the following factors when setting bail:
- the nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
- the weight of the evidence against the accused;
- the accused’s family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition;
- the accused’s length of residence in the community, record of convictions, record of appearance at court proceedings or flight to avoid prosecution; and
- the safety of any other person or of the community.
For misdemeanors, Minnesota sets strict limits on bail amounts. Generally, the maximum bail amount for a misdemeanor is $2,000, and the maximum for a gross misdemeanor is $6,000. These bail limits do not apply in DWI cases.
THE BAIL HEARING
Soon after a defendant is arrested, they will be arraigned and bail will be set. In Minnesota, a defendant is entitled to a bail hearing, where they will have a chance to appear before the judge. At this hearing, a defendant will have the opportunity to argue for a lower bail amount. A defendant should base their argument on the factors listed above, and a defendant should of course emphasize that they are dedicated to attending their court dates.
Although bail can be challenged after it is imposed, it is much better for defendants to properly argue for a reasonable bail at their bail hearing. Thus, having attorney representation at a bail hearing can be very important. If you or a loved one has been arrested and is awaiting bail, contacting an experienced criminal defense can ensure that they are given a reasonable bail amount.
At the Speas Law Firm, we have 25 years of experience helping criminal defendants in Minnesota. Attorney Jennifer Speas has practiced in both Minnesota and federal courts and is dedicated to protecting her clients’ rights at all phases of a prosecution. If you would like more information about this issue, please feel free to contact us today.