In the Trayvon Martin case, we saw the defendant George Zimmerman ask for bail in order to be released from jail. How does California treat criminal offenders with respect to bail? According to the Judge’s Benchguide, Zimmerman would have a right to bail here. Indeed, bail allows a defendant to be released from actual custody on the posting of a bond, cash deposit, or other security deemed necessary to guarantee the defendant’s appearance in court. The word “bail” as used in the statutes has several different meanings. It may refer to the security posted for the defendant’s appearance , to the surety or bonding company who posts the security , or to the process of releasing the defendant . When bail is in the form of an undertaking, it is usually referred to as a bail or surety bond. When it is in the form of a deposit of money, the term “cash bail” is used. “Admission to bail” is the order of a competent court or magistrate that the defendant be discharged from custody on the posting of bail. The acceptance of bail by the court or magistrate is called the “taking of bail.”
A defendant, unlike George Zimmerman, who is charged with a noncapital offense may be admitted to bail before conviction as a matter of right. However, one Torrance Criminal Lawyer tells us that the California Constitution curtails this right under the following circumstances:
• If the defendant is charged with a violent felony or a felony sexual assault offense when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds, based on clear and convincing evidence, that there is a substantial likelihood the person’s release would result in great bodily harm to others, or
• If the defendant is charged with any felony when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the person has threatened another with great bodily injury and that there is a substantial likelihood that the defendant will carry out the threat if released The phrase “when the facts are evident or the presumption great” has been defined as follows: “It is not necessary that the evidence should be so convincing as to justify a verdict against the accused, but it is sufficient if it points to him and induces the belief that he may have committed the offense charged.”
In determining whether there is a “substantial likelihood” that the defendant will cause great bodily injury to another if released, A Torrance Criminal Court Judge, for example, must review the specific circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Penal Code §292 designates certain sex offenses as felony offenses involving acts of violence and great bodily harm for the purpose of determining defendant’s right to release on bail under the CA Constitution.