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How does bail affect a Connecticut criminal case?

Bail cannot be used as a form of preliminary punishment for Connecticut defendants. Bail is used as a retainer to make sure defendants return to court, attend hearings and other procedures and face charges against them. Bail is not automatic nor is it guaranteed.

The issue of bail can come up quickly. Defendants are advised to have an attorney present during a bail hearing, when possible. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince a court that bail is unnecessary or that a lower bail amount is sufficient.

Judges, police or members of a bail staff are authorized to make bail decisions. Under the best possible circumstances, a defendant is released on his or her own recognizance -- a written promise to reappear in court may be satisfactory. In some cases, courts order unsecured appearance bonds, which include bond amounts a defendant is not required to pay.

Otherwise, bail is either approved, with or without conditions attached, or denied. An example of a bail condition might be a travel restriction. The defendant could be ordered to remain within the country or the state while awaiting trial.

Some misdemeanor charges and a majority of felony charges require bail determinations. In states where defendants are accused of a capital crime, like a murder charge punishable by the death penalty, a court has the option to deny bail. Capital punishment was outlawed in Connecticut in 2012.

There are several times during the criminal process when bail is considered: in the pretrial stage, in the time between a conviction and sentencing, between sentencing and the execution of a sentence and during an appeal. Typically, bail is paid with a defendant's money or funds from a bail bondsman.

A defendant may be arrested, jailed and face new criminal charges for violating conditions of release. Defense attorneys can explain further how bail determinations and payments are made.

Source: State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Bail Frequently Asked Questions" accessed Jan. 16, 2015

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