·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


How Does Bail Work In New York?

— June 5, 2020

Bail is not punitive. As established, its purpose is to secure the provisional liberty of an accused pending trial and to guarantee his appearance on the next court date.

Bail is the money, or some form of property, deposited in court to secure the provisional liberty of a person detained for being accused of a crime. This definition of bail is similar to that of the rules on bail in the State of New York.

Although a lot of people have this vague idea of what bail is, only a few truly understand its mechanics. Fortunately, we have summed up a brief explanation of how bail works, particularly in the New York state.

How Bail Works

When a person is arrested, such a person is then brought before a judge for arraignment. At the arraignment, the formal charge will be read to the defendant. The defendant will then plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’

At this juncture, the case may either be disposed of or then set for trial. In the latter event where it is set for trial, the judge will determine at arraignment whether or not the defendant may be released under certain conditions. This is where the application for bail comes in.

The defendant’s counsel may apply for bail. The court will then assess whether or not the defendant should be released on bail. The amount for bail will depend on the charge and the seriousness of the offense. Factors like the good moral character of the accused, his financial capacity, and other circumstances of the case will also be considered.

Types of Bail

New York judges may choose which type of bond they require for defendants. There are nine different ways to post bail in New York, but the two main types are cash bail and bail bond.

Bail bonds office. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Daniel Schwen. (CCA-BY-4.0).

Cash bail refers to the amount of money set by the court as the defendant’s bail bond. This type calls for immediate payment to the court by the defendant or a person on his behalf. The entire amount set by the judges should be paid. Once all bail obligations of the defendant are met, the cash bail will be returned to the defendant.

In cases where the defendant can not afford to pay the immediate cash bail, he may still be released by posting a bail bond. A bail bond is a type of surety bond. In bail bonds, the defendant’s relative or friends may avail of the service of a bail bonds agency or a commercial bail bondsman. 

The bondsman or bail bond agent, by a written agreement, will guarantee to criminal courts the appearance of the defendants on their trial dates. In effect, the defendant is released, subject to certain conditions.

For this reason, a bondsman will charge a reasonable fee of up to 10 percent on account of the risk he undertakes if the defendant runs away or refuses to appear in court. Nevertheless, the “upfront” will always be substantially less than the face value of the bond.

Duration for Processing of Bail Bond

There is no defined length of time in processing a bail bond. It depends on a lot of factors, most of which are outside of the defendant and the bondsman’s control. Some of these factors include the severity of the crime, the amount of bail, and place of detention, among others.

Nevertheless, talking to a bail bond agency as soon as possible works to your advantage. Bond agents can give you a rough estimate of the process, depending on the circumstances of the case. 

Consequences of Being Released on Bail

If granted bail, the defendant will be released with a promise to appear before the court during the trial. However, if the defendant is not granted bail for reasons such as being a flight risk, among others, he will remain in detention pending the prosecution of the case.

Upon a grant of bail, the accused is released on the condition that he must appear in court when necessitated. Otherwise, if he purposely violated bail conditions and failed to appear in court on trial, bail will be forfeited. 

If he used a bonds company, the company would seek reimbursement from him on account of the forfeiture of the bond. In addition to that, any collateral the accused may have put up will be seized. The court will also apply all means necessary to bring him back in court.

If the defendant did not intend to “skip bail” but failed to appear in court, his lawyer might move to reinstate the bail. It may be granted reinstatement but of a higher amount. On the other hand, if the accused promptly complies with the required appearances, his bail will be returned after the conclusion of the trial.

A Significant Change on New York’s Latest Bail Law

New York’s bail reform law has been in effect since April. One of the most significant changes is that judges can impose cash bail in added situations. With the reform, more crimes are now eligible for cash bail.

Before the revision, the original law allowed cash bail to a lot of violent felonies, and certain non-violent offenses, like sex-offenses and witness tampering. However, with the latest amendment, additional crimes and circumstances are added to this category. 

The crimes added to the list of bail-eligible offenses include the following:

  • Second-degree burglary where an accused is charged for entering a home;
  • Sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of a child;
  • Third-degree and fourth-degree money laundering in support of terrorism;
  • Promotion of a child’s obscene sexual performance;
  • Any crime that caused the death of another person;
  • Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, second-degree strangulation or unlawful imprisonment in the first degree;
  • Vehicular assault in the first degree and aggravated vehicular assault;
  • Third-degree assault and third-degree arson; 
  • Assault upon a person less than 11-years-old and possession of weapons on school grounds; 
  • Grand larceny in the first degree, enterprise corruption, and money laundering in the first degree; 
  • Failure to register as a sex offender; 
  • Bail jumping in the third, second or first degree; 
  • Felonies committed while serving a sentence on probation; 
  • Any felony committed by a “persistent felony offender”; and
  • Any felony or class A misdemeanor involving harm to person or property committed while a similar charge is pending.


Bail is not punitive. As established, its purpose is to secure the provisional liberty of an accused pending trial and to guarantee his appearance on the next court date. Thus, there is a significant benefit in keeping ourselves abreast of bail laws and their development. With the right knowledge and understanding of how the bail system works, we will surely be able to protect ourselves and the rights and liberty of our loved ones.

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