Getting arrested can come as a serious shock to your system — and that shock can get even greater when you hear the judge set a massive dollar amount for your bail.

The cash bail system in this country is designed to do one thing: Bail is all about making sure that people who are accused of most kinds of crimes show up to their trials. That’s why bail gets higher when someone is accused of serious crimes and can be denied altogether when a defendant is deemed a flight risk.

Unfortunately, cash bail can end up penalizing poor defendants, making it harder for them to win their cases or fight unjust charges. Here’s why “making bail” is so important:

  • You aren’t suffering the punishment of incarceration without a trial. Once you’re stuck behind bars, you’re treated like any other prisoner — even if you haven’t been convicted. Plus, you could suffer economic and social damage while you wait. You can’t keep a job, pay your bills or take care of your kids when you’re in jail.
  • You don’t hand extra power to the prosecution. If you’ve already sat around a jail for several months and the prosecutor offers you a deal that will set you free, you may be more inclined to take it — even if you are innocent. Practicality often wins out against justice.
  • You can’t effectively manage your defense behind bars. It’s harder to work with your defense attorney and strategize on your defense when you’re in jail. If you’re out, you can continue to show that you’re a valuable member of your community and seek therapy for any problems that led to your crime, among other things.

A defense attorney’s job doesn’t start at your trial. With the right help, it’s often possible to negotiate a lower bail and get your defense moving early. If you’re facing any kind of criminal charges, take steps today to protect your interests.