How Much is Bail for a Misdemeanor in California?
Getting arrested and hauled off to jail is an alarming experience for most people. When you find yourself locked in a cell for even a minor misdemeanor charge, the disruption to your life is massive. Even if you are only jailed for a short time, you are stripped of your freedom and left worried about lost wages, transportation issues, childcare, and, of course, making bail.
Those charged with misdemeanors in California often have one key question first and foremost amongst the chaos – how much is my bail going to be? For many middle and working-class families, coming up with $1,000 or $5,000 in bail may be extremely difficult. However, the specific bail amount set varies widely depending on the details of each case.
This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the misdemeanor bail process in California, arming you with knowledge to alleviate confusion and anxiety.
Every County Has Its Own Bail Schedule
In California, each county creates a bail schedule that provides baseline amounts for crimes based on severity. For instance, Riverside County’s bail schedule prescribes $3,500 bail for a standard first-offense misdemeanor DUI. These schedules create consistency so bail doesn’t swing wildly from case to case.
However, judges have the latitude to raise or lower the scheduled bail based on the nuances of each case. The schedule acts as a starting point, but the bail ultimately set depends on the specifics.
California’s statewide Penal Code also provides minimum bail amounts for certain crimes. If a county hasn’t adopted a schedule, the statewide figures apply. For misdemeanor assault, for example, the Code mandates $10,000 minimum bail.
The Severity of the Charges Drives Bail Amounts
One key factor determining bail for misdemeanors is the seriousness of the criminal charges. More severe misdemeanors involving substantial harm often warrant higher bail.
For instance, a DUI causing injury would likely carry bail of $15,000 or more, versus $2,500-$5,000 for a routine first DUI with no accident. Judges set higher bail where public safety is endangered.
Criminal History Matters Too
The defendant’s prior record can greatly impact misdemeanor bail amounts in California. Someone with a string of misdemeanors may appear a poor bet for pretrial release.
Judges especially consider any history of failing to appear in court. Missed court dates indicate flight risk, so bail could increase to incentivize appearance.
Public Safety Risk is Closely Evaluated
Even for petty charges, defendants deemed public safety threats may see bail spikes. For instance, serial domestic abusers may get $50,000+ bail for misdemeanor charges, given the victim’s risks.
Judges balance public protection and the presumption of innocence. If someone seems apt to re-offend pretrial, higher bail makes release less likely.
Average Bail Amounts for Common Offenses
While each case differs, we can provide general bail ranges for frequently charged misdemeanors:
- Minor crimes like public intoxication, trespass, or disorderly conduct often see $500-$1,000 bail.
- For mid-level charges like DUI, petty theft, and simple assault, bail often falls between $1,000-$5,000.
- Aggravated misdemeanors like DUI with injury or serial domestic violence often get $10,000 to $50,000+ bail, limiting pretrial release.
These figures derive from experience, but don’t assume your bail will match. Unique case factors control.
If you or a loved one end up jailed on misdemeanor charges in California, getting bailed out quickly is a top priority. Here are some steps that can help secure faster release:
- Contact a bail bonds company. Licensed bail agents can post bond and get released in a few hours, though you pay a non-refundable 10% fee. Shop around as rates vary.
- Hire a criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal lawyer can request a bail reduction hearing and argue for lower bail that you can more easily afford to post.
- See if you qualify for the county’s bail schedule. In some cases, following the standard schedule can mean faster release than waiting for a judge.
- Ask if citation release is an option. For minor misdemeanors, police may cite and release rather than book into jail, allowing immediate freedom.
- Request an O.R. release. Defendants with strong community ties and minimal flight risk can get released “on their own recognizance” without needing to post bail.
- Use a bail funds nonprofit. Organizations like the Bail Project may be able to post low-cost bail for those who can’t afford high premiums.
Acting quickly and decisively when jailed on a misdemeanor is key. The above steps can help fast-track release so you can start building your defense.
Don’t Face Misdemeanor Charges Alone – We Can Help
Dealing with misdemeanor arrests, bail, and building a strong defense in California can feel daunting. But you don’t have to handle it alone. The experienced attorneys at Kolacia Law have helped hundreds of clients facing misdemeanor charges across California.
We know how to navigate the system, argue for reduced bail when needed, and protect your rights. If you or a loved one need guidance with a misdemeanor case, reach out now for a free consultation. Our team will stand with you each step of the way.