Bail Laws in Erie, Pennsylvania

When a person is arrested and facing criminal charges, he or she will often be released by the court while the case is pending. The law presumes a person is innocent unless proven guilty, and so without proper cause it would be inappropriate to keep anyone accused or suspected of committing a crime in custody during what can, at times, be a very lengthy process.

On the other hand, however, there are circumstances when a suspect might pose risks to the public, or to certain individuals, or to themselves. There are other times when a person might be a flight risk because they are not from the area in where they are suspected to have committed a crime, or have few ties to the community in which they are suspected to have committed a crime. Because of the possibility that a person might be dangerous or just leave and avoid facing the charges against them, bail authorities have the right to make certain decisions about the type of bail a person will be released on, or whether the person will be released on bail at all.

Options for Bail Release in Erie, PA

In Pennsylvania, the law allows for several options for release on bail, including the following, or a combination of the following:

Release on Recognizance (ROR)

When a person is released on ROR, which stands for Release on Recognizance, the only conditions presented are the defendant’s agreement, in writing to comply with bail conditions and to make required appearances before the court. The conditions a person must comply with are:

  • Appear every time that the court requires them to for the duration of the case
  • Obey orders entered by the bail authority
  • Notify the bail authority, clerk, attorney, and any bail officer or agency within 48 hours of a change of address
  • Refrain from intimidating or retaliating against witnesses or victims
  • Not commit any crimes

People released on ROR typically have not committed very serious crimes, and the bail authority has reason to believe that they will appear when required to do so. For instance, people who might only get probation, or would have the opportunity to have the charges dismissed or expunged would likely have much more to lose by failing to appear than by appearing.

Release on non-monetary conditions

A person may be released on nonmonetary conditions if the bail authority believes that conditions other than money are required to ensure the defendant appears and complies. Some more common nonmonetary conditions, which are contemplated by Pennsylvania law include requiring the defendant to report in, and restricting the defendant’s ability to travel, but other forms might be used when the bail authority finds them necessary.

Release on Unsecured Bail

It is possible for the bail authority to have the defendant agree in writing to be liable for a set sum of money in the event that they fail to comply or appear as required. If this option is used, the defendant does not have to deposit any money or other security.

Release on nominal bail

Release on nominal bail requires the defendant to deposit some very small amount of money, such as one dollar. Release based on nominal bail also requires that a bail agency, person, or organization become a surety for the defendant. This option is used at times when the bail authority is not confident enough in the defendant’s likelihood of complying to release him or her on ROR, but when they do not feel a higher bail or nonmonetary conditions are warranted. Because of the creation of the surety, when nominal bail is used, and the defendant does leave the state, he or she can be arrested without the use of extradition proceedings.

Release on monetary conditions

When the bail authority finds it necessary, they can release a person on a monetary bail. The amount of the bail should be reasonable. The amount should be enough to prevent the individual from leaving or failing to comply with the bail requirements, but it should take into account the financial abilities of the defendant as well. The bail authority may require the individual to put down a percent of the total bail (no more than 10% of the total bail amount). If the defendant fails to appear, then he or she will be liable for the total amount of bail.

Why Bail May Be Denied

It is also within the discretion of the bail authority to deny bail. There are many considerations taken in order to determine if the individual should or should not be released. A few of the considerations include:

  • The offense and likelihood of conviction
  • The defendant’s family relationships
  • The defendant’s ties to the community, such as work, and place of residence and the amount of time he or she has spent in the community
  • The defendant’s criminal record, and possible use of false identities
  • Any previous instances where the defendant has failed to comply with bail conditions or fled to avoid being prosecuted
  • The defendant’s reputation, age, and character
  • Whether the defendant is addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Any other factors that are relevant