Being arrested can be a terrifying thing. There is nothing quite like contemplating your future while you’re waiting for your fate to be decided. At the same time, you’re wondering if you will have to spend months in a prison cell waiting for your trial. It’s equally tough for your family, since they are usually the ones whose job it is to try to bail you out.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a simple reference with essential information, you know, just in case.
What is bail?
Bail is nothing more than a deposit to ensure that you attend court when you are supposed to. If you fail to attend court as required, your bail gets forfeited. Simple as that.
When do I need to post bail?
There are several instances in which you might need to post bail. In cases where you are arrested by the police and asked to cooperate in investigations, you might be placed on bail from the outset. This is usually known as ‘police bail’ and will last until you are either produced in court or let off without being charged.
If and when you are produced in court, the court may order ‘court bail’ to be offered, or may extend the police bail.
In some cases, a suspect is brought to court and charged within 48 hours of his/her arrest. In such cases, court bail is usually offered.
What is the difference between police bail and court bail?
Apart from the fact that the bail is offered by a different agency, in the case of police bail, usually no actual cash is required up front. All the bailor does is agree to be liable for the bail amount if the suspect absconds.
In the case of court bail, the requirements vary according to the circumstances of each case. Typically, bail amounts under S$15,000 can be furnished simply by the bailor (that is the person who gives the bail amount) pledging household assets worth that amount, without requiring cash to be deposited. However, for larger amounts, the court will usually require that cold, hard cash be placed on deposit with the court, or that the money be placed in a fixed- deposit account with at least 6 months validity. Needless to say, this account cannot be accessed for the duration of the bail.
How is the bail amount fixed?
The general rule is that bail must be sufficient to ensure the attendance of the accused as required, but not so much as to condemn the accused to remand in prison pending the disposition of his case.
In practice, this balance is not easy to achieve. The court takes into account multiple factors, including the seriousness of the potential punishment, the amount of money allegedly taken (if it is a property offence), whether the accused is a flight risk and the ability of the accused and his family to raise bail.
Does the bail amount change?
In certain cases, yes. For example, if an accused person commits or is charged with more offences while already on bail, the court will have to reassess the bail to take into account these changes. If the accused applies to travel while on bail (yes this can be done), the court may increase the bail required for the duration of travel.
What happens to bail after the case is over?
In most cases, regardless of the result of the case, bail is refunded to the bailor within 14 working days after the case is concluded.
What happens to the bail/bailor if the accused absconds?
Typically, when an accused absconds, the bailor will be asked to attend before a judge to ‘show cause’ why bail should not be forfeited. Unless a bailor can show that he or she had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the accused’s faithful attendance in court, a bailor can expect that part or all of the bail money will be forfeited. The silver lining is that the maximum amount that can be forfeited will not exceed the amount of bail which has been furnished.
What are some practical steps that bailors can take?
- Understand your obligations as bailor, in particular, the fact that you could lose your bail money if the accused or suspect absconds. Critically and dispassionately assess the risk of the accused or suspect absconding. Do not provide bail money that you cannot afford to lose.
- In the case of court bail, on the day that you are required to post bail, show up with an ATM balance enquiry printout from the bank account to which you want the bail money refunded. This helps the court verify the bank account details and prevents delays.
- Always make sure you are kept informed of developments in the case, including the dates of each hearing.
- If at any point of time you are uncomfortable or unwilling to continue to act as bailor, you can notify the court to revoke bail. Understand, though, that unless a replacement bailor is found, the accused may have to go back to remand.