Whether or not you’re found guilty of a crime, you get your bail back as long as you show up in court as required. In a way, bail is like insurance; the court is guaranteed cash unless the defendant appears at his or her hearing. The amount of bail depends on the nature of the crime and the bail schedule for the location of the crime.
Yet, why allow bail even when caught red-handed in a shoplifting incident? Why allow drunk drivers to enjoy temporary freedom? Shouldn’t they be kept under the watchful eye of the law to ensure public safety? Rabi Lahiri for the American Civil Liberties Union states at least two major reasons for the necessity of bail.
Jail Runs on Money
Like everyone else, inmates live on basic necessities like food, clothing, and sanitation; all of which run on taxpayers’ money. According to a 2008-09 report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, it costs an average of $47,102 a year—$129 a day—to incarcerate an inmate. Multiplied by the number of inmates (6,750 as of November 2014) and the cost rises to a steep $318 million a year.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Perhaps the more important reason for bail lies with the presumption of innocence. Except for capital crimes, bail works to give the person temporary freedom until his or her day to appear in court, even when the evidence is clearly against him. The Constitution guarantees Americans of a speedy, fair trial, as it always has.