The amount of bail must ensure the presence of an alleged offender in court as well as the safety of the community. The Louisiana Constitution establishes that excessive bail is prohibited. Moreover, the law states that, with limited exceptions, a person is entitled to bail before conviction.
The statute provides ten factors a court must consider when setting bail, which include:
- The severity of the alleged criminal offense (including whether the offense is a crime of violence or involves a controlled substance)
- Weight of the evidence against the alleged offender
- Alleged offender's prior criminal record
- Alleged offender's ability to pay bail
- The danger posed to any person or the community by an alleged offender's release
- Alleged offender's voluntary participation in a pretrial drug testing program
- Absence or presence of a controlled substance in the alleged offender
- Whether the alleged offender is already out on a bail for a previous felony arrest
- Any other circumstances affecting the probability of an alleged offender's appearance in court
- The type or form of bail
There are five different types of bail :
- Commercial surety
- Secured personal surety
- Unsecured personal surety
- Without surety
- Cash deposit
The term surety involves an individual obligating himself by contract to pay a debt for another, in the event the original debtor cannot fulfill his obligation. It is possible for bail to be procured without surety, this can be achieved through a property bond or personal surety. Personal surety occurs when an individual guarantees another's actions, rather than a commercial entity. Personal surety bail is also known as "sign out bond" or "release on recognizance." Personal surety and property bail are the two cheapest options for the alleged offender.
When pursuing a commercial surety bond, the alleged offender must pay a bail bondsman a percentage of the total bail (often 12%) to have the bondsman secure their release. If the alleged offender fails to appear in court, the bondsman becomes liable for the full bail amount.
A person cannot be released on their personal undertaking or with an unsecured personal surety when they are arrested for:
- A crime of violence
- A felony offense involving the discharge, use, or possession of a firearm
- A sex offense involving an alleged victim under 13 years of age
- Vehicular homicide
- Domestic abuse battery or domestic abuse aggravated assault
- Cyberstalking (when the alleged offender has two prior convictions for the same offense)
- Aggravated kidnapping of a child
- False imprisonment or false imprisonment while the offender is armed with a dangerous weapon
- Killing a child during delivery
- Human experimentation
- Cruelty to persons with infirmities (when the alleged offender has a prior conviction for the same offense),
- Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (when the alleged offender has a prior conviction for the same offense),
- Aggravated cruelty to animals
- Injuring or killing of a police animal
- Jumping bail or out-of-state bail jumping
- Violation of protective orders
- The production, manufacturing, distribution, or dispensing or the possession with the intent to produce, manufacture, distribute or dispense a controlled substance.
It is also possible that an alleged offender could be forced to wait for a bail hearing under Gwen's Law, when they are charged with domestic abuse battery. Under Gwen's Law, a court can hold an alleged offender for as many as five days after the finding of probable cause, which is often the same day as the person's arrest.
After you have bailed out, you can no longer ask for a reduction in your bail. However, the prosecutor is allowed to seek a bail increase even after your release. This scenario occurs frequently to alleged offenders being charged with new criminal offenses: scenarios such as this are exemplary of why it is important for the accused to fully understand the conditions of their release.
After you are released on bail, you will often be ordered to comply with the following: any protective orders; refrain from criminal activity; abstain from drug use; and not leave the state. If it becomes necessary to leave the state after release, a motion can be filed to amend your bond conditions. A judge will then issue an order that will allow you to leave the state.