Hey Lifehacker, I have a friend who is in a bit of a bind right now. He's in legal strife and I'll probably need to bail him out of jail. Just wondering: how is bail calculated in Australia and under what circumstances is it actually granted? Thanks, Bailey
Jail picture from Shutterstock
Each state and territory have their own rules and regulations for setting conditional bail, but they all follow the same basic principles. Because our legal system works on the presumption of innocence, bail is technically available at all stages of the criminal process until the final appeal.
However, there are circumstances in which the suspect may be remanded in custody. This includes very serious crimes (particularly when the accused is considered a flight risk or a danger to the community), re-offenders who are already out on bail for an unrelated crime and anyone who is considered unlikely to abide by the conditions set by a bail undertaking.
Bail can be set by the police immediately after charging, or by the court. (Obviously, the latter is only applicable if the accused has not been sentenced and needs to return to court on a later date.)
Here's a quick overview of the availability of bail in Australia's eight jurisdictions, courtesy of the Australian Institute of Criminology:
Australian Capital Territory: Bail is available for any period where the accused persons are not required to attend court, provided that they are not convicted and in prison for a different offence.
New South Wales/Northern Territory/Queensland/South Australia: A suspect must pass a range of criteria before bail is made available. This includes the time between charge and first court appearance, between committal and trial or sentence, during adjournments of trial, and between the lodging of an appeal and its hearing.
Victoria: Any person who cannot be brought before a court within 24 hours shall be granted bail, and where it is impracticable to bring an accused in custody before a court forthwith, bail may be granted.
Western Australia: The defendant has a right to have their case considered as soon as it is practicable. There is no real statement as to when bail is available; instead, the Bail Act lists those situations where it is not.
Tasmania: Police are required to admit a person to bail unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that this would be undesirable in the interests of justice
Bail conditions often include a surety undertaking, which is where you and your money come in. A surety is a person who agrees to pay a specific amount of money if the accused fails to attend court on the date specified in their bail undertaking.
This money is usually referred to as a 'security requirement' and may involve an assessment of property assets or a financial deposit to the court. If the suspect honors their bail conditions, the money will be returned when the matter is finalised in court.
Unfortunately, there's no simple answer on how much bail can cost. As you'd expect, the amount of money increases with the seriousness of the crime. In most cases, the financial circumstances of the accused or the surety provider will be taken into account when determining the security requirement.
The most important thing your friend needs to do is talk to their appointed lawyer about obtaining bail. The lawyer will be able to get the best financial outcome for his circumstances and can also help ensure the bail conditions are not too difficult to meet.
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