Bail History

The History of Bail

Bail bonding is one of the oldest professions in the world and originated in England. People accused of crimes against the King or society waited for trial in jail or made some guarantee with the King that they would appear for court. Old English Law allowed other people to take the place of the accused in jail and held this person responsible for the accused to appear in court.

Until the 13th Century, Sheriffs had the authority to release or hold people accused of crimes. They were also able to use any standard in determining whether to allow bail. This standard was often abused and used for the Sheriff’s own financial benefit.

The Statue of Westminster was written to help with the abuse of the accused by the sheriffs. The Statue listed the bailable and non-bailable crimes, but the sheriff still decided the bail amount.

In the 1600’s King Charles made noblemen issue loans to him. Those that couldn’t were imprisoned in Debtors Prison without bail. The King would not tell them the reason for imprisonment or allow the bail. When the case was brought to the Court, the counsel said that without trial o conviction the petitioners were being held completely based on unsubstantiated and unstated accusations. The Parliament responded to this with the Petition of Right of 1628. The Petition stated that no one could be imprisoned without due process of law or without “any cause showed”. The Petition did not provide an absolute right to bail.

In Colonial America, bail laws were patterned after English law. State constitutions listed bailable and non-bailable offenses and provided the “Excessive bail shall not be exacted for bailable offensives”.

Under current bail laws, the accused have the right to be informed of the charges against them and whether they can be released on bail. Before setting bail for non-bailable charge, the court always considers the risk of fleeing from the court’s jurisdiction, the risk of danger to the community, the risk of intimidating witnesses and the risk of committing another felony while pending trial.