In simplest terms, bail refers to the practice of releasing a suspect from custody before the related hearing on payment of money to the court (which may be refunded if said suspect returns to court for trial). In the United States, bail practices vary by state. Chapter 969 of the Wisconsin State Legislature outlines “Bail and Other Conditions of Release”. Key sections of this chapter are excerpted below:
969.01 Eligibility for release.
(1) Before conviction. Before conviction, [in most cases]. a defendant arrested for a criminal offense is eligible for release under reasonable conditions designed to assure his or her appearance in court, protect members of the community from serious bodily harm, or prevent the intimidation of witnesses. Bail may be imposed at or after the initial appearance only upon a finding by the court that there is a reasonable basis to believe that bail is necessary to assure appearance in court. In determining whether any conditions of release are appropriate, the judge shall first consider the likelihood of the defendant appearing for trial if released on his or her own recognizance.
(2) After conviction.
(b-c) In misdemeanors [as well as felonies], release may be allowed upon appeal in the discretion of the trial court.
(d) The supreme court or a justice thereof or the court of appeals or a judge thereof may allow release after conviction.
(e) Any court or judge or any justice authorized to grant release after conviction for a misdemeanor or felony may…revoke the order releasing a defendant.
(4) Considerations in setting conditions of release. If bail is imposed, it shall be only in the amount found necessary to assure the appearance of the defendant. Conditions of release, other than monetary conditions, may be imposed for the purpose of protecting members of the community from serious bodily harm or preventing intimidation of witnesses. Proper considerations in determining whether to release the defendant without bail, fixing a reasonable amount of bail or imposing other reasonable conditions of release are: the ability of the arrested person to give bail, the nature, number and gravity of the offenses and the potential penalty the defendant faces, whether the alleged acts were violent in nature, the defendant’s prior record of criminal convictions and delinquency adjudications, if any, the character, health, residence and reputation of the defendant, the character and strength of the evidence which has been presented to the judge, whether the defendant is currently on probation, extended supervision or parole, whether the defendant is already on bail or subject to other release conditions in other pending cases, whether the defendant has been bound over for trial after a preliminary examination, whether the defendant has in the past forfeited bail or violated a condition of release or was a fugitive from justice at the time of arrest, and the policy against unnecessary detention of the defendant’s pending trial.
If an individual is found to be noncompliant with any or all aspects of Chapter 969 – not just those excerpted above – they may be accused of “bail-jumping.” For a more detailed outline of what this constitutes, please visit the corresponding page on our website: