Demystifying Bail and Bail-Related Information – Part V
Bail Reduction Process in Washington
In this fifth and final installment of the ‘Demystifying Bail and Bail-Related Information’ series, we will address how to get your bail reduced, again, of course, assuming the judge has set a bail amount for you. Although possible, there can often be great obstacles and difficulties associated with success in the Bail Reduction Process in Washington.
Can Your Bail Be Reduced?
The short answer is, yes, your bail can be reduced. But, to further understand why and how it can be reduced, it is important to understand the framework first. In United States v. Salerno, the United States Supreme Court held that there must be a “compelling government interest” in denying a criminal defendant bail. (481 U.S. 739, 754-55 (1987)). The Bail Reform Act gives a criminal defendant a right to request a lower bail if the amount set by the court initially is too high. At the bail reduction hearing, the defendant is able to argue that the bail set is so high that it is effectually the denial of bail and thus it should be reduced. If successful, the court will reduce the amount of bail. Washington statute discusses the denial of bail for those who are a flight risk or a danger to others.
So, are you simply able to argue that bail is just too high and that it should be reduced? Unfortunately, that is not all that is required. In Washington, the defendant has to be able to show that there exists a material change in circumstances since the initial bail was set. This may include the prosecution dismissing charges, evidence coming to light that makes the state’s case weaker, or taking care of other outstanding warrants.
To further enforce the notion that a defendant can’t simply argue that the bail is just simply too high and it is unfair, the United States Supreme Court has also held that the court can “induce a defendant to go to great lengths to raise the funds without violating” either the Bail Reform Act or the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. (U.S. v. Szot, 768 F.2d 159 (7thCir., 1985) This is a decently high bar to meet to have bail reduced. When a criminal defendant informs the court that the bail that has been set is too high for the defendant, resulting in the effectual denial of bail, the court is required to let the defendant know the specific reasons for its justification as to that amount of bail and why such an amount is an indispensable condition of release from jail. Of course, Rule 9 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requires this justification be provided in writing. A judge can usually show this by apply the various factors in our previous installment of this series, such as showing the person has weak ties to the community, has previously been charged and convicted of bail jumping, or is a flight risk or danger to the community.