Friday, August 7, 2015
I've written a few posts in which I've tried to determine the percentage of suspects charged with noncapital first-degree murder who are given some type of bail package. As I've noted, approximately 55-60% of "murder" suspects are given some type of bail package, but "murder" includes capital murder, noncapital first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter.
I suspect that the percentage varies across jurisdictions, but I thought I'd start with the jurisdiction that has the country's most famous homicide statute: California.
California's homicide statute is contained in California Penal Code Section 187. "One Eight Seven" is so synonymous with murder that it was actually the title of a Samuel L. Jackson movie. Penal Code Section 187 covers capital murder, noncapital first-degree murder, and second-degree murder.
Like many jurisdictions, California has a bail schedule.
The purpose of this bail schedule is to fix an amount upon which a person who is arrested without a warrant may be released from custody prior to appearance in court. At and after a defendant's first appearance, pursuant to Penal Code section 1269b(b), the amount of bail, if any is allowed, shall lie with the sound discretion of the judicial officer before whom the defendant appeared, and may be greater or less than the amount set forth in this schedule, subject to the provisions of Penal Code section 1275. This schedule may also be used by a magistrate in fixing bail pursuant to Penal Code section 815a at the time an arrest warrant is issued, the amount of which lies with the sound discretion of the magistrate.
Under California's bail schedule, capital murder, i.e., murder "with special circumstance" is not bailable. Conversely, all other murders have a bail amount of $1 million (which can later be adjusted up or down in the discretion of the judge after a suspect's first appearance based upon prior convictions, drug addiction, etc.).
This is explained more fully in a Los Angeles Times article:
[In the Phil Spector case, the State] has not alleged any special circumstances that would make the case a capital murder.
As a result, Spector qualified for $1-million bail, which he posted Monday by providing the usual 10% to a bail bondsman....
There are 207 defendants whose cases are scheduled in the downtown Los Angeles criminal courthouse who face noncapital murder charges. Theoretically, they could get out of jail on $1-million bail unless they are parole or probation violators. Most, however, do not have $1 million in assets or the $100,000 to pay out for bond, which they would not get back under any circumstances.
Maryland, by way of contrast, does not have a bail schedule.