How the Amount of Bail is Set

Bail is Set by the County in California

By law, bail amounts in California are set on a county-by-county basis.

Judges in each county set a “bail schedule” on an annual basis. In reality, bail amounts do not change much from year to year, but the formality of the setting of the bail schedule is observed in each county.

California has the highest bail amounts in the country with Los Angeles County bail being the highest in the nation.

Bail is always based on a set of criteria:

  1. The first consideration in setting bail is public safety.
  2. The likelihood of return to court is a factor in setting bail. If the court, crime, or particular circumstances of the defendant indicate a low probability for returning to court, bail will be significantly higher.
  3. When a judge is to set a bail for a defendant, they always take into consideration the severity of the crime.  If the crime is serious, the bail will be set higher than a crime of less severity.  
  4. In some cases, if the defendant is a repeat offender, they will have a higher bail amount or may not receive bail.

Bail Set at Arrest

When someone is arrested, you may hear that the defendant needs to be “booked in” before bail can be set.

This is because part of the booking process includes a nationwide check for warrants. This means that each arrestee must be processed through a national crime data base before the arresting agency will formally set bail.

Basically, however, when determining the cost of a bail, the arresting police officer will look to the county bail schedule which outlines offenses that are bailable.

The bail schedule will include various “enhancements”. For example, a DUI bail in San Diego carries a $2500 bail for the first offense. However, accidents, accidents with injury or, unthinkably, death as a result of DUI make the bail amount climb to $100,000 or even $500,000.

Courts Setting the Bail Amount


Bail can be set or changed by a judge in a court of law at the time of arraignment. Sometimes, the defendant or their family will decide to let the defendant go to court rather than bail out immediately in hopes that the bail may go down. A judge has significant latitude in setting bail. 

A judge has the following options:

  1. leave the bail amount unchanged
  2. release the defendant on their “own recognizance”
  3. raise the bail
  4. lower the bail
  5. disallow bail (keep the defendant without allowing bail

While bail amount in California are indeed high, there is an inherent risk in going before a judge without bailing out. Certainly, the judge may lower the bail or release the defendant without needing bail (called “O.R.”), but the possibility of the bail going up or being denied all together also exists. 

Beware if a bondsman or attorney is “guaranteeing” you that bail will be reduced or the defendant will be released without bail. No one can make this determination but the judge.

“No Bail” Status

If the court thinks that the defendant is at a high risk of endangering the public, bail will be denied. In this case, jailers will often note that the defendant has a “No Bail” status.

For example, bail may also be denied for people who are not U.S. citizens or who may be in the country illegally (commonly known as an immigration or ICE hold). However, the recent trend in California is that immigrant status is no longer checked and counties are not holding defendants simply because

Other factors also contribute to the decision to disallow bail, such as the severity of the crime and previous criminal records.

1275 Hearings & Holds

The court must also make sure that the bail money was not obtained during a commission of a crime. Based on the type of crime that is alleged, a “1275 Hearing” or “1275 Hold” may be required. 

This means that the court wants to know where money for a bail bond is coming from. Typically, a 1275 hearing will be needed in cases where illegal sale of goods is implicated (drugs, weapons, stolen goods, etc.) or where embezzlement is the charge.

As an expert bail bondsman, I can help you prepare and get through a 1275 hearing. I am well versed in the 1275 bail process.

Questions? Call an expert bail bondsman 24×7 for any county, any charge, any jail in California: 1-877-861-3761.

More on Bail Bonds Costs


Updated: 02/11/2015